Get pupils out of cars and onto bicycles
If you travel on the roads in Bath, you can’t help but notice the difference in rush-hour journey time, between school term and school holidays. Transition Larkhall collected data last year showing this was due to parents driving their children to school, and they worked with Bath University to research the reasons for this. They discovered that bus services to secondary schools from the east of Bath are more expensive than driving, infrequent, over-full, and uncomfortable for students. Faresaver has now threatened to withdraw its services into Bath from the east, should the Clean Air Zone go ahead in its
proposed form. The closure of two secondary schools in the city, in the last 12 months, has meant many more children have to criss-cross the city twice a day. Some bus routes have been withdrawn – there is currently no bus to Ralph Allen School at all from Bathampton, and in the south of the city, routes 20 and U2 have been reorganised. You can’t have missed the pictures in this newspaper this autumn, of students left stranded, sometimes for hours in the rain, day after day, as several full buses drove by. And, to cap it all, the council has threatened to cut rural school buses. In years gone by, children often cycled, but the busy, polluted roads and lack of segregated cycling infrastructure, make this a frightening prospect for most students and their parents. Consequently, many parents from around the city feel they have no choice but to drive. The present inadequacies of transport to school in Bath and North East Somerset are a major source of congestion, air pollution and carbon emissions, impacting everyone who lives or travels in the city. The issue is also consuming head teachers’ valuable time in liaising with bus companies, parents and students. Parents are wasting hours, morning and evening, in traffic jams, when they could be doing something more productive. Students’ education is disrupted as they arrive late at school, or are unable to attend after-school activities due to lack of transport. Meanwhile, those students who are driven miss out on opportunities to develop their independence, as well as on a daily walk or cycle ride, which would have kept them fit and helped set them up with healthy travel habits for life. And while head teachers, bus companies, and parents have been working to improve matters as best they can, the school transport situation in Bath and North East Somerset remains chaotic, desperately needing central coordination. For these reasons, I have been working with Joanna Wright, Transition Larkhall transport campaigner, and curator, earlier this year, of the #getoutofyourcar exhibition, and an installation of 25,000 toy cars representing the school run, to pull together the various groups of parents campaigning in different communities and schools in the city on this issue. We recently carried out a survey of parents about transport to school, and found many were at their wits’ end. Several of them asked us to draft a petition requesting the council to take responsibility for ensuring safe, independent travel to school is possible and affordable, for every child aged 11 to 18, at all schools, state and private, in Bath and North East Somerset. You can find the petition at https:// bit.ly/2zwi0uq . Please sign and share it. And remember, this is an issue for everyone who uses our roads, not just for parents and students. Here’s to hoping for better coordinated school transport in Bath and North East Somerset in 2019!
Joanna Wright and Sarah Warren on London Road , Bath, during the morning rush hour