Road safety - Schools cycling and walking

also known as: Safe Routes to School, School Travel, School Travel Plans, Sustainable Modes of Travel, Walking to School.

A webpage detailing the function of school travel plans in Northumberland

School Travel Plans

Each day during the school term, millions of pupils and their parents travel from home to school in the morning and make the return trip in the afternoon.  The school journey affects public transport patterns, causes localised congestion around schools and contributes to the sharp road traffic peak around nine o'clock each morning and three o'clock in the afternoon.

Over the past 20 years the proportion of children travelling to school by car has almost doubled, yet many live close enough to school to school to walk.  This change in travel habits has a negative effect on the environment and the health of young people.

Northumberland County Council has been working hard to promote and support the changes that are necessary to reduce car dependency and encourage greater use of sustainable modes of transport.

Sustainable Modes of Travel Strategy

A Sustainable Modes of Travel Strategy (SMOT) for Northumberland has now been published; this can be viewed by clicking on the link at the bottom of this page- the SMOT is currently being reviewed and the new version will be available shortly.  The SMOT has been published as a requirement of the Education and Inspections Act 2006.  The strategy aims to promote the use of sustainable modes of travel for the school journey.

Local authorities are required to provide safe route to school information to parents and pupils, to fulfil this duty we have launched iSchool -Travel.  This is an electronic map of Northumberland, displaying information related to school travel.  It is envisaged that these maps will provide a valuable source of information to enable parents to choose the safest and most sustainable means to get their child to a particular school.  To access this map go to 

What is a School Travel Plan?

A school travel plan is a document setting out a package of measures aiming to reduce the number of car trips made to a school by parents and staff. It encourages sustainable travel and raises awareness of the harmful effects of increasing car use on children’s health, safety and independence. A travel plan looks in detail at children’s needs on the school journey and the parents, governors, teachers, and pupils work together to find the right solutions for their school.  This may include proposals for physical improvements and facilities to make the journey safer and more pleasant for those on foot or bicycle such as Safer Routes to School, cycle parking facilities etc.

Benefits of a School Travel Plan

Schools with an approved Travel Plan in place will often benefit from the following factors:

  • Improved health and fitness of the school community
  • Improved safety of the journey to school
  • Reduction in traffic congestion outside the school gates
  • Reduction in atmospheric pollution
  • Increase in children’s independence and social interaction

Ideas to encourage walking/cycling

  • Improve pedestrian and cycle routes to the school
  • Ensure the school site is pedestrian and cyclist friendly (consider separate entrances for pedestrians and cyclists, provide secure storage for books, equipment, bikes etc)
  • Take part and organise promotional schemes and initiatives (walking buses, cycle trains etc)
  • Ensure children are equipped for the journey, i.e. training, changes to uniform, provision of high visibility clothing etc.  


Walk to School Week

Held during May every year, this is a national celebration of walking to school. This is an ideal time to kick-start and organise any walking activities, such as sponsored walks and walking competitions to promote the importance of walking as a fun and healthy way of travelling to school.

Walking Buses

Walking buses allow pupils to walk to school in a fun, safe and sustainable manner, with all volunteers receiving training, route risk assessed by highways engineers, timetables and pupil code of conduct.

Walk on Wednesdays

An initiative which aims to reduce congestion outside the school gates by encouraging children and parents to walk to school. Events such as ‘Walk to School Week’ have proven to be a success in the past, however trends have shown that once the scheme is over, car dependency soon returns. This is where ‘WOW’ can make a real difference! The scheme not only promotes walking throughout the entire school year, but it is also flexible enough to change if Wednesday is not a suitable day, to ‘Walk once a Week’.

Five Minute Walking Zone

 A good alternative for those children who have to travel to school by car. The idea of the scheme is to set boundaries 5 minutes away from the school where parents can park their cars and continue the remainder of the journey on foot with their children. This reduces congestion at the school gates, improves road safety for children, reduces air pollution and encourages healthier lifestyles.

Bike Week

Bike Week is an annual celebration in June to promote cycling and show the community how easily cycling can become a part of everyday life. Taking part is easy! You could host a bike breakfast, a sponsored cycle ride, cycling competition or a cycle to school day.


Bikeability is ‘cycling proficiency’ for the 21st century, designed to give the next generation the skills and confidence to ride their bikes on today’s roads. There are three Bikeability Levels. Bikeability adopts similar principles to those behind training standards designed for motorcyclists and car drivers in that it teaches how to assess risks and consider likely obstacles in addition to basic skills such as signalling and balance.

Scooter Training

Scooter training aims to educate children to become responsible scooter riders, whilst ensuring they are aware of the safety implications of riding a scooter in public spaces.

Northumberland Car Share Scheme

Car sharing allows people to benefit from the convenience of the car, whilst alleviating the associated problems of congestion and pollution. To register please follow this link:

You and your car...

If you have to drive:

  • Park well away from school entrances and yellow zig zags;
  • Find a location some distance from the school so that you can "park and stride". This will help your children to experience some of the benefits of walking to school and reduce school gate congestion.
  • Talk to other parents about sharing lifts to reduce congestion and pollution.
  • Make sure that your child gets out on the pavement side when you are dropping them off.
  • Don't leave your engine running when waiting to collect children - an idling engine produces 80% more pollution than when a vehicle is in motion. 1 in 7 children have asthma. Medical evidence suggests that this is related to traffic fumes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How do we ensure the travel plan remains active?

A: Part of the travel plan process includes a commitment from the school to review their travel plan regularly to ensure targets are being met and the plan is being amended where necessary. The travel plan team monitor this on an annual basis.

Q: How can the school travel plan be integrated into the school ethos?

A:  Bring the National Curriculum to life by integrating the message of sustainable travel: There are many ways that STP’s can be integrated, some examples of this:

  • Numeracy: analysis of travel surveys
  • Science: the effects a poor health can have on the body
  • Citizenship: responsible living to reduce environmental damage
  • Literacy: descriptions of the journey to and from school
  • Geography: mapping routes to school
  • Art: design posters to promote sustainable travel
  • Carry out promotional events and competitions on an annual basis; this can be done as a school or through your School Travel Advisor.
  • Ensure pupils are involved in reviewing the STP; the school council could also be given projects to be carried out.
  • Ensure the message of safe, healthy and sustainable travel reaches the pupils and parents of the new intake each year, this can be done by including the message in the school prospectus or other publications or even presentations during welcoming events.

Keep in touch with the Travel Plan Team; we are always happy to help!

External links:



pdfSMOT 2012.pdf 2,121 KB1/30/2013 8:43 AM
pdfschool travel plan resource catalogue.pdf 609 KB3/30/2009 10:43 AM
pdfschool travel plan resource catalogue order form.pdf 23 KB3/30/2009 10:43 AM