The Work Pad

The objective of our Work Pad is to provide a handy central place to store comments, reflections, questions, ideas, references and whatever as might be of interest and eventual use to our team. We propose to organize it in two parts: the first being the usual one click link to the Message Center which is the place where most of these inputs are most likely to show up. That you can access right HERE.

Beyond this, as your @editor and fellow worker I shall try to see to it that a selection of these ideas and suggestions are regularly sorted, edited as needed, and brought to your attention conveniently right here in these pages. And to get the ball rolling, I am taking the risk to begin with a handfull of unstructured observations of my own, right here.

  1. Opening Remarks - Britton
  2. Hodson on Escort Education
  3. O'Fallon on Walking Buses in New Zealand
  4. Baddeley on "the school run"
  5. Hodson on Walking Buses and the School Run
  6. Littman on Walking Buses in New Zealand
  7. Britton on Info Society Implications

Opening Remarks

Paris, 29 September 2000

Ten quick thoughts from a semi-informed person to get the ball rolling:

  1. The over-riding argument, in my view, for putting all this effort into a joint project on the Walk to School is not only the importance of the topic per se, but perhaps even more the extent to which it offers a telling microcosm of citizen responsibility, concern for our children's full personal and social development, and of our ability to get together as independent citizens in order to achieve certain important objectives.

  2. Individuals, families and communities who are willing to look carefully, dialogue, and try to do something about this are going to come out of that process just that much better prepared for taking on yet other, and possibly even more urgent challenges of technology and society.

  3. How do we handle the whole matter of parental guilt, when they find themselves confronted with situations which seem to them to be entirely beyond their control?

  4. Perhaps one way of making this whole thing more bearable for those of us who may find ourselves (or at least think that we are) totally trapped today, will be for us to bear in mind that for most of us, those of us who are less than perfect, the story of sustainability and our need to move in that direction is much that of the Prodigal Son. Thus, while we may not be doing all that well today, what is important is that we pick ourselves up as best we can and try to do better.

  5. One recurrent leitmotif has to be our awareness that different people and different communities are going to have very different time trajectories, in terms of the ability of willingness to do something about it.

  6. It occurs to me that author sensibility to this will lead us to find a number of ways to help people do "just a little bit better" even if they cannot in a flash realize our above all favorite image of the child who is able to walk safely to school without parental supervision. Of course, we can already see quite a number of ideas along these lines in the Web sites that are dedicated to this, but it may be useful to do what we can to put them into even higher relief.

  7. The ability to make small mistakes: As a somewhat undisciplinable personality, I am particularly interested in the thesis that maximum independent travel to school, in appropriately safe circumstances, offers to the child a considerable latitude of choice, which is part of the process of preparing the citizen. Among those choices are being late (harder to do when you have been herded into the back of the car), very late, or maybe not even going to school at all. Children who learn to cope with these choices themselves are a significant step ahead.

  8. There is terrific scope of good graphics in the Walk to School, including in our special issue. But at the same time, let's keep a careful eye out for size (as measured in ko). The final piece should not be monstrously large if it is to be accessible to those with slower modems. And of course we have compression possibilities which can palliate these problems. SO we need to be sure to use them.

  9. I have a minor mania for prize and award programs as incentives for innovation. Perhaps as we work on the publication some of us can think and probe this area too. School X or Community Y does a great job of dealing with the problem. Well, what about giving them a high profile public recognition for their accomplishment - and in the process of course stimulate others to move ahead on their own agendas.

  10. Finally, it is Winter 2001 and we have finally got that special issue out. What do we do next to build on this momentum? Was the only objective to produce a pile of paper? Hmmm.
Eric Britton
EcoPlan and The Commons,Paris

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Hodson on Escort Education

Oxford, 2 October 2000

In the UK, quoting statistics from Social Trends 1995, it seems that of the average 742 journeys, including walking, of more than 1 mile (journeys under 1 mile are excluded) made each year by the average citizen, 21 are for Escort Education (taking chidren to school), almost all by private car/van. This represented just 3.1% of all car/van journeys. In mileage terms the Escort Education journeys by car/van were just 1.3% of the miles travelled by cars/vans in a year.

