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The ways that we move around are highly complex. How we make decisions about the routes we elect to use, and the destinations that we need to reach or that we choose to visit, serve to influence where and how traffic flows. Add to this more personalised factors about the ways that we drive and times we need or prefer to make trips, and we see a hugely complicated matrix of factors that determine where congestion builds.
Given the complexity of the equation, there are strong grounds to wonder whether we understand traffic well enough to intervene to alter the road network effectively. And crucially, what does ‘effectively’ mean in this context? Are schemes which aim to make car journeys quicker and easier sensible given the damage that our over-reliance on cars is doing to the environment and to society?
This blog is a response to two Highways England reports concerning the impacts of road ‘improvement’ schemes.
The first of the reports is about the ‘pinch points’ programme. Coverage of the report included headlines such as ‘England traffic jams ‘worse’ despite congestion schemes’. This report is a review of a series of evaluations of road schemes that were intended to support economic growth and to improve congestion and safety outcomes. The report covers evaluation work conducted early after the changes were made – before the schemes are ‘mature’.
But there is already strong evidence that the schemes are not delivering in the way that was intended. Some improvements in congestion during peak hours are offset by further delays during other periods. Safety outcomes are more positive, although the removal of outliers arguably puts a more positive light on this result than is warranted.
The second report is a summary of evaluations of 85 major schemes. Major schemes tend to involve very costly new road construction or significant engineering measures. The report suggests that the planned outcomes of the major schemes are largely met.
However, there is some richer context to this. On the one hand, the accuracy with which adverse outcomes are forecasted is lauded – knowing the extent of the damage being caused by a road scheme doesn’t feel like a cause for celebration. On the other hand, the inaccuracy of traffic and cost forecasts is very clear.
This point about forecasting traffic levels, and the implication for what this shows about our understanding of the impacts of the measures that are being implemented to support travel by car, are a real cause for concern. The challenges of forecasting are numerous and complex. But the fact that we are not doing it well suggests that we really don’t understand the implications of the changes that we are making to the road network.
In an era where the problems that car traffic poses are better understood than ever before, should we really be investing on this scale in an attempt to make it easier for people to drive further, faster and more frequently?
A recent briefing paper by Transport for Quality of Life for Friends of the Earth makes a strong case for how the planning system can be used to reduce the need for car travel. In particular, the report makes the point that ‘The expansion of road networks around towns and cities only leads to a vicious cycle of more settlements on the periphery, more roads, and further sprawl’. The implication is that the current investment in roads is ‘locking-in’ damaging behaviours by facilitating more travel by car.
More forthrightly, an argument recently presented states that ‘Cars are killing us. Within 10 years, we must phase them out’. The author states that ‘Transport should be planned, but with entirely different aims: to maximise its social benefits, while minimising harm … accompanied by a steady closure of the conditions that allow cars to rampage through our lives’.
Both reports pick out a myriad of reasons why the car is causing so much damage, and the former at least makes clear and constructive suggestions for alternatives to investing to support car travel.
The huge programme of investment in roads that supports more car travel could and should be reoriented to offer solutions to current economic, health and wellbeing, social justice and environmental challenges.
Sustrans’ work is all about supporting positive outcomes across the domains of economy, health and wellbeing, social justice and environment, and about offering alternatives to car use for the trips that people want and need to make.
from Blog https://www.sustrans.org.uk/blog/do-we-understand-road-traffic-well-enough-justify-high-levels-investment-roads
Recently we reviewed the entire National Cycle Network, all 16,575 miles, and in 2018’s Paths for everyone report we were honest in highlighting where the Network doesn’t meet the high standards we’ve set ourselves at Sustrans. The report identified 50 activation projects that Sustrans will focus on fixing and upgrading that are key to improving the entire Network.
We’re incredibly proud to see the very first of these reach completion, with a new traffic-free link at Ledaig, between North Connel and Benderloch, on the iconic Caledonia Way in the Scottish Highlands.
It’s an important first step in a far longer journey. We want the Network to truly represent the idea of paths for everyone. You can’t genuinely label a trunk road as a ‘path for everyone’. Our vision is to make all the Network traffic-free or quiet-ways, suitable for people of all abilities. That’s a big challenge with a huge price tag but what it breaks down to is a series of small projects like this.
