Walking is our natural way to get around. We are made for walking and running. Using it to get to school is a step in the right direction to a healthy lifestyle. It’s also pollution free and doesn’t cause congestion. We hear all the time about how overweight1 our children are and how important it is they take more exercise. But do we make it easy for them to walk safely to school? As parents of the current generation of school children you were probably one of 70% who walked to school. Now it is less than 50% of children who enjoy the experience. And that has happened in one generation. Most (43%) children are driven to the school gates. The result is congestion, stress, air pollution and a lost opportunity.
The reality for many parents is that it’s a rush to get to school on time and on to work. The car makes this a lot easier to manage. But with that comes the loss of the opportunity to take some exercise that fits seamlessly into our day. Nonetheless, we need to encourage walking and cycling to school and try to remove barriers that discourage parents and children. So what are the reasons that people give for not walking and cycling around the village?
Safety usually comes top of the list. Young people aged between 11-15 are more likely to be killed or injured on the roads than any other group. In total that has meant that 69 children under 15 years of age were killed in 2016 (the latest year for data). That is about 0.0006%. Of course every death especially at this age is a terrible tragedy. The risk is very small. show that ¾ of the accidentshappen when children are going to and from school. Clearly the longer ‘tail’ after 16:00 hours represent children out and about, probably on their own for much of the time.
Safety is improved in our village if linked pavement routes are available. Roads without pavements deter many walkers. They were fine in a horse and cart age or when motorised traffic was rare and tended to be slower and noisier. Now that traffic is much more intense, faster and inclined to consider other (slower) road users as a hindrance. As a walker, I have also found that traffic is getting quieter and therefore more difficult to anticipate its approach while out of sight. I don’t think or at least hope its not because I’m getting hard of hearing! More electric cars will make this even worse. On narrow roads the little space some drivers give to other road users is anxiety inducing!
So how do children from Upper Bunbury get to school? They could walk down Wyche Road from the Church (having cut through the church yard for safety). Then either continue down Wyche Lane or in dry weather cut across the footpath to join the Lane again by the entrance to Jubilee fields. From here the route is more complex. No pavement continues to the school either down the right-hand or left-hand side of triangle. So, if children make it this far their parents may consider it too risky for them to walk on their own and they may need to be accompanied. And that make’s the decision to drive the kids in the car to school much more likely.
We need to ensure those safe routes to and from school exist and link up so that any child and their parents can walk to school safely. This would mean:
1. Pavements along Wyche Lane – all the way on at least one side of the road.
2. Pavements on both sides of the triangle to minimise the need to keep crossing the road.
3. Pavements on both sides of School Lane to the school.
4. Pavement or protected zone for pedestrians to access the Co-op, butchers, Village Hall and Nags Head at the centre of the village.
This still leaves the walk from Upper Bunbury via the two routes – Wyche Road and Vicarage Lane unresolved. Wyche Road is very narrow. A standard width pavement would make it impassable for most traffic. Alternatives would be to make it ‘Access only’ with a speed restriction perhaps as low as of 10mph.
As for Vicarage Lane the best solution is a footpath just inside the hedge on the field side. This is would be a difficult option to achieve. Short to medium term the only solution is to make it safer with a speed restriction and calming infrastructure.
That brings us to the issue of speed restrictions. I believe, with evidence, that creating a reduced speed zone around the centre of the village would go a long way to making the village more walker and cycling friendly and safer. You will find additional comments on the topic of 20 mph in the other articles listed in this menu so I shall not repeat them here. But it is the combination of linked pavement routes, speed restriction (20 mph zones) and the possible use of protected zones, that will enable more to walk and cycle safely around the village.
1Over 30% of children in the National Y6 overweight or obese.And it gets worse as the years pass. (Local Government Association analysis of Public Health England May 2018)