By understanding the reasons why many parents drive their children to school in your area, you can choose the right initiatives to help change these habits.
Not all children go to their nearest school.
For many this is through choice and for some due to lack of space at their local school. By promoting the benefits of walking to school to parents who are at the stage of choosing a secondary or primary school for their children you may influence their decision to choose the most local school.
By having more interaction with their feeder primaries, secondary schools may find it easier to attract local pupils.
Lifestyles have changed.
Walking to school does not always fit in with our busy schedules. Nowadays often both parents work and the school-run easily establishes itself as part of the car journey to and from work.
Making sure a walk to school habit is established early on is easier if the benefits of walking to school are explained to parents of new starters. Special walk to school events can encourage any parents to adapt their morning routine once so they see walking is possible every day.
Our strong car culture
means that for some parents the concept of walking to school would not even occur to them. Cars are seen as prized possessions, status symbols and can feel like an extension of our home. Glamorous car advertisements show scenic drives along open roads; not the congested reality.
Keep ‘car glamour’ out of the classroom if you want to help your pupils to grow up with a different attitude. Instead make sure cycling and other active travel is embedded in many aspects of the curriculum.
A sedentary lifestyle
is normal for many. Strong motivation and a bit of physical effort is needed to break the habit of driving and walk instead.
Promoting the health benefits of walking at times when people are keen to turn over a new leaf, with an activity such as a new year pedometer challenge may help inspire them to change
The fear of abduction
can make them worry about their children walking alone, although obesity and inactivity is a far greater risk to child’s well-being, Although abduction by strangers is extremely rare, if it happens it gets massive media exposure which makes parents fearful.
Organising group walking such as walking buses or walking buddies may help alleviate fears.
Fear about traffic dangers
is one of the biggest barriers to walking to school . Increased traffic makes parents worry about their children walking alone, so they drive them and become part of the problem.
If instead they walk with their young children to school, those children will learn road sense and be able to walk safely and independently when older.