The new path at Ledaig represents so much of the work Sustrans does. Not only high-quality, traffic-free paths; but also communities, landowners, schools, local politicians, residents and central government coming together. It’s taken more than 10 years and Sustrans has been there through it all, helping to bring people together and make things happen.
Creating a national asset for all
We often talk about Sustrans’ vision, strategy and ambitions. The numbers are quite staggering: 16,575 miles of the National Cycle Network and 750-million trips a year, over 6-million on the Caledonia Way alone.
But what is really rewarding is coming somewhere like Ledaig and seeing these paths in action. Watching children cycle to school, talking to residents and locals - the people who actually use the infrastructure we help fund and build – reminds us that this isn’t about numbers or even just transport, it’s about creating places to be. Places to be human. It’s about people on bikes, people walking, people with mobility scooters, people with dogs, all coming together and sharing the space.
The Network is a national asset but it’s also about local communities, just like North Connel and Benderloch, who use these paths on a regular basis for daily journeys and commuting. It links these communities to something far bigger and I think in our increasingly divided times that’s really something worth celebrating: a UK-wide Network that is open to all, joining us all together.
from Blog https://www.sustrans.org.uk/blog/paths-everyone-new-traffic-free-link-national-cycle-network
Our Sustrans jobseekers project works to remove travel barriers to employment and training opportunities for people looking for work in Derby and Nottingham. Barriers people face include cost, time and not knowing how to access timetables and travel information. Matt Easter, our England Director for the Midlands and East, discusses how the project is changing lives, one person at a time.
What was the problem?
When I’m asked about my work at Sustrans, one of the questions that always comes up is why should we care so passionately about cycling and walking? Of course, there are many reasons such as improving our environment or helping people to lead healthier lives. However, in Nottingham and Derby, we’re adding another reason to that list - we’re helping people back into work.
It’s often forgotten in the debate around skills and employment that our entire economy is dependent on transport one way or another. Without a means of travelling, most people wouldn’t be able to earn a living and lack of travel options is one of the big barriers to accessing employment and training.
In the East Midlands, unemployment runs higher than the national average. Many jobseekers have told us they can’t afford bus and taxi fares, don’t have a car and either can’t cycle or don’t have access to a bike. Given these challenges, Nottingham and Derby are proving ideal locations to deliver a project which helps tackle transport poverty.
What do we do?
Last year, we were commissioned by Nottingham City Council and Derby City Council to help address these issues. Their funding, via The Access fund, now in its last year, builds on previous projects which helped jobseekers such as the previous Nottingham gets 2 work scheme.
Whether unemployed, looking for new work or seeking access to training our new project team are here to offer support tailored to a person’s needs. They work with clients individually to develop a bespoke personal travel plan. For many clients, a PTP could be the first time they’ve engaged in wider active travel and sustainable travel themes and this opens up a range of walking, cycling and public transport options.
For those who want to get on their bike, we’ve delivered a number of reconditioned bikes to our clients free of charge. We also offer a range of support and training activities including maintenance courses, how to build a bike, cycle training, led rides and Dr Bike services.
What have been the outcomes?
One by one, the project is bringing people together - it’s brought us together with a range of partners, too! It has been a great example of collaboration and we’ve really benefited from working with Cycle Derby, Life Cycle Derby, Nottingham Bikeworks and RideWise. The project is dependent on a multi-agency approach, with each partner contributing to helping the jobseekers we work with.
This inspirational project is funded until March 2020, so we’re only halfway through but it’s already made a big impact. So far we’ve:
We were originally set a range of performance goals based on a three year period and we were nearly a year late starting. Despite this, the project is meeting its targets and making a real difference for jobseekers in the two cities.
Lots of people who’ve accessed our services have told us that the support we have given them has been transformative. Many clients who’ve benefitted from a reconditioned bike and cycle training say it’s given them new skills and helped them get around in a practical way. Others say it’s helped them to keep fit and allowed them to get to appointments on time.
There’s also examples of this scheme enabling many people to turn adversity into a positive by embracing active travel after years of car dependency. One client told us that the bike we’d provided them with has given them new skills for life and a low-cost means to get around all year around. For others, it’s given them the confidence boost they needed after losing a job and their car.
Could we be doing more?
This project is helping people into work and training while enabling them to make healthy travel choices. In the longer-term, this project will be having a positive impact on local health budgets and is reducing out of work benefit payments.
