Northern Ireland: school travel figures labelled ‘woeful’

12.39 | 20 January 2020 | | 1 comment

Urgent action is required to reverse the increasing number of children being driven to school in Northern Ireland, an active travel charity has said.

Figures published by Northern Ireland’s Department for Infrastructure show 67% of primary school children travelled to school by car in 2018/19 – compared to 59% in 2013/14.

Conversely, levels of walking to school have decreased, down from 31% to 22%.

Responding to the figures, Sustrans says urgent action is needed to shift the ‘car culture’ – including increased measures to improve road safety, such as better crossings and footpaths.

Anne Madden, Sustrans, said: “The figures showing how increasing numbers of school-children are being driven to school in Northern Ireland are truly woeful.

“The fact that the number of primary school children being driven has risen since 2013/14 shows that we, as a society, have a lot more to do.”

The DfI figures also show that more than half of primary school children (54%) who live within a mile of their school are currently travelling by car.

Anne Madden added: “We know from our surveys that road safety is the main reason why parents drive their children to school, but these same parents are adding to congestion and air pollution at the school-gates.

“There need to be improvements in infrastructure such as footpaths and traffic crossings to enable more active travel.”



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    We know from first hand experience that “road safety concerns” are often given as the reason why parents don’t allow their children to walk to school.

    Yet when we address those concerns and make the infrastructure improvements asked for, such as new pavements, crossings and the like, the walk-to-school percentages frequently don’t change much. (excluding seasonal variations).

    Certainly the improvements are worth doing but could it be that the “road safety concerns” were often just one of several reasons for not walking and used by many respondents as a smokescreen.

    Engineers can build better, safer active travel routes (if they get the funding) but getting into people’s mindset to change behaviour is something entirely different- and where I suggest the biggest problem lies that needs to be overcome.

    Pat, Wales
    Agree (7) | Disagree (0)

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