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Back to school - but not by car please


Back to school - but not by car please
January 21, 2004

North Shore City Council has won Government support for its plans to focus its efforts this year on reducing the number of pupils travelling by car to schools to ease traffic congestion at peak times and improve student safety.

As pupils return to school next week, the council will begin training a recently-recruited team of six co-ordinators who will work directly with local schools to develop customised travel plans in consultation with boards of trustees, principals, parents, students and teachers. The team will begin their work in schools next month.

The Government's pre-Christmas Auckland transport funding package stipulates that the Auckland region should put more effort into non-pricing travel demand management measures such as travel plans.

North Shore City is seen as leading the way in this area and has developed the country's first manual on how to develop school travel plans based on its pilot work last year. The council has won now funding from a range of agencies for expanding its innovative approach that aims to reduce traffic on arterial roads and improve safety at the school gate.

The Road Safety Trust and the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority are helping fund the initiative to develop a model that other cities could implement. The Auckland Regional Council, Infrastructure Auckland and Transfund are also offering support.

Over 40 per cent of peak time travel in the Auckland region is education-related. Research undertaken by the Auckland Regional Council and Infrastructure Auckland last year confirms that while most students currently travel to school by car, around 22 per cent of parents are prepared to consider alternatives.

North Shore City's works and environment committee chairperson, Joel Cayford, says, "Everyone knows how easy it is to drive around our city in the school holidays. We want to develop another 20 school travel plans over the next 12 months. This isn't high tech and costly - it's low tech and cost-effective. And it makes a difference."

In partnership with schools, the council has already developed travel plans at three schools - Vauxhall, Browns Bay and Bayswater. The plans are aimed at encouraging more walking, cycling and car pooling. There are already noticeable differences with more students walking and cycling at these schools.

"We're leading the way in this area of work and that's good news for ratepayers because we are now winning funding support from Government to expand our activities," he says.

Councillor Cayford says the council has employed a new full-time Travelwise to School co-ordinator, Isy Kennedy, to lead its work with schools. "Up until now we have just worked with primary schools but with this new funding support from other agencies we can trial the travel plan approach with intermediate and secondary schools too. We conducted research into school travel in the Westlake/Takapuna area last year and it showed that this kind of initiative is needed," he says.

"We'll be asking parents and pupils for their views and talking to them about the barriers they see to making different travel choices. Actions in plans could include restricting parking, putting in new pedestrian crossings, installing safe cycle paths, secure bike parking and lockers for children or starting a walking bus.

"We'll be building on the success of our walking school bus programme and promoting the many benefits. We are continuing to help set up walking school buses at our schools. We now have over 40 operating around the city. Walking and cycling are great exercise. They offer a social, healthy and active way to get to school which help keep kids fit. A lot of children are not getting enough exercise to maintain a healthy weight," he says.

Sharing the responsibility of supervising a walking bus to school means parents can save time transporting their children, points out Councillor Cayford. "One day a week's commitment to the walking school bus roster can free up parents from picking up and dropping off their children the other four days of the week," he says.

"Drivers should be watching out for children walking and cycling on our roads at this time of year. It's up to all of us to make it safer for children getting to and from school," says Councillor Cayford.

North Shore City schools operating successful walking school buses are Bayswater, Birkenhead, Browns Bay, Campbells Bay, Devonport, Forrest Hill, Hauraki, Mairangi Bay, Milford, Sherwood, Stanley Bay, Takapuna, Target Road, Vauxhall, St Leos, and Pinehill.

Funding is available from Infrastructure Auckland to assist schools in establishing Walking School Buses across the Auckland region. Each school is eligible for up to $1,500 per walking school bus route. The money can be used for safety vests, signs, wet weather clothing and other materials needed for a successful Walking School Bus. (ends)

Note to editors
* Currently over half of New Zealand primary school children are driven to and from school - nearly double the numbers that went by car around 10 years ago.
* Nearly one third of all Kiwi children get very little or no exercise every week.
* A third of NZ car journeys are under two kilometres, two thirds are under six kilometres.
* Around 40 per cent of peak time Auckland traffic is education-related.


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