Discussion forum: Pedestrians

Friday 8 May, 12.00 - 13.00: Children as pedestrians

Steve Stevenson, Nottinghamshire County Council
Autumn Rose, Nottinghamshire County Council
Anjila Clark, West Sussex County Council


This forum is now closed - thanks to our facilitators, and to all of you who asked a question and visited the forum.

You can still ask a question relating to the safety of children as pedestrians, but it will not be answered in 'real time'.

General information about teaching children to cross the road and use the pavement safely is availabe in a simple guide we have prepared for Global Road Safety Week 2015.

If you have any difficulties, or want more information about the forum, please contact Nick Rawlings on 01379 650112.


At what age do you think it is safe and advisable for children to walk to school independently?

Most children begin to walk to school independently during their last year of primary education in preparation for their transition to secondary school which tends to be further away from where they live.

The decision to independently walk to school seems to work best when both the child and the parent or guardian are happy with the arrangement. In preparation for this transition parents/guardians should begin by assessing their child’s practical skills and understanding of their road safety knowledge. This can easily be done by going for a walk and letting the child take the lead and observing the skills that they demonstrate. This practical task will highlight any missing knowledge or understanding that needs to be revisited.

Once you have decided that your child has the right skill set to independently walk to school, make sure you plan the route with them and take time to walk the route together. Don’t forget to include elements of personal safety too, in particular wearing earphones and playing music stops you listening to the traffic and the environment around you.

There is lots of information on the internet about pedestrian safety, but a good place to start and refresh your own knowledge is the Highway Code and the THINK! road safety website. Also our Road Safety GB Pedestrian Safety Guide might give you some ideas of where to start.

Independent travel is a parental choice based on individual circumstances. Confidence and understanding of how to make road user decisions are vital ingredients.

As part of the preparation for independent travel parents can let the child lead on decision making while out and about, in order to assess and develop confidence and levels of understanding.

Other factors that parents need to consider may include distance, crossing points and facilities, adequate footpaths, well used route (stranger danger risk reduced), traffic volume and road type (A road, urban road, little lane etc.). These considerations need to be ongoing to take into account changing road layouts, road works that may be happening, seasonal variations. Parents may wish to assess a route on more than one occasion under different circumstances, e.g. poor weather, overgrown vegetation, lighting conditions.

Knowledge of any incidents on the route may of course influence any decisions.

A group of parents at our primary school are keen to set up a walking bus. Do we have to involve the school, and who can provide help and advice to enable us do so?

The first thing to find out is if your local authority (LA) can offer guidance and/or support for setting up a walking bus. For example, some authorities will offer to risk assess your desired route and offer advice following this. If a school/volunteer group adopts LA guidelines it may mean that the activity falls under the school’s out of school activity insurance; this is worth investigating. Your LA may have a template for the necessary procedures needed; for example, contact details of volunteers and passengers, emergency procedures, timetable and suitable bus stops, volunteer training and DBS checks. There may also be other walking buses in your area that they can put you in touch with, to offer advice.

In our experience, walking buses work better in some schools than others. Enthusiastic volunteers along with a member of staff/head teacher is what will make your walking bus work. If your school has Junior Road Safety Officers, they could be involved in your walking bus, e.g. promotion.

If the availability of volunteers limits the walking bus to mornings only or three days a week, this is still worth doing and you may find the bus will gather interest/momentum as it runs.

Additional benefits of walking bus will include the fact that it’s an educational process for the passengers; it invariably means less congestion around the school and is a fun and engaging activity.

Walking buses are a great way of local parents and carers joining together to support each other on the school run. My advice would be to make an appointment to talk to your school as a group to outline that you would like to set up and run a walking bus. Having them ‘on board’ from the start will help with route planning, funding for your hi-viz, advertising for both reserve conductors and drivers and depending on the size of the bus you many need additional adult helpers (you can never have enough of these on your books) and you will definitely need their support to keeping the momentum of the bus going through regular newsletter updates.

