Transport for London (TfL) is to introduce new measures that will help school pupils travel safely next month. The plans encourage students and teachers to walk and cycle to school where possible. The plans also include an additional 200 buses on key routes and traffic reduction near schools to make active journeys to school safer and easier. Those who are able to walk, cycle or scoot to school are being encouraged to do so, with TfL’s Streetspace programme making this easier and safer than ever before.
More than £3m has been invested to date in 415 School Street schemes, across 26 boroughs, making active journeys to school safer and easier by limiting car access to school gates at drop off and pick-up times.
Some 22 School Street schemes have been delivered through the Streetspace programme so far, with more due for completion ahead of the start of term. People that need access, including local businesses and Blue Badge holders, can apply for exemptions that grant them access to School Streets during their hours of operation.
TfL said it has been working with schools, London’s boroughs and central government to prepare for the significant additional demand on a public transport network where capacity is reduced owing to social distancing measures.
More than 3,000 schools have been advised on encouraging active travel and staggered start and end times, with bespoke plans for those schools served by the busiest bus routes for school travel. A new dedicated webpage for education providers gives the latest advice and useful resources for schools to encourage safe and sustainable travel among their pupils.
Buses, as the most common transport mode for schoolchildren, are likely to see the biggest increase in demand in September. Plans include dedicating a number of buses for school travel on those high-frequency routes that TfL has forecasted to be the busiest. These services will be clearly signed, and information will be posted at bus stops and online.
TfL is also planning to add more than 200 additional dedicated clearly marked 'school service' buses onto some of the busiest low-frequency bus routes, including its existing school services. These planned measures have been prioritised for those routes on which students travel longer distances, with funding coming through an additional £5.8m grant from the Department for Education.
Government guidance allows for all available seats to be occupied on dedicated school services, increasing the capacity of these buses. This maximises the number of people TfL can move per half hour and helps free up non-school buses for other customers. However, as this September will be even more challenging than others for the first few weeks, other people do need to allow more time for their journeys if they are travelling by bus during the school travel times as they may have to wait longer for a bus. Those customers using buses and other modes of public transport are encouraged to plan their journeys in advance, travelling off peak where they can.
TfL’s trial of 24-hour bus lanes on its own roads, due to start in the coming weeks, will support changing travel patterns and staggered school hours, helping to maximise capacity and support social distancing, keep bus journey times consistent throughout the day, and reduce crowding at bus stops.
The plans build on a cleaning regime, deployed since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, which includes hospital-grade long-lasting disinfectant.
Cycle routes and more cycle parking are being created to facilitate cycling, while a new online Cycle Skills course for new and existing cyclists recently launched, with a module targeted at children. A £2m grant from the Department for Transport (DfT) will allow local authorities across London to deliver cycle training from August onwards.
Claire Mann, TfL’s Director of Bus Operations, said: “Safety is always our priority, which is why we have our extensive cleaning regime that’s making our buses and Tubes cleaner than ever. As demand is set to grow further with the new academic term, it’s vital that we build on our existing measures, such as our Streetspace initiatives, providing pupils and parents with the means to travel safely and an alternative to car use, which would lead to high levels of congestion and pollution.
“Londoners have been truly amazing in recent months in their commitment in following safety guidance, both for their own safety and that of their fellow passengers. We’re now asking you to walk, cycle or scoot to school where you can as part of this joint effort, and continue to follow these rules as the situation evolves. Everyone else should travel during the quieter times of the day where possible to ensure everyone can travel safely.”
Parents and pupils over the age of 11 must continue to wear a face covering on public transport unless an exemption applies. Face coverings must be worn for the duration of a journey and cover both the mouth and nose. Social distancing guidelines must also be followed, and customers are asked to continue to wash or sanitise their hands before and after travel and to respect their fellow passengers and staff.
TfL hopes encouraging pupils and parents to walk, cycle or use public transport to and from school rather than travel by car will help avoid a car-led recovery that would increase pollution and could see one public health crisis replaced with another. Previous TfL research has shown that walking or cycling to school could take 254,000 cars off London’s roads each day, significantly reducing congestion and pollution.
A multi-media campaign will support the measures, including ‘Active Travel movement’ posters to get Londoners to consider walking and cycling, TV, video, on-demand and social media adverts, digital outdoor advertising, online and in the media.
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