Comment: Every parent wants a safe environment

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Today’s picture of the traffic jam outside Bruntsfield Primary at the start of the school day will look familiar to many parents.

But there is a fundamental problem when it comes to tackling the problem of car-clogged streets outside the school gates.

Every parent wants a safe and welcoming environment for their children and that means few, or even no, cars at the start and end of the school day.

But for many working parents it is simply not possible to walk their children to school each day, however much they might like to do that. Juggling the demands of work and their family means that the only practical option for many is to take the car.

So what is the answer to this particularly stubborn problem?

The car-free zones being tried out in East Lothian at the start and end of the school day are surely part of the solution. They won’t work in every community, in some it is simply not practical to ban traffic completely even for short periods each day.

But in some it has the ability to completely transform the experience of walking or cycling to school.

And we know from experience that there are a significant minority who will continue to drive as close to school as they are allowed. Only severe restrictions like a car ban will change their habits.

The success of these schemes relies though on recognising the realities of modern life for many thousands of families across the Lothians.

If the aim is to force more and more families out of their cars, then it is bound to fail. Too many people rely on their car to be able to drop or pick up the children and get to and from work on time.

A well thought through scheme will look not only at the streets immediately surrounding schools but those within a reasonable walking distance, too.

Taking steps to ban or discourage cars from the immediate vicinity of schools is fine as long as there is space on other surrounding streets for parents to park their cars.

The drop-and-walk – where parents drive part way to school, park and walk with their children the final part of the journey – is an increasingly common part of the daily routine for many families. That needs to be accommodated in any school transport plan.