There has been a significant reduction in cars being used on the school run at schools in Plymouth, following work carried out by Sustrans in partnership with Plymouth City Council, as part of the Plymotion: Bike It Plus programme.
Pupils at Holy Cross Primary School enjoy walking and cycling to school on Clean Air Day 2019
By the end of the last academic year, school communities we are working with saw a low of 36% of school journeys being made by car, down from 42% since schools first engaged. This is due to a substantial rise in the number of pupils choosing to travel actively – by bike, on foot, or by scooter.
When we first started working with the schools, 51% of pupils used active travel regularly for their journeys to school, and by the end of the last academic year, this has risen to 58%.
Across the UK, up to one in four cars on the road in the morning is there because of the school run. This contributes to busy traffic, can reduce pedestrian and cyclist safety, and contribute to nitrogen dioxide and CO2 build up around the school gates.
Sustrans has been commissioned by Plymouth City Council as part of their Plymotion project to work closely with local schools to turn that around.
With activities such as maintenance sessions with Dr Bike, cycle skills, guided bike rides and ‘be bright, be seen’ dress-up days, students, staff and parents have opportunities to build their skills and confidence in a safe environment to prepare them to cycle to school.
Walking and scooting are on the agenda too, and pupils have learnt how to avoid busy roads on their journeys to school to help minimise their exposure to poor quality air and provide a safer route.
Councillor Mark Coker, Cabinet Member for Strategic Planning and Infrastructure at Plymouth City Council, said: “The results from the last academic year are really encouraging and build on the great work Sustrans Bike It Plus officers, in partnership with the City Council, have been doing in Plymouth schools since 2012”.
“Through Plymotion we’re engaging with schools across Plymouth to encourage and enable more journeys to be made by bike, bus, scooter and on foot; working with schools is essential in order to start good travel habits, reduce congestion, promote healthy lifestyles and deliver our commitment to respond to the climate emergency. I’m delighted that the Plymotion programme is having such a positive impact on school communities.”
Last academic year saw 260 school activities across more than 30 different schools, and Sustrans is looking to work with more schools in the area.
Ryan Evans, Bike It Plus Officer, said: “At Sustrans, we encourage people to choose active modes of travel, rather than taking the car for short, everyday journeys.
"By helping children to feel confident and enthusiastic about riding bikes, walking and scooting we’re able to support them and their families to make those choices.
"This, in turn, has benefits for the whole community, helping to reduce congestion and air pollution in the city.
“We are keen to work with more schools in the area and would encourage schools to get in touch to find out more about how we can work together”