With this year’s International Walk to School Month looking a little different for families who need to get their children back to school safely, our work in Wales has focused on School Streets.
School Street schemes open places up to people walking or cycling – closing the road off to motor vehicles and encouraging more active travel to school. This is so important as we navigate physical distancing on streets which weren’t designed for the amount of traffic we see around the school gates these days.
In Wales, we are aiming to get more schools across the country to implement a School Street scheme and our webinar, held on 22 October, brought together our brilliant panel to look at every angle of a school street scheme from national wellbeing policy to community engagement and the technical know-how for delivery.
Here we summarise some of the main points emerging from our discussion.
Scroll down to view the full webinar
Mary Creagh opened the webinar as a conversation about the benefits that School Street schemes bring to families walking to school and to the community around the school. Local authorities will have many targets which School Streets can help with too -including better road safety, air quality, liveability and public health and all of these contribute to the Wales wellbeing goals which Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, Sophie Howe would later talk about.
Mary also noted how it important it is to ensure space for safe distancing as our children are returning to school during COVID and as part of the need to build back better.
Caro Wild, Cabinet member for Strategic Planning and Transport, Cardiff Council
School Streets in Cardiff started with the schools that wanted it to happen. They have been implemented using experimental traffic regulation orders (TROs) primarily at schools with a cul-de-sac street layout and with the use of CCTV technology. We also tied it in with other initiatives including living Streets WOW scheme, teaching children to cross roads safely and other things.
Since being introduced to some schools there is now a backlog of demand from other schools wanting to take part in the scheme. Not only this, but it has heightened awareness of the fact that children and vehicles share this crowded space outside school gates and as a result more complaints are coming in – which is a good thing!
Whilst it is great to be linking up cycling superhighways across the city, it’s important to remember that school streets and community networks are at the beginning of that infrastructure. We must change how we see policy and provide the infrastructure for all types of journeys such as everyday caring journeys as well as commuting.
Sarah Rees, Campaign Manager for Pregnant Then Screwed in Wales
Sarah spoke about the need for parents to state their case to their employers to ensure that they can have the flexible start time they need to be able to take advantage of the walk to school – and become free range!
Since lockdown with more parents at one of her children’s schools working from home or more flexibly, those parents have re-discovered important social space and social time. This has not gone unnoticed in the local business community with a local coffee stall taking to a bicycle and selling morning coffee to parents as they reconnect with each other.
That safe space to walk to school is so important, not only that, but it’s important to empower children to demand that safe space too and to make the most of it.