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Breaking the mould of the school run

MUNICIPAL ENGINEERS were urged to start thinking about their long term transport plans at the recent ICE half day seminar 'Integrated transport, the White Paper in practice'.

New powers granted to local authorities, which will allow them to allocate money five years ahead, were applauded as a key development enabling a start to be made on delivering sustainable alternatives to the car.

The seminar explored how local authorities could reallocate road space to pedestrians, cyclists and school children. ICE transport board chairman David Bayliss said: 'The five year transport plans should contain a variety of targets, not just provision for enhanced bus services.'

Armed with the projected ring fenced income from work place parking and congestion charging of up to pounds5bn a year, councils could make inroads on providing safer routes to school, said Tim Davies of the Association of Transport Co-ordination Officers.

'School travel accounts for 20% of peak hour traffic with 27% of school children making their way to school by car. Our research has found that the safest way to travel to school is by bus, but local authorities must work with bus companies to provide cheaper services for school children. They are treated as peak time travellers by many bus companies and often won't be offered a cheap day return before 9am,' he said.

Davies cited the Seed Corn scheme in West Sussex as an example of how school children can be attracted back onto buses.

More research is needed on what is a very big integrated transport issue he said.

'We need to find out more about how school travel is linked to other journeys such as shopping. We need to go into partnership with schools and talk to school governors especially.'

Schools should be helped to develop green travel plans like big companies and hospitals, said Davies. The attack on the school run would be boosted by giving the pedestrian a higher priority in transport planning, said Ben Plowden of the Plowden Pedestrian Association.

'Judging by the way the pedestrian has been treated by transport planners over the last 30 years, you would think walking was an undesirable activity to be discouraged at all costs,' he said. 'The environment for pedestrians has been dirty, dangerous and polluted. Yet despite bad conditions, walking has survived as a remarkably popular means of travel. One third of all journeys are still made on foot and eight of the 10journeys under a mile are walked. Most public transport journeys also involve a stage on foot.'

Plowden applauded the tone of the White Paper towards pedestrians but struggled to find detail. 'If you look at the general approach to walking in the White Paper, it did pretty well. There are lots of nice phrases such as: 'Too often the public are treated like impostors in their own towns.'

He was delighted that there is to a be review of speed limits: 'It has been on the cards for a long time and it is long overdue.'

Another speaker delighted at further restrictions on the car was Tim Gill of the Children's Play Council, who was promoting home zones as a sustainable transport measure.

'They bring an aspect of sustainable transport right to people's front doors because you will get people walking and cycling as children. There is a lot of potential here for building on children's views about transport.'

Gill applauded the White Paper's reference to 'home zones' as a 'valuable tool' but lamented the lack of funding. 'As yet there is no dedicated funding but the Department of the Environment Transport & the Regions has partly funded the evaluation. Lewisham Council and Leeds City Council have already actively developed home zones.'

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