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Sustainable travel and street design for schools in Devon

Children playing together

“These pupils are the parents and workforce of tomorrow. Teaching them about the joys and importance of cycling and walking for short journeys now is a massive investment in Devon’s future"

Our active travel officers are giving young people, parents and staff the confidence, enthusiasm and skills to travel by active means to schools and colleges in Devon.

Executive summary

Commissioned by Devon County Council, we are delivering a programme of events promoting the benefits of cycling and walking to school. We're also making the environments around schools safer and healthier by helping schools to re-imagine the street design at the school gates.

Working with our Design and Engineering team, pupils co-develop designs that aim to overcome the barriers to active travel for the school run. The project focuses on schools in key economic centres in Devon that have the potential to achieve mode shift and contribute to long-term reduction in localised congestion caused by journeys to school.

A strong vision for the future

Devon County Council has a vision that every child should be able to travel to school in a healthy, sustainable and safe way. The council recognises that instilling the principles of active travel in younger people can lead to lasting behaviour change with future health and economic benefits.

From 2012 to 2016, the council ran the Access to Education programme, which enabled active travel officers to engage students, parents and staff at specific schools and to develop a culture of sustainable school travel. The council is using funding awarded from the Department for Transport’s Sustainable Travel Transition Year to build on the successes of this programme. It aims to engage with even more schools and tackle health risks and safety concerns connected to the increased reliance on the car for journeys to school.

The challenges of poor air quality and congestion

The journey to education is a key contributor to congestion and poor air quality on local roads in peak periods. This makes shifting the modes used for travel to school a key priority for the council. They have helped schools develop travel plans that improve both the safety of the environment surrounding the school, as well as the long-term health of children.

Throughout the Access to Education programme, the council’s focus has been on three economic centres in Devon - Exeter, Newton Abbot and Totnes – all of which are due to see significant growth over the next 15 years. The planned development of tens of thousands of new homes in these areas is likely to increase pressure on the existing travel infrastructure, which in turn creates a challenge to road safety and air quality.

The council recognises the current opportunity to promote healthy lifestyles and to encourage active and sustainable travel within new residents, employees and, most importantly school children, as they will be the ones travelling within these new developments following this period of growth.

When you turn up with a can-do attitude and tell them that you’re going to help make their school a better and safer place, the energy you get back from the staff and the pupils is incredible.

- Project officer

Balancing costs and quality

Devon County Council issued a formal request for bids through the Supplying the South West procurement portal. From the responses it received, the council identified the suppliers it deemed capable of delivering the work both to spec and on time. In evaluating the responses, the council gave 40% weighting to the price quoted and 60% weighting to the quality of each response.

The council assessed the application of each supplier by measuring previous performance against a set of key performance indicators.

In our application, we took the opportunity to evidence Sustrans’ unrivalled track record of active travel engagement through a set of case study examples. We also evidenced our vast experience in delivering events, surveys, training, travel challenges and recruitment of volunteer champions.

How we are helping

With such a short timeframe for delivery (September 2016 to March 2017), it was essential for our officers to start engaging with schools early on. We were able to overcome the initial challenge of approaching very busy schools by being sensitive to the pressures on them and by clearly communicating the benefits of active travel, including reduced congestion, a safer environment outside the school gates and healthier and higher performing students.

To complement the work being done to change behaviours, our Design and Engineering team are working with the Active Travel Officers in delivering a number of workshops. These workshops provide the school community with the skills to evaluate the quality of their street and provide design improvements to acceptable highway standards. They cover the following themes: Strategic Route Mapping, Street Analysis, Design and Vision for Change.

Our officers have helped schools to understand the travel trends amongst students, parents and staff, the impacts that those current trends are having, and the potential benefits that promoting active travel to school can have. We have been doing this by helping the schools to complete surveys and by running consultation sessions.

We have also recruited volunteer champions to work alongside our officers to give each school dedicated support as it works to embed active travel behaviour. These volunteers will provide support by delivering events that raise awareness, teach new skills and, most importantly, make active travel accessible and enjoyable.

Travel challenges take the fun of these individual events a step further. Our officers help to motivate pupils to walk, cycle or scoot to school on a regular basis by offering prizes and running competitions against other classes and schools.

Our impact

To date, our officers have improved the awareness of safety in hundreds of pupils in ten schools through workshops and events that promote the importance of wearing highly visible clothing while cycling and walking to school.

As part of the 70 events that our team is running throughout this project, the Dr Bike sessions have ensured pupils and students cycle on safe bikes and learn new skills in bike maintenance.

We have helped seven schools to complete surveys to understand how people are arriving at school and to identify the impact of congestion at the school gates. These surveys, coupled with engagement sessions, will allow us to begin trialling street design improvements in early 2017 that will make the streets outside schools safer and healthier.

The project is still being delivered and is due to finish in spring 2017.

For more information on this project email Jon Usher Head of Partnerships in the South of England or call 0117 9150574.

If you'd like to work with us elsewhere in the UK please contact your local Sustrans team.