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Schoolchildren creating child-friendly travel solutions in Oldham

Image: Oldham Council

A collaboration between architects and a UK local authority has been investigating how traffic congestion and emissions can be cut for the benefit of children.

Arup, which is recognised for its global work on children’s facilities, and Oldham Council, in Greater Manchester, worked closely with schools, parents and children on the project to develop ideas for more enjoyable, healthy and active travel to and from school.

Only half of primary school children in the UK walk to school compared to some 70 per cent in the 1970s, said Arup, with most now travelling by car – and in doing so contributing to increased congestion on the roads and, with it, the production of dangerous emissions.

“The aim was to create a strategy that would make active travel to school easier, safer, and more enjoyable…to achieve this, we drew on our experience of active travel projects around the world,” said Arup.

The council contacted Arup last year to see if it could carry out an audit of active travel provision in the area around Oldham’s schools. “Its challenge to us: find ways to help children, families and staff to walk, wheel or cycle to school,” said Arup.

‘Only half of primary school children walk to school’

It put together a framework which categorised almost 100 primary, secondary and special schools across Oldham, which has a population of around 237,000, into urban, suburban and village schools.

“Each has different characteristics. For example, urban schools typically lie in densely populated, mixed-use areas, whereas rural village schools are often in sparsely populated areas and close to higher speed roads. We then overlaid information on the school catchments and surrounding land uses – because these factors affect how families travel, traffic levels, and the number of large vehicles such as lorries on the roads around the school,” added Arup.

Using its own Staterra urban modelling toolkit, Arup says it was able to analyse ‘vast areas’ and identify certain things that will have the most significant impact. This initiative, it added ‘aligns with’ the Oldham Transport Strategy, and is intended to ‘foster growth, cut carbon emissions and enhance air quality and health outcomes for all in the borough’.

The project has brought about recommendations from Arup which include improvements to crossings and junctions, more 20 miles per hour zones outside schools, the introduction of School Streets and cycle education programmes such as Bikeability.

In keeping with this project, earlier this year some 250 Oldham residents took part in the council’s Safe and Active Travel to School Audit, resulting in various ideas to be put into practice by the council.

Councillor Chris Goodwin, the council’s cabinet member for neighbourhoods, said: “We know many children and their parents want to walk or cycle to school, but they find it difficult for a whole range of reasons, such as a lack of safe routes or available cycle parking.

I’m really pleased that children, families and school staff have had their say in this important piece of work. We’ve listened to their feedback and I’m proud that new plans will now be put into action.

“This will make a real difference towards making our streets safer for young people in Oldham, while reducing our carbon footprint at the same time.”

Click here to download a joint Arup/Oldham Council summary of the programme (PDF format).

Author: Simon Weedy

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