Given these small percentages of road-consumption, and given the evidence of my own eyes in seeing hundreds of school children walking to school locally, I ask myself why do I perceive school-run mums and dads as contributing hugely to traffic congestion.

  • 1) Journeys under a mile were not counted in the above statistics. A large percent of today's total probably comes from very short journeys to schools.

  • 2) Local schools tend to be on or close to urban main roads. The manoeuvring of anxious parents trying to park near schools with no car facilities at 8.30-9am causes obstructions to the main traffic flow at peak hours. If each UK citizen on average makes 21 journeys a year to/from schools that is 1,197 million journeys - or for a 120 school-days year, about 10 million a day. Each potentially causing an obstruction to through traffic as they stop, unload/load and turn the car.

  • 3) In business terms, the school-run drivers are not in a hurry once they have reached the school. Their dawdling further contributes to delaying other traffic trying to pass the schools.

  • 4) These local obstructions back-up traffic in both directions causing queues of vehicles that burn fuel for far longer than they would on clear run. This factor is the main cause of the increased air pollution. Journey time is the key to street level air pollution.

  • 5) In the UK, particularly in the SouthEast where road space, including on main trunk roads, is close to gridlock, and especially in Greater London, the local back-up effect stretches out to the main feeder roads, slowing commercial traffic on trunk roads.
The problem might be reduced by:
  1. Off-road car parks/facilities at the schools - recognising that the horseless carriage is now used by plebians and peasants as well as by aristocrats.
  2. Banning cars from stopping, turning etc. within 200 metres of the schools or near the main roads close to the school. This would create a large circle around a school to accomodate the obstruction caused by parents/carers. Ensure that no delivery vehicles arrive or leave the schools at peak times.
  3. Adopt the USA Yellow School Bus service and ban cars from stopping within 200 metres of schools. Plan places for the buses to stop at the schools.
  4. Create numerous attractive and safe footpaths and cycle paths to the schools and encourage/enable the forming of school escort parties led by parents for the safety of younger children. Such pathways could be planned by the families attending the schools.
I applaud the Walk to School Day initiative. Is there a mechanism to count the reduction of car/van journeys from the 10 million/day estimated above?

Noel Hodson
14 Brookside Oxford OX3 7PJ

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O'Fallon on Walking Buses in New Zealand

Wellington, October 3, 2000 We have been working with a local authority in Christchurch New Zealand (the Christchurch City Council) to establish walking school bus networks at 4 schools. The "networks" (in one case, there are now 9 buses operating in one school) were launched on 1 September. We did a preliminary survey to gauge interest in the walking school bus idea, established the possible routes, and will be doing a follow up survey in late November to find out about any hiccoughs in the implementation etc of the WSBs.

We plan to develop guidelines for use by local authorities and schools to networking their schools for walking. Our research will assess not only the potential for WSBs (in terms of getting children on their feet) but also will measure the impact on the environment, parent's time & stress and hopefully children's health. We will also identify specific concerns parents have about letting their children walk.

Dr Carolyn O'Fallon
Pinnacle Research

Wellington NEW ZEALAND

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Baddeley on "the school run"

Birmingham, October 3, 2000 My review for the last edition of "London Cyclist" of the Westminster University report on "the school run" shows that the process is more complicated than one might realise. "The Family And The School Run": Research Commissioned By The AA Foundation For Road Safety Research - June 2000, is a report by Peter Jones and Ruth Bradshaw of the Transport Studies Group at the University of Westminster ( that appeared in mid-June commissioned by the AA Foundation for Road Safety Research (reports are available from the Foundation for 20 and free summaries can be obtained by phoning 01256 491925)

It is common knowledge that car journeys taking children to and from school have increased in the last 30 years. Where in the 70s the majority of children walked or cycled, most now go by car adding to rush hour congestion and pollution, making other drivers long for the school holidays, and in the opinion of many, including children, preventing them making their way to school on their own or in groups.

