‘School gate parking’ is a phrase that today’s parents, teachers and local residents will hear frequently. It causes so much tension around the ‘school run’ times that many schools report to us incidences of conflict between those who park at the school gate and those who don’t. Whatever your thoughts are on this issue, it doesn’t justify exposing our children to scenes of aggression and violence.
Whether you agree or not about your ‘right’ to park outside school, school gate parking does have a negative impact on our children. The Influencing Travel Behaviour Team would just like to remind people that there are other alternatives to parking on the yellow zig zags outside school.
Inconsiderate and illegal parking causes major issues not just in Leeds but across the UK. Nevertheless, many parents still take the view that by driving their children to school they are keeping them safe.
But when you stop to think about all these extra vehicles and congestion around the school gate at the same time, it’s actually making the school run more dangerous. Not to mention the amount of emissions from all those idling cars, meaning that the air outside schools is not as healthy as it should be.
So with so many parents making the decision to drive, the school ‘rush hour’ is now creating not just an unsafe environment but one that could be damaging to their children’s health.
By being dropped off right outside the school door, many children are also missing out on the opportunity to develop vital road safety skills with their parents on their way to school. They fail to learn the ability to manage risk or build up confidence walking around their local community. Not only that, but parents are missing out on the social side of the school run, on building relationships with other parents, as well as the all-important health benefits which come with being active.
As parents our main concern is the health and wellbeing of our children. The government currently recommends that children should be physically active for 60 minutes per day. Schools have to provide 30 minutes of activity during the day, with parents making up the other 30 minutes. This could easily be done by including an active commute to and from school.
Walking to school can improve overall fitness levels in children and adults which will reduce the risk of obesity and related lifestyle diseases later in life. It’s a cheap, low impact way to exercise, without ever having to step through the gym doors, and think of the cost benefits (i.e. fuel) of not driving to school vs the health benefits of getting active. Another added advantage of not dropping off right outside the school gate is that you’ll be avoiding the stress of finding a car parking space and no longer adding to the congestion around the school, therefore improving air quality for our kids.
If you would like to read more about the benefits of having an active commute, here’s a short article by Sustrans.
At the end of the day, whether to walk or drive your child to school is the choice of the parent. But the school gate isn’t the only parking spot. Here are a few tips for what you could do to get your family out of the car and make the school run more active and enjoyable:
- Park and Stride – Follow this link for tips on how to plan a Park and Stride
- Scoot or cycle to school. Sustrans have plenty advice on how to make the school run more active.
- Plan ahead and meet up with other parents on route
- If you live too far away from school, ask parents who live closer if you could park at their house and walk in together
- Ask your school about setting up a walking bus
- Have a welly walk on rainy days
- Take small steps – schools can encourage families to start by swapping a few car journeys a week to walking, scooting or cycling and build up from there
- Try something different each week to help you consider your options – until you’ve tried an alternative method of getting to school how will you know you like it? After all, isn’t that what we tell our children about eating veg?
For schools we have a school gate parking pack that is packed with ideas on how to engage both the school, children and parents. Here is the link to our school gate parking resources PDF . And finally if you have time why not read this Living Street’s report Backseat Children [PDF 1.43mb] which describes how children are failing to develop an understanding of road safety, their environment and their role in the community because they are being driven to school.