Friday, 22 April 2011

"Another unnecessary report showing meaningless statistics"

Around here we can claim the highest proportion in England of children who are taken to school in cars. 46% of children usually travel to school by car, compared to a national average of 28%.

When these figures were published in January the local paper asked whether this meant the town's children were lazy and described them as "cosseted". The council, on the other hand, described the figures as "another unnecessary report showing meaningless statistics" (I think we can assume that they found it embarrassing).

I don't normally cycle at the peak times for travel to and from school. But whenever I cross a school route at other times my impression is that provision of traffic-free cycle paths isn't too bad. I had assumed that they just weren't being used very much.

However, looking at the figures more carefully, it's not the proportion of pupils who cycle that should be of most concern.  Around here it's the proportion of pupils that walk or use public transport that are well below the national averages. The proportion who cycle to school isn't as bad as I had expected. It may only be 4% of all pupils, and that leaves plenty of scope for improvement. But to keep things in perspective, 4% cycling to school around here compares to only 2% nationally, and 3% across the South-East.

It's ironic, of course, that the main reason that parents accompany their children to school is  fear of traffic, and that cars taking children to school represent more than 20% of that traffic at peak times in urban areas. And those are national figures for all urban areas. I don't know what the local figures are, but an awful lot of the traffic that is seen as posing a risk to pupils on their way to and from school must be on the road because it is taking part in the school run.

The figures are on the DfT site. Here for the National Travel Survey and here for the School Travel Statistics. They relate to 2009, but I suspect these might be the last government figures that we see on this subject for a while.


Martin said...

A couple of thoughts, does taking your children to school by car correlate with owning 2 cars, and does it match up with the distance to travel to school?

gom1 said...

I can't answer that. The data is patchy. I can claim, though, that the proportion of children cycling to school is normally about 50% higher than the proportion of adults cycling to work. The most notable exceptions are in Kensington & Chelsea (where too few adults cycle, or too many children, depending on which way you look at t) and York (where too few children cycle - or too many adults). This is based on combining journey to work data from the 2001 census with 2009 data on travel to school data, which is all a bit flaky.