HUSS data can make active travel interventions more efficient and impactful

By Henry Northmore,
Children in a class room putting their hands in the air

HUSS helps identify which schools have above national average rates of walking, scootering and cycling.

Since all 32 local authorities in Scotland signed up in 2010, the Hands Up Scotland Survey (HUSS) has become an Official Statistic. HUSS acts as a valuable record of how children travel to school and nursery in Scotland.

Not only does it provide an overview of travel habits, but local authorities also receive a breakdown of each individual school’s data. This level of detail is not released to the public but can be used to help target schools strategically with the most effective interventions to increase active travel across the country.

HUSS helps identify which schools have above national average rates of walking, scootering and cycling. Pinpointing what has been successful in the past, therefore best practice can be shared between schools in a local authority.  Digging down into the HUSS data can help provide explanations for why certain schools have lower levels of active travel ensuring the schools with most need get the most effective interventions.

By comparing before and after HUSS figures schools can then monitor and assess the effectiveness of initiatives aiming to increase walking, scootering and cycling through new infrastructure and/or behaviour change programmes.

Monitoring the effectiveness of School Streets

School Streets is an initiative that seeks to close the roads directly outside school gates to vehicles, lower emissions and promote active travel. Sustrans used the data collected via HUSS to analyse the mode shift in schools that have already signed up to the programme.

So far the results have been encouraging. Primary schools engaging with School Streets saw a 2.6 percentage point increase in pupils travelling actively to school within two years. In the same time scale, School Streets schools saw a 4.4 percentage point decrease in the use of private motorised vehicles. The evidence suggests that five years after first engaging with Schools Streets, levels of active travel remain higher than prior to School Streets, and levels of private motorised vehicle use remain lower.

Why HUSS is so important

There are many factors that influence how children travel to school: the size of the catchment area, socio-economic differences; urban/rural nature of the region; road layout and the provision of active travel infrastructure and cycle paths.

Having a national survey helps eliminate local bias and inaccuracies, making it possible to compare schools locally and nationally since their figures are collected under the same conditions.

The Hands Up Scotland Survey is a valuable resource of national and local value. Monitoring progress on how schools, local authorities and the Scottish Government are doing when it comes to supporting healthier, greener, sustainable travel choices to school and nursery.

Opportunity for local authorities to share and learn best practice using HUSS figures

For anyone who wants to learn more about how to use HUSS data, Sustrans has organised a free showcase on June 19th at the Lighthouse in Glasgow. It is a collaborative learning event aimed at local authority officers working in health, education and transport. The event will cover:

  • How local authorities and organisations use and extract maximum value out of HUSS data
  • Learn what you could do with HUSS data and share best practice of using HUSS data
  • Provide feedback to Sustrans’ Research and Monitoring unit who produce HUSS on the format of the local authority data reports and what would work best for you
  • Provide ideas for HUSS research and analysis that would benefit local authorities.

Sign up for the HUSS Data showcase

Read more about our work in Scotland