I’ve been involved in numerous projects and worked with some great people during my time at Sustrans, but this project really stands out. I’m incredibly proud of our team in Nottingham and Derby, but I can’t help feeling that we could be doing so much more.
Projects associated with ‘behaviour change’ are often judged by participant numbers or health impacts difficult to quantify over a longer period. This project works, because it is targeted at a particularly disadvantaged group of people and success is all about the long term change in each person’s travel behaviour. We could be having this impact by developing similar projects in other parts of the country. We’d be able to replicate the benefits on a much bigger scale with bigger returns. We could take the model from Nottingham and Derby and improve it based on what we’ve learned so that it can be developed as a key component of our city and town based programmes across the country.
Our jobseekers project has also been effective as we’ve really honed our ability to work in partnership with other organisations who have a similar focus on getting people back to work. These include; 20 20 Journey 2 Work program, Derby County Community Trust, The Refugee Forum and JC+ in Nottingham. This ability to utilise Sustrans’ pioneering engagement expertise, alongside our local knowledge, enables us to attract excellent local partners and means projects can be really rooted in local need, with participants also encouraged to shape our work further.
This transformative project has delivered impressive results in a short space of time. Thanks to our dedicated team, and our partners, there are hundreds of people who are looking forward to a better future in work and training, with hope and confidence. For me that makes Sustrans’ work so worthwhile and reminds me why we need to continue to make it easier for everyone to walk and cycles
from Blog https://www.sustrans.org.uk/blog/helping-jobseekers-get-their-bikes-nottingham-and-derby
Cycling, scooting and walking has many health and environmental benefits. Despite this, 42% of primary school children are driven to school, while congestion and idling car engines pollute the air outside schools across the UK.
Our recent YouGov poll revealed that nearly two thirds (63%) of teachers want to ban cars on the road outside their school, with a further 26% agreeing that school street closures are an effective measure for bringing down levels of air pollution.
So how can teachers get involved and close their streets to motor vehicles? We caught up with teachers and head teachers across the UK to find out how they have closed their streets to cars for this year’s Big Pedal challenge and why it matters.
Claire Lippiett, Tyn-Y-Wern Primary School, Caerphilly
"We have 242 children attend the main school and also have a small nursery, so you can imagine the chaos that ensues when everyone travels in during the morning and leaves in the afternoon.
"The side street the school is situated on is very small and narrow so cars struggle to turn around as there isn’t enough space. To top it all off, traffic races up and down the main road that connects to the side street and means it can be dangerous for pupils when crossing the road.
“Since we started closing the street to cars, we have seen a huge difference in the environment around the school gates. It’s much less congested, calmer and feels more welcoming. Caerphilly Council has set up a permanent traffic order, where access to the road that leads up to the school is coned off and monitored by a School Crossing Patroller. This works really well.”
Julie Edgecombe, Murrayburn Primary School, Edinburgh
“We want to create a safer and more relaxed atmosphere outside the school. That’s why we’re working hard to discourage parents from driving straight up to the gates at the start and end of the day.
“Our Cycling Officer Kerr and road safety contact at Edinburgh Council have been absolutely brilliant at pushing the application forward for a car-free day. It all went really smoothly and with their help, the tender was approved in good time.
“We hope the one-day street closure raises awareness of the hazards caused by drivers parking on yellow zigzag lines and highlights how easy it can be to park further away and walk, scoot or cycle for the remainder of the journey.
Donna Berry, St Mary’s Church of England Primary School, Southampton
“I think that taking part in the Big Pedal and one-day street closure run by Sustrans, will be a powerful way of showing parents what’s possible when cars are removed from the environment. We hope it will also get them thinking about where they can park other than the road outside of the school.
“We would love to make the road closure outside the school permanent – not just to increase safety but also improve the air quality for our children. We are pushing for a six-week street closure trial in the summer, led by the local council and supported by Sustrans, and hope this will enable us to slowly make the change to a car-free environment.
Claudine Richardson, St Richard Reynolds Catholic College, Twickenham
“At the moment, almost half of our primary school children are driven to school which is something we would like to discourage. This is because the catchment area for the primary years is relatively small, meaning that the children could potentially walk, cycle or scoot the school journey.
