Walking

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.

 


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Our panel

Mary Creagh

Mary Creagh, CEO, Living Streets
(Chair)

Sophie Howe

Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner

Dafydd Trystan Davies

Dafydd Trystan Davies, Chair of the Active Wales Travel Board

Caro Wild

Cllr Caro Wild, Cardiff Council

Sarah Rees

Sarah Rees, Pregnant Then Screwed

Chris Thompson

Chris Thompson, Living Streets

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.

Watch the webinar in full

Why we need School Streets and how we do it

Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales

Sophie How is responsible for overseeing implementation of the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act. She noted how this is internationally ground-breaking with no other country having implemented legislation like it.

Sophie’s key messages:

The 7 Wellbeing Goals of a Prosperous Wales, a Resilient Wales, a More Equal Wales, a Healthier Wales, a Wales of Cohesive Communities, a Wales of Vibrant Culture & Thriving Welsh Language and a Globally Responsible Wales are all connected to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Part of the requirements of the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act is integrated thinking. We need effective leadership and we must think about the policies we need to put in place, even those less obvious.

We need to find things that will maximise the contribution across these goals and, through achieving low carbon society, mental and physical health, connected and cohesive communities, for example, School Streets can make a significant contribution in achieving these goals.

Dafydd Trystan Davies, Chair of the Wales Active Travel Board

Dafydd Trystan is Chair of the Active Travel Board in Wales and as Chair of Governors of Ysgol Hamadryad in Cardiff, he helped develop one of the most radical school travel plans in the UK.

Dafydd’s key messages:

Changing patterns of behaviour towards active travel is a complex, multi-faceted challenge.  If we can get different parts of the structure working together, Welsh Government, local councils, schools, we can make radical changes to behaviour.

Normalising a culture of active travel requires three things:

  1. Active Travel must be a core part of the Welsh Government’s new Transport Strategy
  2. School streets and active travel to school must then be prioritised within those active travel plans and commitments given the excellent opportunity to make progress
  3. Those prioritised must be backed up in transport decisions, education departments and all those that support schools, whether in building schools or supporting existing schools to adopt school streets.

 

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.

 

Chris Thompson, Project Manager (Schools) Living Streets

Chris coordinates and leads on the WOW Scotland initiative, which reaches more than one in ten primary school pupils in Scotland, and works with a range of stakeholders including the Scottish Government, local authorities, schools and families.

Chris’ key messages…

Data, Development and Dancing!

Data - Pedestrian data is greatly undervalued, we have copious data for traffic, it’s also useful to have pedestrian counters to gather data on walking rates. Our WOW walk to school programme is also great as data for children using active travel to get to school is embedded in the tools and is recorded every day by the children themselves.

Development – Try not to make anything sound like its going to be forever, maintain that language of ‘trials’ and ‘temporary’.  During the trials do things which show other ways in which the street can be used.

Dance – once you have the scheme up and running, keep the enthusiasm going. Engage children and shout about what you have achieved.

Living Streets can offer support and resources. See our website for further information on our School Streets toolkit.

If you'd like to help us create a School Streets scheme in your area, we'd love to hear from you. Please email wales@livingstreets.org.uk and we'll get back to you.

How living Streets can help