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London School Plans Have Reduced Car Journeys by Almost 2 Million and Carbon Emissions by 1,150 Tonnes Per Year

New figures released by Transport for London (TfL) show school travel plans are having an impact on reducing the number of car journeys to and from school, with almost two million fewer car journeys made during the last year.

School travel plans encourage schools to seek practical solutions to reduce the number of cars dropping children off at school. Currently, 35% of school pupils in London travel to school by car, according to TfL. Schools with a travel plan in London have reduced the number of car journeys by an average 7% per school, or 1,200 fewer journeys per school per year.

TfL helps schools with support, advice and practical help, for example funding for cycle parking, road safety improvements, and setting up car sharing schemes.

Help is also available to set up a “walking bus” scheme in which school children, accompanied by teachers or parents, walk to school together along a designated route collecting fellow pupils as they go.

More than 1,600 schools (53%) in the Capital now have a school travel plan. All schools will have a travel plan by 2009. When all of London`s schools have a travel plan it is estimated a further 4.5 million car journeys a year will be saved, reducing CO2 emissions, congestion and improving Londoners’ health.

The investment that we are making in providing families with alternatives to driving children to school is now paying off, cutting out the unnecessary school run journeys that can contribute to safety, pollution, congestion, and health problems.

—Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London

The results of the School Travel Plans were published by TfL in the first annual School Travel Plan Programme Report. The Mayor of London has set the target of all schools in the Capital to have a school travel by 2009. The national target is 2010.



When I went to school most students rode heavy steel framed bicycles for up to 10km of hill country. I don't remember any obese kids, creepy incidents or road accidents for that matter. Maybe our car culture isn't so great after all.


Let us assume that ther are 180 school days per academic year. A reduction of 1200 trips per school per academic year translates to 6.67 fewer trips per school per day. Let us assume that each trip transports 3 children to school -- carpooling. That means about 20 students per school have been shifted full time to alternative transportation, or a larger number of students have been shifted part-time to alternative transportation. This sounds like a fairly modest number -- and the 7% reported above confirms this impression.

What is the marginal benefit of cutting out these journeys, and what is the cost? Are parents driving to work anyway, and now just not stopping to drop off their kids? Such journeys to school would be low marginal cost, and should not be cut out. How much adult time is spent supervising children on their alternative journeys to school, and how much does that time cost? What of the consumption of space on a bus? How time-efficient are the alternatives? Do they take twice as long to get the child to school? That was often the case when deciding between alternatives when I was growing up. How conducive are the alternatives to useful activity -- reading, studying, getting exercise, etc.? I find reading on buses to be often far more difficult than reading in the passenger seat of a car, but if there is a walk or bike ride involved in the alternative, that would have its own benefit.


You aren't by any chance an economist are you NBK-Boston? I can speak from experience on this one as my children are currently driven to school. They live about 5km from the primary school and are not yet ready to ride by themselves in traffic. I'm currently arranging to ride with them at least a couple of days a week. I already ride to work and they are dropped off by my partner on her way to the trains station.

I don't agree with the statement that "..such journeys to school would be low marginal cost, and should not be cut out" for a number of reasons. In Melbourne where I live, 80% of children are driven to school. This creates major congestion and safety issues around schools that carry their own significant cost. You also make the assumption that the school would be in the same direction as the journey to work whereas it may be in the opposite direction. Even if it is in the same direction, the stop-start nature of these trips creates extra air pollution that has an impact on sensitive young lungs. There is also a massive health and economic gain to be had by combatting obesity through exercise. This is a massive problem caused partly by spending so much time sitting in cars instead of walking and cycling.

I don't pretend to have all the answers on this one and I recognise that car journeys to school are sometimes "locked in" by life circumstances but there are lot of gains to be made by getting kids out of cars.


This is another one of those ridiculous problems created from thin air by fear-gripped parents who watch too much TV and have too much guilt about spending too little time with their children.

There is nothing more dangerous for a child than riding in a car, yet they drive them in cars to keep them "safe."

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