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Calls to make walk to school ‘genuinely safe’ for children and young people

Greens say more work is needed to guarantee a safe walk to school for city’s kids

Green Councillors are calling for the city council to improve walking zones around local schools so that more children, families and carers feel safer walking to school.

A petition has been signed by over 1,300 people which means it will be debated at a meeting of full council, October 24th, accompanied by Green proposals for Safe Walking Zones around every school.

Green Councillor Sarah Nield, who created the petition, said that many parents and carers are encouraged to walk to school but do not feel that surrounding roads are sufficiently safe. Pointing to the prevalence of speeding cars, idling traffic, poor visibility and a lack of road crossings, Cllr Nield said that existing school ’10 minute walking zones,’ can be made more accessible.

The Green proposals call on the council to work with education providers, parents and carers to understand what improvements can be made. This includes enhancing accessibility of walking routes, adding crossings, boosting visual signage and including communication campaigns that raise driver awareness of ‘safe school walking zones.’ Greens urge the council to review how existing structures which calm traffic and improve road accessibility can be used to create better walking zones for pupils. 

Feedback from parents to the petition also included some frustration that school walking zones are only reviewed ‘when accidents happen.’ Greens say that fears about safety also impede the positive health and environmental benefits to be gained from encouraging young people to walk to school.

Cllr Nield commented:

“We all want our children to walk to school. But so many of our schools are surrounded by busy and hazardous roads without adequate crossings. Families are left dodging between the rush-hour traffic: the walk to school is a daily danger in the lives of thousands of people in Brighton and Hove.

“Greens are calling for safe walking zones to be created around all our schools. A public petition calling for this change has currently gathered around 1350 signatures, and I’ve been standing outside the school gates with a paper version getting feedback, along with signatures, from parents, staff and carers. The strength of feeling about this issue is overwhelming. Everyone has a story about a near-miss, a particular road they worry about every day, or a child they wish could walk to school unaccompanied. Everyone seems to live in fear of the accident which could so easily happen. Many also mourn the loss of independence our hazardous roads represent to their kids.

“While areas around schools are often called ‘walking zones,’ we’re calling on the council to review the safety and accessibility of these routes to some of our most vulnerable pedestrians, working with our local schools to establish what improvements can be made. Most of our primary-aged children live within a ten minute walk of their school – and they should have the right to make that journey safely.”

Green Councillor and member of the council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee Steve Davis added:

“The streets surrounding our schools have become danger zones. Focusing on the safety of roads around our schools goes a long way to making the walking journey to school a genuine possibility for a much greater number of parents and pupils. 

“On top of promoting the ‘right to walk to school,’ we’re also asking for a report from the city council that explores funding to boost this type of work – and how these proposals fit in with existing plans to calm traffic and improve our roads. Proposals to introduce more crossings, in line with the wishes of parents and schools, will work well alongside the walking and cycling infrastructure plans being put forward in the council’s cycling and walking plan. The incredibly successful Hackney Toolkit [3], which aims to massively reduce the amount of vehicles at the school gate, has shown what can be done. 

“If we accept children have the right to walk to school in safety, we will do so much to grow a love of walking, active travel and sustainable transport, as well as genuinely avert accidents.”

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