“We know this isn’t achievable for everyone but want to encourage parents and pupils to travel actively to school where possible. I think it’s a combination of factors that put parents off. There is a lack of cycling infrastructure in the local area, safety fears when walking and cycling on busy main roads and the fact that many parents are so time poor in the morning. This makes jumping in the car seem like the ideal and often the only way to travel.
“Being based in a very residential area and so close to the station means that a more permanent street closure may be difficult. This is because we need to balance the needs of the local community with that of the school and ensure we maintain a happy relationship. We’d love to trial the street closure scheme at different times of year and then go from there based on residents’ feedback.”
from Blog https://www.sustrans.org.uk/blog/views-classroom-why-we-want-ban-cars-roads-outside-schools
In March 2019, Sustrans Research and Monitoring Unit held a roundtable discussion on women and cycling to determine what needs to happen next.
We invited a broad cross-section of speakers and guests who had an understanding of the issues around the lack of women cycling in our towns and cities. Over the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing the insights we gained.
One speaker was Jools Walker - the Vélo-City-Girl blogger seeking to tackle mainstream gender norms in cycling. Here are her perspectives:
This month marks 9 years since I got back into cycling and launched my blog VéloCityGirl, so when Sustrans Scotland invited me to speak at their March 2019 Women and Cycling Roundtable, it felt like a fitting way to celebrate this bikeaversary.
The Roundtable was borne out of research Sustrans had undertaken on the gender gap in cycling. Findings from it highlighted that across UK cities, men are 2-3 times more likely to cycle than women; only 12 per cent of women cycle once a week and 73 per cent of women living in Bike Life cities never ride a bicycle.
Sustrans brought together a range of voices to explore some of these issues, identify solutions to get more women cycling, and discuss what actions could be put in place to improve the situation. Chairing the discussion was Sara Thiam (Director of the Institution of Civil Engineers Scotland), and keynote talks came from Megan Kirton & Tim Burns (Research and Policy Team - Sustrans), Dr Rachel Aldred (Reader in Transport at the University of Westminster), Joanna Ward (Principal Transport Planner for Waterman Group), and myself.
I could talk all day about the utter joy of being on a bike - deciding to get back on the saddle after a 10-year hiatus from cycling is one of the best things I’ve ever done! But I’d be lying if I didn’t talk about any of the barriers that kept me off a bike for so long, and the fact I still encounter some of them now. Being honest about those barriers and the various guises they come in, especially as a Woman of Colour in the cycling industry, is really important to me. I’m always frank about this - whether it’s my writing on VéloCityGirl or any panels/conferences I’m invited to speak at.
As I entered the reception area of Whitespace (the name of venue the Roundtable was being held in, which I must admit made me chuckle) and mingled with the other invited guests over the pre-talk breakfast, I immediately noticed that in a room of around 45-50 people (mainly women) I was 1 of only 2 Women of Colour, and 2 People of Colour overall at the event. Bringing up this ‘elephant in the room’ during my keynote talk and the following chaired Q&A session wasn’t something I was going to shy away from - especially as I had photo-slides in my presentation to illustrate experiencing this at past cycling panel events.
One of the things I frequently find myself talking about (which can sometimes be mentally exhausting to do time and time again) is the lack of diversity and representation of Women of Colour across different levels of the cycling industry. What was refreshing and interesting at the Women and Cycling Roundtable was that during the Q&A other guests picked up on this too, pointing out the lack of presence of other marginalised groups at the event.
A huge part of me hopes that Sustrans—who do incredible work—will indeed broaden their scope for not only events like this, but also further their research into why other groups of women are not cycling, and cover the wider issues of lack of representation. If the aim is to design cycling for everyone, then everyone needs to have a seat at the (Round)table.
My favourite takeaway from the Women and Cycling Roundtable was from Kris Muir, who spoke towards the end of the event and highlighted the importance of all voices being listened to in order to make changes. Just because marginalised voices don’t make up a large sector of society (ethnic minorities, disabled, LGBTQIA - which are also not mutually exclusive) doesn’t mean those voices don’t deserve to be heard - intersectionality is key to all of this.
If widening participation and improving planning for more women to get into cycling is a goal, then all of these voices need to be given the platform to be heard so that the decisions being made are actually rounded, informed and of course, truly representative.
