The Scottish School Travel Advisory Group (Scottish STAG) was established by the Scottish Executive in August 2000 with the objective of increasing the proportion of non-car based travel to school. The group seeks to identify practical means of increasing choices and influencing behaviour, and to develop a coherent approach to the management and administration of school travel. To ensure that their recommendations are based on state of the art knowledge, the group need, a concise summary of evidence on school travel drawn from UK and international research.
The aims of this project are to review UK and international research on travel to school published since 1995 including the research on factors affecting school travel and the effectiveness of school travel initiatives designed to address obstacles to efficient school travel.
The review has been tackled in three stages:
- Scoping of national policies on school travel;
- Broad map of available literature based on published bibliographies and two major recent literature reviews for UK STAG, supplemented by web and library based searches;
- A detailed review of selected literature drawing mainly from the sources identified above but supplemented by additional references identified within particular papers.
The proportion of children in Scotland being driven to school by car is increasing rapidly and reached 20% of journeys to school in 2000. This trend is having a negative effect on many transport, health, safety, and environmental factors, and is impacting on the wider economy through growing road congestion particularly in the morning peak period. Transport, health and education policies therefore all seek improvements in school travel, identifying community-planning approaches to deliver integrated action and best value.
This review considers in a Scottish context the lessons from UK and international research on:
- the factors affecting school travel;
- the influence of school travels on children's development;
- and the effects of initiatives to improve school travel safety and efficiency.
Although levels of car based travel to school are lower in Scotland than in England, they are growing strongly. Trends in school travel are affected by: organisational changes within education, planning policy factors, and social, economic, demographic trends. The growth in car travel to school mirrors substantial growth in car ownership, particularly the number of two car households.
Children in the UK are open minded about transport, and are generally aware of the impacts of travel decisions on themselves and their environment. Whilst they would like to walk and cycle more, the balance between car travel and other modes still appears to favour the speed and convenience of car travel for an increasing number of trips.
Perceptions of safety and risk often do not match actual risk, so influencing attitudes to risk is an important element in changing travel behaviour.
For many school trips in Scotland bus travel is the only practical alternat
Success in implementing initiatives to improve school travel is sensitive to the local context, making generalised conclusions on the impacts of different types of initiative difficult. Nevertheless, there is a large menu of types of initiatives that have proved. Successful and these can be used to develop detailed plans with local communities. When generic solutions are imposed on communities there is a risk of reducing safety or efficiency.
Given the success of community-based schemes it is of concern that only about 2% of schools have school travel plans. If the majority of schools in Scotland adopted community based safer routes to school approaches then there would be many positive economic, social and environmental benefits. Further research is recommended to identify how to galvanise wider support for effective safer routes to school planning, and on how to target action locally through school centred plans.
When generic solutions are imposed on communities there is a risk of reducing safety or efficiency. If the majority of schools in Scotland adopted community based safer routes to school approaches then there would be many positive economic, social and environmental benefits. Further research is recommended to identify how to galvanise wider support for effective safer routes to school planning, and on how to target action locally through school centred plans.