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st monica's school cannon road N14More than half of children attending St Monica's school now walk, cycle or scoot to school, and only just over a quarter go by car - a mirror image of the situation a year ago. These encouraging statistics come from a a letter to parents from headteacher Kate Baptiste.

In her letter the school head ascribes the changes to the low-traffic neighbourhood, the cycle lanes and the Covid pandemic and writes that they can only be good for the environment and people's personal health. She reveals that she herself has begun cycling to school along the bike lanes and through the LTN, and she invites those parents still driving all the way to school to think about changing.

Showing how dramatic the changes are

Kate Baptiste's letter is at the end of this article. Here I've rejigged the table included in the letter so that instead of showing the difference in percentage points, it shows the percentage by which travel modes have increased or decreased.

Click here if the table below does not display properly;

Children were asked, how do you usually travel to school?
  walk  cycle  scoot/
park &
car  bus  taxi  rail  car share
September 2019 23.5% 2% 5.25% 0% 56% 13% 0% 0.25% 0%
October 2020 30% 10% 15% 10% 28% 5% 0.25% 0% 0%
Change ↑28% ↑400% ↑186% -  ↓50%   ↓61%  -  - -

This gives a clearer impression of how dramatic the changes have been:

  • A year ago more than half arrived by car and only just over a quarter by "active travel" - walking, cycling, scooting or skating. Now the proportions are almost exactly reversed!
  • The number walking - less than a quarter last year - has now overtaken the number coming by car
  • Ten per cent now cycle to school - four times as many as last year.

The biggest contributory factors are likely to be:

  • the School Street scheme banning cars from entering Cannon Road at school arrival and departure times
  • the Fox Lane low-traffic neighbourhood, making walking, cycling, skating and scooting along the streets between Green Lanes and the school much safer and pleasanter
  • the fact that many parents now work at home and are therefore not en route to work by car or are in less of a hurry in the morning and afternoon.

The only way to disentangle these and other factors would be to ask the parents. But I'm confident that the low-traffic neighbourhood has played a major part, because it has utterly transformed the streets between Palmers Green and the school - before this September the amount of traffic cutting through the area would have deterred many children and their parents from walking and especially from cycling. And not without reason, as a recent study has shown that per kilometre driven deaths and serious injuries of pedestrians due to collisions are higher away from main roads - which makes sense, since residential side roads do not have pedestrian crossings, crossing the road often requires stepping out between parked cars, and the roads are simply not designed with high traffic volumes in mind.

This video by London's Child Obesity Taskforce shows how children appreciate active trave and benefit from it

walk cycle and scoot

A reminder that the inside of a car is less healthy than you might think

Longer term, more children using active travel to and from school will improve their physical and mental health, as inactivity is a leading cause of ill health in the UK. Cycle lanes and low-traffic neighbourhoods are exactly what health professionals are prescribing, while the London Child Obesity Task Force is keen to get kids out of the parents' cars so that they can travel more independently. And the good news is that a majority of people are in favour of changing roads in this way, they just don't make as much noise as those who demand the "freedom" to drive as much as they want, however much it inconveniences other people and deprives them of their freedom from danger and stress.

Letter to parents from the headteacher at St Monica's Primary School

Dear Parents

Some of you may know that I introduced our House Saints when I first became Headteacher at St Monica's in September 2006. They were chosen to reflect what we felt was important as a school educating young children.

St John Bapist De La Salle is the Patron Saint of Education, which seemed appropriate. St Cecilia is the Patron Saint of Music which has always been a key feature of our school's success. St Theresa of Lisieux or St Theresa of the Little Ways advocated doing small things very well. Finally St Francis of Assisi is the Patron Saint of the Environment and as a school we have strived to ensure we teach the children about conservation issues and how we can truly take care of our God-given planet.

Over the last year or so we have seen great changes in our local area which fit neatly into what we teach the children about the environment.

  1. First of all a cycle lane was built from Palmers Green to Enfield Town, amid much moaning about being stuck behind buses and no one ever using the lane (myself included!)
  2. Then Cannon Road was designated a School Street which restricted its use by motor vehicles, again with a fair amount of grumbling over the inconvenience of it, whilst others recognised how much safer the road was for children coming to and from school.
  3. Local streets were then closed under the Lower Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) scheme, again with a very mixed response from residents and local people - some loving the quiet streets and others hating the length of their journeys to get anywhere by car. (I do hope that the inaccessibility for emergency vehicles will be resolved as a matter of urgency.)
  4. Many parents are now finding themselves working from home and so the need to get to work in a vehicle has perhaps declined.

Whether we like it or not, the combination of these changes has had a marked impact on the way children now travel to school at St Monica's which can only be great for our environment and our own personal health. See below the results of the surveys from September 2019 compared to present day:

Click here if the table below does not display properly.

Children were asked, how do you usually travel to school? Answers are shown as % 
  walk  cycle  scoot/
park &
car  bus  taxi  rail  car share
September 2019 23.5 2 5.25 0 56 13 0 0.25 0
October 2020 30 10 15 10 28 5 0.25 0 0
Variance  ↑6.50% ↑8%  ↑9.75% ↑10 %   ↓28%         

From my own perspective, having owned a car since the age of 25 and with three children and a very busy life style, I have been one of those moaning about the inconvenience of everything! However, having sat in long queues of traffic trying to get home, I finally decided to get on my bike! So far I've managed to cycle to school twice a week. My fitness levels were at an all-time low and the first time it took me 45 minutes to get to school. I've managed to do it now in 30 minutes and hope this will get even quicker (once I manage to cycle up Fox Lane!). I'm lucky in that my children are all now of an age where they can travel more independently and I'm using the cycle lane all the way to Enfield Town so it feels super safe.

I wanted to write to you to give you the latest figures and perhaps you might join me by considering other ways of travelling to school that don't involve your car for your whole journey? By doing little things really well and educating ourselves we can do much for environment! St John, St Theresa and St Francis pray for us and perhaps St Cecilia will inspire us to write a song about it!

Kind regards

Kate Baptiste

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Adrian Day's Avatar
Adrian Day posted a reply #5729 09 Nov 2020 23:16
A great case study. It's good to have some hard 'before and after' figures showing the effect of introducing a low traffic neighbourhood.
John Phillips's Avatar
John Phillips posted a reply #5734 16 Nov 2020 10:33
What an inspiring letter from Kate Baptisite. It's great to hear such a positive message and it sets such a good example for the children.