Get pupils out of cars and onto bi­cy­cles

Bath Chronicle - - OPINION - Sarah War­ren Tran­si­tion Bath mem­ber and cam­paigner for bet­ter school trans­port in Bath & North East Som­er­set

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

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