Videos of the keynote speakers at the Women and Cycling roundtable
from Blog https://www.sustrans.org.uk/blog/jools-walker-women-and-cycling
Just 4 days after International Women’s Day, Sustrans Research & Monitoring Unit held a roundtable discussion on women and cycling to determine what needs to happen next.
We invited a broad cross-section of speakers and guests who had an understanding of the issues around the lack of women cycling in our towns and cities.nOver the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing the insights we gained.
One speaker was Joanna Ward, a Transport Planner from Waterman Group in Nottingham. Here are her perspectives.
In 2018, Sustrans published the report ‘Are we nearly there yet?’ which examined the role of gender in active travel.
The findings were shocking and included the following;
‘Most political committees and advisory boards have less than 15% female membership and none have equal representation (Transgen, 2007)’
The report also found there is a lack of evidence to show how women participate in creating transport policy and planning in the UK. Currently, transport has the lowest percentage of women in senior posts within the public sector in Scotland, with women representing only 6.25% heads of transport bodies. In addition, the transport sector accounts for only 22% of female workers UK-wide.
In fact, the number of women working in transport has declined since the Sustrans report was published. The latest data shows we’re now down to 20% of the transport workforce being women.
It is well-known that half the population are women. We all use the same transport infrastructure, so how can it only be designed and planned by half of the population?
I welcomed the news that Sustrans Scotland had decided to follow up on the report and hold a ‘Women and Cycling Roundtable’ to examine the issues further and discuss what actions could be put in place to improve the situation.
I was even more thrilled when they not only invited me to attend the event in Edinburgh, but to speak about my experiences of working in the transport planning sector for the last twenty years.
I started my role in Transport Planning in 1998 and have been lucky enough to work for mostly open-minded and positive public, private and charity sector organisations for a wide client base; although back in the late 1990s, things were not very gender-balanced in the transport sector, but I’ve never let this put me off.
However, I did some work last summer further examining how much things had changed but, again, I was a bit shocked to observe there wasn’t a huge difference.
This brought up some clear memories from a couple of years into my career, when I worked in the Highways Maintenance at a Local Authority, and I went to a well-established conference on this topic. Walking into the conference hall, I realised I was not only the youngest person in the room, but also one of only two females at the event! What must the other delegates have thought?
So, I’ve since been actively taking notice at meetings and conferences that I’ve attended to observe where the gender-balance of attendees can be improved!
It was interesting that delegates at the event last week in Edinburgh didn’t over-congratulate themselves that the event was happening, in fact they immediately noted those who weren’t in the room and the need for those with different background to be included in discussions on transport, as well as the further work that needs to be done to achieve this.
I noted there were around 40 delegates in attendance, both female and male, who wanted to discuss these issues further.
It was chaired by Sara Thiam (Director of the Institution of Civil Engineers Scotland) and presentations were provided by Sustrans, Dr Rachel Aldred, Jools Walker and myself, covering a wide range of topics / issues and giving much food for thought.
I was then delighted to chair one of the break-out sessions looking at ‘Women’s Representation in Transport Planning’ where we discussed ‘the Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ of being a woman in the transport field. I can safely say that all those elements were there!
There is still so much to do to make transport at any level more equal for all but that’s the thing with transport planning, it doesn’t exist by itself, but for the movement of people and goods. Those movements need to fit within everyone’s expectations and needs otherwise you are alienating half the population.
With this, I’m heralding a rallying cry of sorts to all of you:
· the women who work in transport planning,
· the men who work in transport planning,
· everyone who needs to get themselves anywhere using transport.
We need to refocus on how our transport can be planned, built and used for everyone, and that means engaging with the whole population. I see that my role is to keep these conversations and discussions going.
The real work starts now, but how do we carry on this discussion in a positive way to ensure more women and others get involved in transport, ensuring that it is planned and designed for everyone?
Joanna Ward is a Principal Transport Planner for Waterman Group
Videos of the speeches from the keynote speakers at the Women and Cycling roundtable:
from Blog https://www.sustrans.org.uk/blog/joanna-ward-women-cycling
Xavier Brice, chief executive of Sustrans, pays tribute to Ben Hamilton-Baillie, who died earlier this month.
“It was with great shock and sadness that I read the news that Ben Hamilton-Baillie had passed away.
