Northern Ireland needs better infrastructure so more children and families can walk, scoot or wheel to school. For Road Safety Week 2022, we're calling for greater investment in safe routes to school.
Pupils from Currie Primary School walk, cycle and scoot at safe crossing outside their school in north Belfast - not all schools in Northern Ireland have such infrastructure. Pic credit: Brian Morrison/ Sustrans
A recent audit of the 60 new schools across Northern Ireland joining Sustrans Active School Travel Programme found the majority had no cycle paths near their school and no cycle parking provision at their school.
No suitable road crossings
Many had no traffic calming measures or road crossings in a suitable place near the school entrance. Nearly three-quarters – 44 schools – described the vicinity around the school as ‘congested with traffic’ throughout the school day.
The Programme, funded jointly by the Department for Infrastructure and the Public Health Agency, aims to increase the number of pupils at primary and post-primary schools making the journey to school by active travel such as a walk, scoot or wheel, rather than by car.
Stark findings from the audit show:
- Just 10% of schools have permanent 20mph speed limits outside the school gates (6 schools).
- 4 schools have 50mph or 60mph speed limits and no traffic calming measures in place outside the school gates (St Caireall’s PS Castlederg, Co Tyrone; St Columba’s PS Garvagh; Damhead PS Coleraine; St Malachy’s PS Kilclief, Co Down).
- 2 schools have no footpaths and have 50mph or 60mph speed limits and no traffic calming measures outside the school gates (St Caireall’s PS Castlederg; St Malachy’s PS Kilclief).
Many barriers to children
Beth Harding, Sustrans Active School Travel Manager, said:
“As an important requirement of the Active School Travel Programme, we completed a basic infrastructure audit with the 60 new schools that joined the programme this year in September 2022. The audit highlights the many barriers to more children and families travelling actively to school.
“While we teach them knowledge and skills to increase their confidence, it needs to be easier for these children to be able to travel actively on foot, scoot or cycle with safe routes and secure and dry cycle parking available.
More safety infrastructure needed
“Although this is only a small sample number of schools, we know from experience it is a snapshot of the situation of many other schools in Northern Ireland.
“Much more needs to be done in terms of safety infrastructure to convince parents and carers that they can make the short journey to school any way other than by car which brings associated financial and environmental costs.”
Principal supports safety call
The Principal of Moneynick Primary School in County Antrim supports active travel to school but recognises it is not always possible due to safety concerns.
Mrs McConway said:
“Travelling actively to and from school is a great way to start and finish the day, provided it is safe.
“We are fortunate to have a part-time 20mph speed restriction in place. This certainly helps slow the speed of traffic around drop off and pick up times on an otherwise fast flowing road.
“It would be fantastic to see more schools granted traffic calming measures such as this, as the safety of all children is paramount.”
Road Safety Week 2022 gets underway on Monday November 14th with the theme of ‘Safe Roads for All’. The annual week-long campaign champions people’s right to make safe and healthy journeys every day.