Despite a reported cycling boom during the lockdown, the latest figures show that road traffic congestion levels have exceeded those from this time last year.
The reopening of schools and push back to work in early September have caused an increase in private car use.
A YouGov survey, commissioned by the walking and cycling charity Sustrans for Bike to School Week (28 September to 02 October) surveyed 1,013 parents of children under 16 about their views on the school run.
The survey was conducted between 03 and 08 September, as children returned to school following various closures across the UK due to Covid-19. During this period, 59% of parents in the UK said they do not enjoy their daily journey to school.
Congestion is an issue that continues to plague urban spaces across the country; of those who admitted to disliking the school run, 62% cited congested roads as the key reason why.
Parents also highlighted pavement parking (32%), dangerous junctions (27%) and narrow and poor quality pavements (17%) as reasons why they didn’t enjoy the school run.
‘These figures highlighting why parents currently dislike the school run clearly show that more needs to be done by local authorities to help make walking and cycling the easiest and most appealing options for families travelling to school.
‘The journey to school shouldn’t have to be a stressful or negative part of the day, and yet it seems that way for a lot of families across the country. As schools have now returned following closures amid Covid-19, families are looking for safe and socially distanced ways to travel.
‘Therefore, there is a real risk people will be locked into car dependency, causing gridlock and adding to dangerous levels of pollution, unless councils provide viable alternatives by making walking and cycling safer for everyday journeys, including the school run.’
CEO at Sustrans
Seven in 10 (71%) of the surveyed parents agreed that local authorities should take steps to make it easier for families to walk and cycle to school.
Over half (54%) of those surveyed supported changes that have already been made to the streets and places in their local area to make active travel to school easier.
Building more cycle routes separated from road traffic was identified amongst parents as the number one intervention that would help them and their children cycle to school more (39%).
‘We know cycling and walking is good for our health and happiness – so making it easier for students and their families to build active travel into the school run where they can is a no brainer.
‘Well designed cycling and walking schemes significantly cut rat-running traffic, improve air quality and reduce noise pollution. But we also know we must ensure they work for the whole community. That’s why, as part of our £2bn commitment, we’re closely looking at council plans for future cycling and walking infrastructure, so the journey to and from the classroom is reliable and enjoyable for everyone.
‘We’re also consulting on ways to tackle pavement parking in England and would encourage anybody with an interest to have their say.’
Cycling & Walking Minister
Sustrans is calling on local authorities across the UK to implement low traffic neighbourhoods – a holistic approach that looks at removing through traffic from residential areas – along with school streets, where streets are open to people walking and cycling and closed to motor traffic outside school gates, to help more children walk and cycle.
The charity says the UK Government should enact part 6 of the Road Traffic Management Act as soon as possible to give local authorities (outside London) the powers to enforce school streets, as part of the Covid19 active travel measures.
In addition to changes to the built environment, almost a quarter (23%) of parents recognise cycle training as something that would help their child cycle to school.
‘We are encouraged that 23% of parents see cycle training as one of the main ways to encourage their child to start cycling to school more often.
‘We know that high quality Bikeability training improves the confidence of children and parents alike to cycle and we are working to ensure that our training is available for any school that wants it.
‘This term our Bikeability Instructors are delivering training in a way that can meet the Government’s Covid-19 requirements. We have also piloted a new Bikeability module for families, recognising the importance of helping parents and children learn this essential life-skill for healthy, independent travel.’
Executive director at The Bikeability Trust
A pavement parking consultation which examines options for banning pavement parking is currently running in England until 22 November 2020. Parents are encouraged to respond to the consultation.