1 October 2015
A County Londonderry Primary School has taken the initiative to tackle congestion around the school gates and encourage a healthier lifestyle by encouraging pupils to walk to school.
DH Christie Memorial Primary School, in Coleraine, has begun a ‘Walking Bus’ initiative – coinciding with Walk to School Month this October – which will see pupils, staff and parents making the journey to school on foot.
The scheme takes place each Friday when pupils arrive at three collection points around the town and then are led by teachers and volunteer parents to converge along the Ballycairn Road to complete the journey to school.
School teacher Chris Murdock explained that there have been ‘significant’ traffic problems on the Ballycairn Road, involving parents parking cars around the school.
“Traffic around the school has been an ongoing problem, impacting negatively on parents, pupils and local residents.
“We hope the Walking Bus will begin to address that. With the support of parents and staff we would love to roll this out to other days too and broaden the project’s impact.
"As more children walk or cycle to school there will also be fewer cars around the school gates, making our school a safer place for everyone. We also know being active on the way to school helps children concentrate better in class.”
Active School Travel Programme
The implementation of this project coincides with the school’s engagement in our Active School Travel Programme which aims to increase the number of pupils walking, cycling and scooting to school.
The three-year programme has been working with nearly 200 schools across Northern Ireland. It is funded by the Department for Regional Development and the Public Health Agency until July 2016.
Our Active Travel Officer, Emma Keenan, said: “I have just begun working with DH Christie and am impressed that they have taken this Walking Bus initiative themselves, obviously prompted by traffic concerns.
I’ll be working with pupils, staff and parents to show them the benefits of active travel so that they will all walk, cycle or scoot every day of the week and not just on Fridays.”
The number of children being driven to school fell from 53% to 45% after just one year in the Active School Travel Programme, with a corresponding rise in the numbers walking or cycling to school.
One fifth of rush hour congestion in Northern Ireland is caused by parents driving children to school. Sustrans found the vast majority of pupils – 84% of children we surveyed - want to travel actively to school, and over half of those want to travel by bike.