There are many different ways of running a walking bus. Some schools run them daily, some only run them a couple of days of the week, some only cover the journey to school and some only cover the journey home, whilst others only run them on special occasions.

Besides being lots of fun for both the adults and the children there are many factors to consider when setting up and running one; for example insurance, CRBs, risk assessments and emergency procedures. Most local authority websites can help with the basics and many have information you can download to get you started with your plan to take to the school.

Some authorities may still have Sustainable Travel Officers who might be able to offer you support and help in getting started. Also, many of the sustainability charities also have some good information about the benefits of Walking Buses.

The way people (other parents mainly!) drive and park round our primary school is downright dangerous, especially for those of us who walk with our children. Any advice about how we can improve this situation?

Alison, have you or your school tried a positive parking message? There are four stages to this and you need to keep up the positive momentum to make it work. The idea is to get parents to see that the majority normal behaviour is parking positively.

1) Get help from the children (school councils, JRSOs etc) to design a very simple Positive Parking Pledge with no more than three issues that apply to your parking problems.

2) Use a very public event such as a school fair to advertise the new pledge and get parents to sign to say that they will Park Positively (this works really well on a big board with the pledge in the middle and signatures all around it so everyone can see who has signed).

3) After the event book a regular slot in the school newsletter to positively remind everyone of the of the pledge and say thank you regularly to the drivers who have helped to keep the children of the school safe by parking positively in the area that surrounds the school.

4) Ask the school if the positive parking pledge can be included in the school prospectus, so new parents can see that your school actively encourages parents to park positively to ensure the safety of all its pupils which in turn will hopefully encourage them to foster good parking habits at the school.

Also, to add support for your message try to get your local PCSO, school governors, local councillors to publically pledge support for your campaign and try to encourage one or two to write a nice positive article for your school newsletter saying how lovely it was to see so many parents/carers parking positively at the school. Lastly, you may need to be patient as changing innate behaviour does not happen overnight for some.

It’s worth finding out if the school has contacted your local authority for support, or if other schools in your area have received help. There may be some local scheme on offer to help, such as ‘keep clear’ banners and 'park considerately' signs. We would encourage school/local police partnership working, for example polite parking notices with a police logo as an initial measure and PCSOs having a periodic presence at school start/finish times.

Finding a local ‘park and stride’ site can help, such as supermarkets, pub car parks etc. as many parents will give a thousand reasons why they need to drive, so giving them an area to park away from the school can help improve the situation.

Other suggestions could be a persuasive writing exercise, as part of the literacy curriculum, posters within art and even possibly a school song, performed at concerts etc. Many schools are now using social media as a way of contacting parents, so it’s worth having regular reminders sent out through this.

There are many walking initiatives that could help such as Walk on Wednesdays, pyjama Friday (doesn’t have to be every Friday), different ways to school day; basically fun days that can be held periodically to help engage the school community.

We would recommend asking your school to undertake a programme of road safety education to equip your pupils as much as possible to deal with difficult road situations, and encourage children to discuss road safety with parents, such as crossing between parked cars, and why wherever possible not to.

There are a number of charities that may be able to help such as Living Streets (www.livingstreets.org.uk ) who may have resources (badges, charts etc.) to support activities. These can be found on the internet.

When setting local speed limits, Traffic Authorities MUST fully take into account the needs of vulnerable road users. With only 20% of child casualties being on their way to/or from schools (AA Report), can this responsibility be met with "advisory" 20mph limits just around schools. Shouldn't a mandatory 20mph become the norm for all residential roads?

While we think this question needs to be addressed by policy makers/decision makers (road safety education is our area) we are aware that there is still much debate on the effectiveness of 20mph zones. Locally we have been advised that the change in speeds was negligible in trial areas, and as there wasn’t a casualty problem it was difficult to quantify any casualty benefits.

From a pedagogue’s point of view I believe it is vitally important to make sure all children have a good practical foundation in road safety skills as this will enable them to confidently and safely make the right choices when the time comes for them to independently use the roads. I believe road safety education to be like a planting a seed; if you plant it early and keep watering it with developmental stage information, eventually you will have created a person who is equipped to make safer choices when using the roads.