By including the school run in their 1998 report on transport the Government was seeking to focus policy attention on an identifiable group of people who might be persuaded to change their travel habits and in the process reduce road congestion, improve health and independence and by getting more people - parents and children - out on the streets enhance community safety. The same process of individualising the issue to parents - usually "mums" - gave some other drivers an identifiable group to blame for congestion.

Jones and Bradshaw, while admitting to having to iron out a host of local variations, confirm that the school run increases peak hour motoring traffic by around 20%. Thereafter the picture clouds. Among the school run drivers "contributing" to congestion, only just over are specifically travelling to and from school. For the rest their journey is part of a longer car journey that was going to be made anyway. Another thing - it's not just those "mums". The school run is done by a lot more men than might be expected, and the majority of them - men and women - would prefer not to do it. They are motivated by anxiety about the risks to their children from traffic, bullying on the way to school and strangers. If they could, they would have found a school closer to home, but parental choice has led to larger catchments and longer journeys not covered by public transport.

The newest insight from this research - emphasised by the AA in a press release on June 15 - adds to the intractability of the problem. While their findings confirm the reality of widely perceived lessening of motorised traffic volume outside school terms, Jones and Bradshaw found that most of the reduction comes as a result of drivers who are parents - whether involved in doing the school run or not - spending more time at home during the school holidays. So while there is room for reducing the congestion, pollution and hazard caused by cars in the vicinity of schools, there is less room for reducing congestion by cutting out the school run. The widely recognised variations in traffic volumes are as much affected by the behaviour of all parents as they are by those who do the school run.

In addition there is that other portion of the 20% of motorists who, whether they passed by the school or not, would still be out on the roads going to and from work. A final problem is that if you did reduce peak traffic volume its benefits would be uncertain because the slightly clearer roads would attract people who would not normally drive at those times. This confirms the understanding that motor-born road traffic resembles gas which fills up all the available space rather than water which will circulate better in larger straighter pipes.

We live in congested times surrounded by proposals that target particular groups of motorists in order to make life easier for the rest. This research - regardless of the AA Foundation for Road Safety recommending among other things the replacement of the car-born school run with buses - confirms the view that only marginal improvement to the current traffic congestion crisis can be achieved by targeting the school run. It could of course make life a lot better in the immediate vicinity of schools and even delay socialising another generation into auto-dependence. But as the researchers show attitudes are crucial here and some kids in some places are willing collaborators in the grid-lock around their school gates. Others however are saying that they would far prefer to cycle or walk to school if their parents and the school would allow it.

Simon Baddeley
University of Birmingham
Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT

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Hodson on Walking Buses and School Run

Oxford, October 4, 2000

School Run

Can I express my gratitude to Simon Baddely, University of Birmingham for his facts and analysis of the UK school run congestion.

The figure of 20% added to traffic congestion on school days accords with the 1995 stats in Social Trends - some 10M extra journeys at presumably two per day gives 5M extra cars at peak/school hours or about 20% of licensed UK vehicles. (?is that logical as the 1995 figures omit journeys of less than one mile?).

A study we carried out for the RAC in 1996 on the impact of information society technologies on congestion showed that some 33% of all main UK road carriageways are occupied (including the "shadow" or braking distance they need which is a multiple of length) most of the work-day by working vehicles - goods, dustcarts, road menders, tractors, etc etc. Add the business cars (not commuters) and the shoppers and tourists and the roads are full and close to gridlock in many parts of the South-East at any time of the work-day. We factored in obstructions to traffic flow such as vehicles pausing at road signs, stopping to ask directions, parking briefly at shops etc., engine problems, driving mistakes and accidents - and found traffic speeds were curtailed in some networks to less than 10 miles an hour and on some roads to 3 or 4 mph - close to gridlock. As we observe daily in Greater London.

