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School run responsible for 480,000 extra car journeys in London each day

There’s nothing like the school holidays to make you realise how much school traffic there actually is. Particularly when you’re sat at your desk half an hour earlier than normal.

But while for most of us the school run is a phenomena more noticed by its absence, parent campaign group Solve the School Run are constantly aware of it and have come up with some figures to bring the sheer scale of the problem into perspective.

The primarily source for the figures that have been modelled by Solve the School Run was the Department for Education 2021/2022 school census (aka: National Statistics 2021/2022 schools, pupils and their characteristics).

This shows that 25% of pupils in Inner London and 24% in Outer London are driven to school every day between Monday and Friday. This adds nearly a quarter of a million cars (240,000) to the streets each morning – and all over again when schools close. 

At one end of the scale, more than a third (36%) of pupils in Kensington and Chelsea are driven to and from school by car, a figure that falls to just 18% in Waltham Forest.

These figures reflect the fact that there are a lot of non-catchment schools in the former borough while in Waltham Forest 82% of pupils go to a school less than a mile from their home.

Official Department of Transport figures show that more children were driven to school in 2022 than in 2017 (19%), while the number walking has barely changed (up to 51% from 50%).

Nicola Pastore, co-founder of  Solve the School Run and a parent who lives in Lambeth said: ‘Every morning and afternoon I run the gauntlet of double-parked cars, congestion on crossings, idling and road rage, to walk my three young children to school. It’s the most dangerous part of our day. ‘ith so many families travelling more than a mile to school, they need more help to get to school in a way that is healthy, less stressful and doesn’t damage our local environment.

‘That could include electric cargo bikes or staffed walking buses and cycle groups. Imagine if our big cities had yellow buses, like in the US, which remove the need for every parent to go on the journey every day. We need change.’

Solve the School Run are calling for more publicly funded support to help get some of these cars off the road. They cite examples such as staffed walking or cycling groups, or funded school buses -as used in countries such as the US, Germany, Spain and Norway.

In England, children only get funding for school transport if they are under eight and the school is more than two miles away, or if they are eight or over and the school is more than three miles away, whereas in America, the famous yellow school buses are available for anyone living over a mile from their school.

Alessandra Giuliani, a parent from Hampstead, said: ‘I am a mother of three and have been doing the school run in Hampstead for over 10 years. During the school run our areas is packed with cars, stuck in traffic and parked in dangerous places to drop off and pick up children. The number of near misses I have seen is staggering. And my children regularly comment on how bad the air smells.

‘This database is so interesting because it suggests that a significant number of primary kids in Hampstead wards are travelling over a mile to school. So if we can encourage travel choices like cargo bikes that carry kids and improve the frequency of public buses, those could become quick and sustainable alternatives to driving.’

Main page image: Nicola Pastore

This page image: Alice Bing



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5 months ago

For many parents and grandparents the school run is not an “extra” journey (or two), it is essential. And children soon grow too big for cargo bikes. A large part of the problem is that many families live some distance from the school(s) and don’t want their youngsters having to walk that far, as well as taking a train and or a bus as well, twice a day. Car pools might be another answer?

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