Our 14 year old son walks to school with his mates but the last thing on their mind is road safety - they are so easily distracted by their conversations, iPhones, music etc. We are very concerned that there will be an accident, be he just laughs when we try to talk to him about this - he cannot see any danger. Can you advise how we might get him to understand our concerns?

Does your local authority offer a programme of road safety education in secondary schools? We offer local schools a presentation coving these subjects and we would be happy to share ideas with your local authority. There are also resources available to schools and members of the public on the THINK! website.

There are distraction videos available on line to prove the point that you can’t do two things at once, such as listening to music and being aware of traffic. Try searching ‘the moon walking bear’.

In our area we are aware that the 11-15 age group are vulnerable but often have the opinion that ‘it won’t happen to me’; your local authority will have statistics to show that unfortunately this could and does happen, making the point real.

Sadly developmentally this age group do not seem to understand the implications and dangers of many of their actions. Shock tactics and lecturing at this age seem to have virtually no effect on changing behaviour. However, recent evidence is starting to show that reaching this age group through comedy has more of an impact. As parent of grown up children, my offer to walk them to school holding their and their friends' hands was often refused with a lot of face pulling and seemed to work even better when said in front of the friendship groups.

If comedy does not work a face to face serious discussion at the right time could also have an impact, but keep it short and concise; outline your concerns and ask politely that they look out for themselves and their friends.

When I was a primary school (a while ago!) we were taught how to cross the road safely, but that doesn't happen at our grand daughter's school. In fact, there doesn't seem to be any road safety education. Is there any way we can get this changed?

Ask your local authority if they have any resources they offer to your schools; we would be happy to share ideas with your local authority if they wish us to.

There are a number of road safety education resources available to both schools and members of the public on line, such as the THINK! website. It may be worth discussing this subject with your grand daughter’s school senior leadership team as to how it can be included within school. The Green Cross Code still exists and along with other road safety factors can be taught through school, other learning providers such as Brownies etc. as well as from family members.

Sadly many local authorities do not have the resources to deliver road safety education as you would remember into schools anymore. However all is not lost; by using the helpful guides on the RSGB website you and your granddaughter could have hours of fun and quality time learning all about road safety and being safe on the roads together.

Practical experiences are best so plan plenty of walks to make sure you experience a variety of environments. For those stay at home days the THINK Tales of the Road website http://talesoftheroad.direct.gov.uk/ has lots of games and information to consolidate your learning.

Also, ask the school too as there might be something they do ‘in house’ as part of a bigger topic they cover. In later years some schools do slightly less obvious road safety education that links in with sustainability and transition (cycle training, JRSO etc.), but using it as quality time together with your granddaughter in my mind would be a lovely thing to do.

Q7: POSTED BY: Spittal V. C School, Pembrokeshire
Drivers avoid the speed bumps outside our school by going between them. This could be dangerous and people could be hurt. Does this happen anywhere else in the UK? How can our school JRSOs stop this?

Where such driving habits are considered to be dangerous driving it is a matter for Police enforcement, however we understand the difficulties of getting this enforcement in place. It is important to equip pupils with the knowledge to help them understand and cope with driver behaviour, which isn’t always good, as well as the skills they need when making decisions on the road.

JRSOs could appeal to parents and local residents to start with, for better driving habits as well as working in partnership with the local police to address such issues. Is there a parish/community magazine or local events they could use to appeal to the wider community?

I have not heard of this before, and would guess this has something to do with the size of the speed humps. My advice to the JRSOs is campaign, campaign, campaign. Start by conducting a survey to see how wide the problem is, or if this is in fact just a by-product of another issue (speeding, rat running etc). If it is a local issue then get the JRSOs to launch their campaign through the local neighbourhood watch newsletter, they might even help and support your message.

Also don’t forget to involve the local PCSO, the local paper and send a letter to the local authority highway office if drivers are acting dangerously by avoiding the speed humps. Good luck and remember to send the message through the school as you might just find it could be parents that are doing it too!

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