I first met Ben around 10 years ago at City Hall in London. He came with a mammoth set of slides to present to the Mayor, but more importantly with passion and expertise that swept all there along with him as he explained how we could, and why we should civilise the city’s streets.
What I didn’t know at the time is that Ben played an instrumental role in shaping Sustrans. He joined the charity shortly after we were awarded a £42.5million grant from the National Lottery to deliver the National Cycle Network.
At first, he was one of just a small number of staff working with John Grimshaw on the Network, and in his early days, Ben’s role covered the whole of the South of England and Wales. He was a true pioneer and trailblazer, fondly remembered by colleagues for his infectious passion, humour and expertise. But Ben’s interest went beyond cycle paths. He led study tours to the Netherlands to see woonerfs or home zones, and these led to Sustrans’ DIY Streets, which in turn led to the community street design work that sits at the heart of so much of what we do today.
Ben’s work at Sustrans in the late 1990s led him to expand his own horizons: in 2000 he was awarded a Winston Churchill Fellowship and was a Harvard University Loeb Fellow in 2001. This study further ignited his passion for what he described as ‘civilising streets’ and reclaiming urban spaces for people.
In his later years, through his own transport, design and urban planning practice, Ben continued to re-shape streets; and as an author, lecturer and advocate he worked tirelessly to educate and inspire others.
Whilst his life was too short, his memory lives on for all of us at Sustrans, and in civilised streets across the UK and beyond.”
from Blog https://www.sustrans.org.uk/blog/remembering-ben-hamilton-baillie
The burning of fossil fuel may represent the biggest threat to the health of our children, and is a primary source of global inequality and environmental injustice. What can we do to counter these challenges? How can we engage children in promoting agendas for change?
This blog is based on reflections following the publication of the Public Health England Review of interventions to improve outdoor air quality and public health.
Recent research argues that fossil-fuel combustion by-products are the world’s most significant threat to children’s health and future and are major contributors to global inequality and environmental injustice. This research emphasises the interconnectedness of toxic air pollutants and climate-altering greenhouse gas. The argument runs that the compound effect of emissions on children’s development and health, and of the impacts of changing environments and resources, are having huge impacts on individuals and communities worldwide.
The consequence of these challenges is reflected in what a recent series in the Lancet described as a Global Syndemic. This research links the phenomena of obesity, undernutrition and climate change. This paper draws the links between human health and wellbeing, ecological health and wellbeing, social equity, and economic prosperity. It identifies the major systems driving the Global Syndemic as food and agriculture, transportation, urban design, and land use. (There are differences between the extent of emphasis that the two papers place on pollution relative to nutrition, but both acknowledge the interconnection between these factors, and both are emphatic about the role of climate change).
Elsewhere, we research suggests that deaths attributable to air pollution are twice as high as previously estimated. There are numerous determinants of where these deaths are distributed, but there is growing consensus that they are concentrated in more deprived communities worldwide. Another new study provides evidence that exposure to poor air in the US is disproportionately concentrated among minority ethnic groups. The paper reports that “black and Hispanic minorities bear a disproportionate burden from the air pollution caused mainly by non-Hispanic whites”, and describes a “pollution inequity”. Evidence of pollution inequity in the UK describes a disproportionate effect in poorer communities.
The publication of the Public Health England Review of interventions to improve outdoor air quality and public health is very timely. It makes a very useful contribution in terms of identifying approaches that can be applied to address air quality. I am pleased to have been able to contribute to the study in some small way. But coming against a backdrop of growing evidence of global and local health challenges, inequality and environmental injustice, the question is does it go far enough?
The PHE report treats air quality in isolation, rather than as part of a more complete systemic challenge; there is little or no discussion of carbon emissions, other health-detrimental factors, or social inequalities; some of the suggested remedial activities focus more on reducing exposure than on reducing emissions; and some of the suggested approaches disregard the realities of space and resources (I am thinking particularly here of the suggestion of “redesigning cities so that people aren’t so close to highly polluting roads”, rather than reducing pollution on roads, for example). But the report does present a lot of challenges to the central and local government. There are many issues of planning and policy that will need to be addressed if we are to reduce air pollution – and in so doing address other health, environment and equity issues.
In particular, some of the press coverage associated with the report majored on what it said about the school run. Interpretations were varied, from “Schools should have ‘no idling zones’, Public Health England chief says” to “Health chiefs say parents should be banned from dropping off their children in new fight on air pollution.”
