The traffic situation outside a lot of Swedish schools is a matter of complaints among many parents. There are too many cars, the drivers don’t respect speed limits and the air quality is bad. But according to a survey made among school headmasters, what causes most of these problems is actually the parents themselves! Another study, made by the Swedish Transport Administration, proves the headmasters right: according to it 80 percent of the traffic around an ordinary Swedish school consists of mums and dads leaving and picking up their children.
This easily becomes a vicious circle: You can’t let your kid walk to school, since there are so many cars. And you driving your kid to the very same school makes it even more difficult for others to walk.
In Umeå in the North of Sweden [map] things have been done to break this circle. Last year 2000 pupils, parents and teachers in the city were asked about their habits. At Grisbacka school, for example, 60 percent of the pupils were driven to school by car, even if they lived less than one km away.
The initiative “Shool for sustainable travel” has changed this quite a lot. Now the school encourages pupils and parents to walk or cycle instead of taking the car.
Their recipes? Here are some of the ideas:
- Smaller children who shouldn’t walk alone can be picked up by a “walking school bus”.
- “Cycling school buses” for older children.
- Training in how to travel by bus and orientation training in order to find the way to some landmarks in the city by themselves.
- Cycler’s licence. Traffic security days, with information about what different traffic signs mean and a “driving test”, where the children get to show that they know what it takes to go to school on their own.
- The children report how far they have walked or cycled and the distance is visualised on a four meter long map of Europe.
And it seems to work pretty well. In just one year Grisbackaskolan managed to half the percentage of children who are brought to school by car, from 60 to 30.