8 Sep 2009.
For immediate release.

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Bizarre PR from ETA Muddles Facts on School Run
No Wonder Transport Policy is on Another Planet
The ABD today cited a PR from the Environmental Transport Association (ETA) as an example of the muddled thinking on transport which leads to the daft policymaking we have seen over the past twenty years.
 
The ETA issued a press release (full text below) on 7 September claiming that the School Run actually reduces congestion.
 
A spokesperson for the ETA said:
"If every child started walking to school then by next year there would be no lull in traffic levels over the summer holidays - the extra road space would quickly be filled by business and commuter traffic."
"This statement shows a complete lack of understanding of the effect of the school run on traffic and of the nature of the lifestyle decisions which drive commuting patterns," said the ABD's Nigel Humphries. "This type of thinking is being applied to transport policy both nationally and locally, so its not surprising that Britain's transport network is increasingly divorced from the needs of the people."
 
The general lull in traffic in school holidays is nothing to do with the school run, it's driven by the fact that working people with families take their holidays at the same time as the schools, and so commuting and business travel are reduced at these times. People with children also tend to commute further, as their choices as to where to live are constrained by school concerns not merely what is convenient for the adults. So the suggestion that the roads around schools would fill up during the holidays is simply ridiculous — the traffic does not exist because its on holiday too — all sitting on the M5 trying to get to Cornwall!
 
The ingrained idea behind this argument — that empty roads fill up with traffic for no apparent reason — is what has led the ETA to make this obviously ludicrous statement. This argument has been used against road building and to support the removal of roadspace from traffic on the basis that creating congestion is a good thing because it deters traffic.
 
Used in the context of schools, the absurdity can be clearly seen — school run driving patterns are different from commuting ones and tend to create congestion in residential areas near the schools that are otherwise deserted at those times of day. Only where a school is sited on a commuter route do the two collide, and then commuters will shift their route or their time in the morning — so an increase in children walking to school and consequent reduction in school run congestion will do nothing but make peoples lives a little easier and mitigate congestion over a wider area — an all round good thing!
 
"We are mystified by the ETA's approach here — surely they should be doing everything possible to encourage children to walk to school, which is a good thing, rather than undermine this goal," concluded Humphries.
 

 
 
NOTES FOR EDITORS
 
ETA PR TEXT
 
The school run reduces congestion
 
The popular belief that without the school run traffic would always run as freely as in the holidays is false, and far from adding to congestion, the school run reduces it in cities according to the Environmental Transport Association (ETA).
 
A spokesperson for the ETA said: "If every child started walking to school then by next year there would be no lull in traffic levels over the summer holidays - the extra road space would quickly be filled by business and commuter traffic."
 
Although in a perverse way the school run appears to restrict congestion, the ETA is not campaigning for more people to drive their kids to school; children commuting to school by car have as much (or as little) right to travel in this way as anyone else, but there are many environmental, health and social reasons why children are better off walking or cycling.

 
 
Notes for Editors about the ABD