And this is one of the areas where Sustrans is busy trying to make a difference. The Big Pedal and School Streets are initiatives which aim to work with schools to reduce emissions, to raise physical activity, to reduce inequality, and to build awareness of environmental challenge. Will these initiatives eliminate the global environmental threat, restore fairness, and save lives worldwide? No. But they serve to demonstrate what is possible to improve the places we live, learn and travel.
Overcoming global inequality and environmental injustice, and effectively supporting human health and wellbeing, ecological health and wellbeing, social equity, and economic prosperity will require a whole lot more. But reducing the amount of fossil fuel combustion that each of us is responsible for will help. And addressing school travel is a good place to start.
We hope that the big Pedal and School Streets will prove really good mechanisms for engaging children in promoting agendas for change.
from Blog https://www.sustrans.org.uk/blog/how-can-we-engage-children-addressing-biggest-threats-their-health-and-their-future
Youth is wasted on the young, or so they say. Something I’d usually tend to agree with looking back at the years I spent dragging my feet to school. However, over recent months, we’ve seen young people rise up, and send arguably one of the most important political messages to global leaders: how do we solve a problem like climate change?
Triggered by the solo demonstrations of 15-year-old Swedish school girl Greta Thunberg in August 2018 a global youth movement of School Strikes for climate change is gathering momentum and demonstrating the power of local, grassroots action.
Many children walked out at my son’s/our local school last month and many more are expected to do so today, joining thousands across the UK and tens of thousands globally. And other small protests are adding to the clamour for change.
The direct action of Steve Marsland, Headteacher at Russell Scott primary school in Denton in Tameside, made national headlines when he appointed children to issue fake parking tickets on cars parked outside the school to highlight parents’ inconsiderate parking or idling cars, after a rise in asthma cases.
For all the talk of climate change being ‘too big’, local action is exactly what’s needed in times like these. How many of us would look back in hindsight and suggest that the ‘mother’ of the civil rights movement Rosa Parks’ very small, but very significant act of refusing to give up her seat on an Alabama bus, was deemed too ‘local’, or not enough to have an impact?
There is little more political than coming together locally to try and affect political thinking. In spite of all the evidence stacking up, we are still seeing the reaction to climate change move at a (retreating) glacial pace.
Transport is a major cause of air pollution
This month, Public Health England released their air quality evidence review, part of which specifically focuses on what interventions are needed to reduce the already known ill effects transport emissions have on the development of children’s lungs and the links to increased asthma.
The report says: “working with children and their parents to implement no-idling zones outside schools, make it easy for children to walk or cycle to school and increase public awareness in relation to air pollution and children. This will reduce air pollution in the vicinity of schools and reducing children’s exposure accordingly.”
Transport is the only sector in the UK with increasing carbon emissions, so addressing our addiction to fossil-fuelled transport, when combined at scale, could have an impact on our emissions.
Start tackling climate change on school streets
So how do we make local action which can have a global effect? Our School Streets programme, which launches later this month to coincide with our annual inter-school Big Pedal competition, encourages teachers, parents, schools and Local Authorities, to address the ways in which our children are able to travel to school.
For far too long, we have become complacent with our children’s journey to school. Being ‘dropped off’ has become the de facto norm, with 41% of five to 10-year-olds travelling to school by car or van in 2017, according to the National Travel Survey.
School Streets involves closing the streets outside schools at pick up and drop off times. A number of forward-thinking Local Authorities have already adopted these schemes in an attempt to reposition the school run; being a little more stick than carrot. It’s a very local action, which can have positive ramifications for our children, schools, and wider communities. But taken together, the momentum can have more significant impacts.
Our politicians have been slow to react, if indeed they react at all, to the existential threat of climate change, seeing at times as few as 10 MPs in Parliament for the debate on the UK cutting carbon emissions, so perhaps it really is down to the kids.
Their localised political actions have certainly inspired me. And we want our localised actions of School Streets to have the impact of School Strikes. We want to challenge what has become accepted, and make a small change locally, which can have a big impact nationally. And if these localised actions are replicated the world over, then we build political momentum that gets harder to be ignored.
Oh to be young again…
from Blog https://www.sustrans.org.uk/blog/climate-change-action-begins-school-streets