PARENTS are fuelling a rise in congestion-causing car trips by dropping their kids off at the school gates in increasing numbers, according to worrying new figures.
A Transport Scotland survey has revealed 19 per cent of parents drove their children to school and nurseries in Edinburgh last year despite concerted efforts to promote alternative forms of transport such as cycling and walking – up from 17 per cent in 2010.
A further 6.4 per cent chose to park and stride, driving close to schools before walking the rest of the way.
Those sending their children to independent schools remained the worst offenders, with 56 per cent of parents driving directly to the school grounds or parking nearby – a factor probably caused by pupils largely not living within traditional catchment areas.
Scottish Parent Teacher Council information officer Eleanor Coner said: “I walked my children [to school] every day, but think I was very lucky because a lot of people don’t have that luxury. Both parents are working and not having time to walk their children to school and that has a big impact.”
Ms Coner cited high traffic volumes and a perceived fear of abduction as other potential factors driving the hike. Merchiston Community Council chair Mairianna Clyde said the removal of unrestricted parking in side streets near schools such as George Watson’s College was forcing more parents to do the full school run.
Green councillor and education committee member Gavin Corbett said: “Most schools I know have done a lot of work preparing active travel plans, seeking to ensure that children and staff are not contributing to rush-hour congestion. This survey shows the private schools in the city really need to play their part.”
Keith Irving, head of Living Streets Scotland, said: “This is a concerning trend when walking to school is fantastic for children’s physical and mental health, helps develop vital road safety skills and enables pupils to become streetwise and develop their own independence.”
More than 26,000 Edinburgh students responded to the nationwide Transport Scotland survey of almost half a million children, which was published by sustainable transport charity Sustrans.
It said 32 out of 56 primaries surveyed still showed levels of walking that were better than both the council and national average of 22 per cent.
George Watson’s College principal Gareth Edwards said the school had gone as far as using traffic wardens to issue fines to parents who illegally parked in a bid to break bad habits.
He said: “I’m not aware of anyone who is using the car exclusively for the purpose of taking the kids to school.”
City transport convener Councillor Lesley Hinds said: “All in all, there is a very positive trend in the city with many more pupils walking, cycling or even scootering to school.”
‘It would be far more expensive to take the bus’
Greenbank Village mother-of-three Linda Thomson says the age and number of her children makes driving to school the only realistic option.
The 43-year-old, who works part-time, uses her car for runs to St Peter’s RC Primary School in Morningside with her kids, aged six, seven and nine.
Mrs Thomson said: “I kind of feel because I’ve got a full car it’s not as bad as taking a whole car with only one child in it. I have the advantage of being able to park a couple of streets away at my mother-in-law’s house.
“There is a bus route, but we’re not far enough from the school that we would qualify for a pass and it would be far, far more expensive to take the three children plus myself in two directions on the bus every day.”