Active travel encouraged as part of return to school plans

19 August 2020

Cheshire West and Chester Council is encouraging families to think ahead and consider if they can walk, cycle or scoot to school when pupils return to the classroom in September.

With reduced capacity on public transport following current Government guidance around social distancing, due to coronavirus (COVID-19), the Council is encouraging parents and carers to play their part and think about alternatives that will avoid traffic congestion, parking problems and air pollution at the school gates.

All year groups are due to return to school and colleges in September for the beginning of the autumn term. While around 3,000 children are entitled to free Home to School transport in West Cheshire, approximately another 43,000 make their own way to and from school every day. 

If families are travelling more than three miles to school and need to use a car, they should consider parking away from the school entrance and walking the last section of the journey to school.

The Council, schools and transport providers are working together to get children back to school safely in September. Free Home to School Transport will continue in September for those pupils entitled to it, with enhanced temporary hygiene and safety measures on dedicated school services to minimise the risks from coronavirus. This includes those entitled to free travel on public transport. Eligible pupils who applied on time will receive their passes in the post shortly and further guidance will be published online before the new term starts: Residents are also asked to think ahead and plan their journeys in advance. Where possible, residents who travel on public transport could help by travelling at quieter times to ensure enough capacity to allow children to get to and from school.

The borough has seen a dramatic fall in traffic volume and air pollution during the coronavirus  pandemic, with walking and cycling playing an increasingly important role in people's lives. Continuing to use these active modes of transport will also support the ambition to be a carbon neutral borough.

The Council launched its 'Walk.Ride.Thrive' campaign and has recently secured £161, 000 of funding from the Department of Transport's Emergency Active Travel fund to help improve walking and cycling routes in the borough, supporting the country as it emerges from the coronavirus crisis. Both temporary and permanent infrastructure is now being installed in areas of the borough to help encourage even more people to choose active travel options for their journey.

Cllr Bob Cernik, Cabinet Member for Children and Families, said: "As children and young people return to school in September, we want to make sure that they have the best start to the academic year as possible. That's why we are encouraging families to think ahead and consider active modes of transport when planning their journey to and from school, such as travelling on foot, bike or scooter. If that's not possible, and you need to use a car to get to school, could you sensibly park away from the school entrance and walk the last ten minutes to school?

"The Council is committed to supporting schools and families to ensure children can safely return to school in the autumn term. By working together, schools and their communities can reduce congestion on all forms of transport, limit the number of cars at the school gates and reduce air pollution, supporting our ambition to be a carbon neutral borough."

There is lots of useful information about walking to school available on Living Streets, a UK charity that promotes walking. For information on cycling, visit: www.sustrans.org.uk or visit: https://itravelsmart.co.uk/cycle for details about cycle routes in the borough. Parents are also advised to check their school's website and social media channels regularly for the latest information from their school and details about drop off and pick up arrangements.

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