• Gareth Davies

Schools are Back. September 2020

Updated: Aug 30, 2021

Any one trying to get out of or into Hereford on the Ledbury Road between 15.15 and 16.00 cannot be but amazed and annoyed at the concentrated traffic congestion as both Bishop of Hereford Bluecoat School and St Mary’s Lugwardine School pile out. Cars everywhere, with traffic queues across the Lugg flats. Despite the fact that designated school buses are provided, parents have elected to take their children to school by car en-masse.

The RAC has commented that alarmingly, the figures appear to show that the UK’s morning rush hour is caused more by people dropping children off at schools and nurseries than it is by commuters heading to places of work, given that many people are still working from home."

"What's abundantly apparent is how dependent parents are on the car for getting children to their places of study or play during the week – and with fewer people prepared to take public transport at the moment, the reliance on the car as the transport mode of choice has increased."

Godfrey Ryan, CEO of school transport specialist Kura, said: "Government messaging has made millions of parents fearful of placing their children on shared and public transport, creating an over-reliance on cars and adding millions of vehicles to the roads in recent weeks. This has rapidly undone the clean air benefits measured throughout lockdown, creating toxic air pollution both on the roads and around the school gates."

This could easily become a catch 22 situation? What is clear is that action is urgently needed, especially with respect to the obvious creation of air pollution hot spots immediately outside schools, not to mention the effects of congestion and the impact on the immediate neighbourhood of schools.

Bus operators have tried to make the school journey safe by inserting dedicated school buses into their operational schedules. But there is no assistance from government in terms of a strong message that buses are safe. In fact far safer and less of a health hazard than taking your child to school by car.

Herefordshire Council also needs to act on both the formulation of a strong county wide bus strategy and also on the provision of safe cycle and walk ways connecting with schools. One can only hope that both these important factors will emerge from the current review of future transport in the city and that positive action will swiftly follow. What is sure is that a bypass will not solve any of this internal problem.

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