I surmise that the school-runs, a significant number of which, as Simon Baddeley points out, are part of longer journeys (e.g. dropping the children at school on the way to work) contributes to congestion largely due to the obstruction factor (e.g. 5 million cars focused on local points in the network stopping, unloading and turning for ,say 2 minutes each) If the obstruction/s element is factored into the gridlock equation the calculations more closely fit the everyday experience of roads clogged at peak hours by cars/vans carrying school children.

Would a car-free 200 metre circle around a school (a) discourage the very short escort journey's and (b) disperse the focus and enable free movement (though I fully accept the gas/water analogy of gassy humans rushing to fill the vacuum).?

On Walking Buses in New Zealand:
Hello to Dr. Carolyn O'Farrell.

Your New Zealand walking school bus project is very interesting. You ask what other data/results you might measure. I see you are measuring the environmental impact which presumably includes the reduction in car/van/vehicle miles and cold engine start-ups - based on our teleworking studies experience I would be interested to know if any reduction in vehicle miles is a sustained reduction or if, as happens with some homebased teleworkers, the parents "re-allocate" the saved mileage and use it on other types of journeys - i.e. Does the vehicle record fewer miles per month/annum.

My second question is probably premature by ten years and you may not be addressing it at all. This last weekend The University of Oxford announced interactive internet lectures by famous and infamous lecturers; and the University is starting to offer degree courses by wire. Interactive Distance Learning (IDLE)is becoming acceptable. Australia can claim to be the pioneer in IDLE with its School-of-the-Air, the interactive-radio based schools. I have not heard of similar resources in New Zealand. My question is - does IDLE have any part to play in reducing Education Escort car/van journeysP I suspect it will have a role in the future and it may be timely to establish some measurement methods now.

Noel Hodson
14 Brookside Oxford OX3 7PJ

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Litmann on Walking Buses in New Zealand

Victoria, B.C. October 4, 2000

At 11:46 AM 10/04/2000 +0100, N. Hodson wrote:

>Your New Zealand walking school bus project is very interesting. You ask what other data/results you might measure. I see you are measuring the environmental impact which presumably includes the reduction in car/van/vehicle miles and cold engine start-ups - based on our teleworking studies experience I would be interested to know if any reduction in vehicle miles is a sustained reduction or if, as happens with some homebased teleworkers, the parents "re-allocate" the saved mileage and use it on other types of journeys - i.e. Does the vehicle record fewer miles per month/annum.<<

That's a good question. The evaluation of any Transportation Demand Management must include consideration of these long-term effects, such as whether it encourages urban dispersion/sprawl or additional non-work trips (as telework may do).

Although such effects are highly variable, depending on conditions, I suspect that school trip management could encourage more efficient land use. In particular, by favoring pedestrian access over driving it makes urban neighborhoods more attractive for middle-class residents.

Perhaps by itself school trip management may have modest impacts, but it is an imporant part of an overall program to encourage urban infill as opposed to sprawl. In this way its possible that school trip management can "leverage" additional reductions in vehicle travel, by encouraging households to choose more accessible housing locations and less automobile-dependent lifestyles.

Todd Litman
Victoria Transport Policy Institute
Victoria, BC, V8V 3R7, Canada
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Britton on Info Society Implications

In the bad old days, that is over the last half century, schools appeared mainly to be viewed and shaped as if they were kid factories: the bigger the better; get them educated, get them out. Well, maybe so, but certainly one of the inevitable corollaries of this kind of benighted economies of scale under-thinking was that since they had to be bigger there were going to be increasingly farther away from home. And each turn of the screw in the direction of increased unit size made it just that less likely that most of our children were going to be able to get to school under their own theme.

But how does all of this look under the lens of the emerging Information Society? Under the revolutionary new learning circumstances that are sure to create, it is fair to ask: will our children even go to school any more? Or if they do go, will they go every day? And always to the same school? Might we not se some kinds of renaissance in smaller schools and "schools", some of which may be nearer to homes?

This is one aspect of the problem that once can certainly hope to see addressed here.

Eric Britton
EcoPlan and The Commons,Paris

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Last updated 4 October 2000