"Avoid congestion charging by embracing Safe Routes to Schools now," urges Sustrans in an effort to wring a little bit more publicity out of Alistair Darling's announcement that the government could introduce targetted, satellite-linked congestion charging within the next ten years.

It may be 10 years away but Sustrans urges parents to avoid school-run congestion charging by using bikes instead

Sustrans has sent out a press release to mainstream media outlets arguing that parents "actively embrace the concept and benefits of Safe Routes to Schools to

help reduce school run traffic."

Here’s the rest of the release:

Sustrans piloted the Safe Routes to Schools initiative in the mid 1990s and found that, with the right incentives and with a few practical adjustments appropriate to individual circumstances, school traffic can be significantly reduced and a far greater percentage of pupils can be encouraged to walk or cycle. In addition to reducing cars on the school run, there are also tremendous health benefits from more pupils walking and cycling.

Many children would choose to walk or cycle. According to a DfT report (May 2000) 38% of those being driven in a car would prefer to walk or cycle given the choice. One third of children live within a fifteen-minute walk of school. Sustrans now knows of over 2,000 Safe Routes to Schools initiatives being operated and the scheme has been successfully introduced by schools and local authorities throughout the UK with government support. Where they have been put into operation the

objectives of increasing cycling and walking and reducing traffic have been met. An example is the Emmanuel School in Nottingham; after implementing a Safe Routes project, with 180 pupils on the register, 110 now walk or cycle with only 20 arriving by car

(the rest using a bus). Last year Alistair Darling announced funding for 900 new Safe Routes to Schools projects. With the support of parents, teachers and pupils these schemes will have an opportunity to bring about change for the benefit of all. Rhian Barnes, a Senior Project Officer at Sustrans, said today: "Parents throughout the UK can avoid the proposed congestion charging by embracing Safe Routes to Schools projects now. In most cases it is entirely feasible to reduce traffic as well as reap

the much needed health benefits of their children walking and cycling in relative safety."

In September Sustrans will be hosting the first national Safe Routes to Schools Conference that will include exhibitions from many successful projects, debate, and training for those involved in new projects.

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