Tackling the school run: research study

A research study to provide the latest evidence on school transport choices.

Chapter 4 - Scottish School Travel Initiatives


There are a wide range and increasing number of initiatives undertaken in Scotland to promote more sustainable travel choices. This section provides an overview of initiatives and also their impact where this is known from existing monitoring and evaluation work undertaken. The Tackling the School Run Literature Review, published alongside this report, includes information on initiatives outside Scotland, including the wider UK and internationally.

School Travel Plans

School travel initiatives, including those developed as part of a School Travel Plan ( STP), are intended to increase the number of pupils who travel by active and public transport to and from school. They also seek to help educate children in the issues surrounding personal health, the environment and the benefits of sustainable transport, and to promote a more pleasant environment in the neighbourhood immediately surrounding the school.

There are still some questions regarding the effectiveness of STPs in increasing levels of active travel; and there have been several studies examining the effectiveness of Travel Plans in general, and STPs in particular. Most salient in a Scottish context, the GCHP 2012 Building for Success; Active Travel to and from School research found no evidence that Glasgow schools with Travel Plans had higher levels of active travel than schools without such a plan. The study recommended further local research to confirm the impact of STPs would be useful.

Research for the Department of Transport into the experience of School Travel Plans in English schools involved a survey of approximately 150 schools nominated by school travel experts as exemplifying good practice in school travel work followed by detailed interviews with 30 case study schools and associated stakeholders (Cairns and Newson, 2006). For the case study schools involved the average reduction in total car use was 23%, with some high performing schools cutting car use by more than half. Other benefits highlighted included safety improvements, reductions in congestion at the school gate, health and fitness benefits, improvements in attendance, punctuality and readiness to learn and benefits for pupils' personal development and for the wider community. The study showed that the most successful STPs typically focused on a variety of initiatives, included significant levels of awareness raising, and had mechanisms in place to ensure that they were sustained over time.

There is also acknowledgement that the success of a STP will depend on a number of contextual factors. These include the characteristics of the school and its catchment area (including crime rates and car ownership levels), the average distance between pupil's homes and the school, and the level of marketing/publicity given to a STP.


Bikeability (Cycling Scotland) is a cycle training scheme designed to give children the skills and confidence they need to cycle safely on road, and to encourage them to carry on cycling in later years. There are three levels of training which is typically delivered by a 6 to 8 week rolling block. The levels are as follows:

  • Level 1 (Primary 5) - delivered in a traffic-free environment, such as the school playground, with learning in basic bike handling skills and improved riding confidence;
  • Level 2 (Primary 6) - on-road training delivered on quiet streets close to the school, providing training on how to cycle confidently on-road, amongst real traffic; and
  • Level 3 (Primary 7) - delivered on roads with larger volumes of traffic travelling at higher speeds. Provides training on how to negotiate more complex junctions on a route of choice, usually your journey to school or work.

Bikeability (Cycling Scotland)

Most training is delivered to pupils in schools by Cycling Scotland accredited cycle training instructors and organised through local authorities. Instructors include local authority officers, school staff and volunteers. In 2014-15, of the 29 local authorities participating in the Bikeability scheme, over 1,500 primary schools in Scotland were offered at least Level 1 Bikeability training out of a possible 2,044. Over 32,000 pupils participated in Bikeability Scotland across all levels in 2014-15, including Level 2 style playground delivery. Over 40% of primary schools in participating authorities offered Level 2 training in 2014-15 with participation showing an increasing trend as illustrated in Figure 4.1. All but, three local authorities participated in 2014-15, although the percentage of primary schools taking part by local authority ranged from under 10% to over 90%.

Figure 4.1: Bikeability Level 2 Training

Figure 4.1: Bikeability Level 2 Training

The evaluation of the 2016 Give Everyone Cycle Space campaign involved face-to-face on-street interviewing in 'live' areas (1,253 interviews across 6 local authorities) where local activities (including in-school) had taken place and 'control' areas (314 interviews in 3 local authorities) where no activities had taken place. The sample encompassed the general population and parents, as well as frequent drivers and infrequent/non-drivers. The parent sample (of children in P5 - P7) facilitated continued monitoring of attitudes and behaviours in relation to cycling to school. Questions were asked about Bikeability training, including uptake, attitudes towards the training and behaviour change after the training.

The following key findings were noted:

  • Just over half of total parents sampled (51%) reported that their child had received Bikeability Scotland training, with 52% reporting their child received on-road training. These levels of training were very similar to previous years;
  • Parents in 'live' areas were more likely to report participation in training in the last year (40%) compared to those living in 'control' areas (18%);
  • Bikeability Scotland training had a positive effect for the majority (approx. 75%) of children participating. For most, the training had improved their child's confidence when cycling as shown in Figure 4.2; and
  • As in previous years, the vast majority of parents were more in favour of their child cycling following the training. The results for 2016 are similar to those for 2015, but higher compared to 2014 as shown in Figure 4.3.

Figure 4.2: Behaviour Change after Bikeability Training (Cycling Scotland, 2016)

Figure 4.2: Behaviour Change after Bikeability Training (Cycling Scotland, 2016)

Figure 4.3: Attitudes Towards Children Cycling Following the Training (Cycling Scotland, 2016)

Figure 4.3: Attitudes Towards Children Cycling Following the Training (Cycling Scotland, 2016)

A number of other studies have been undertaken looking at the impact of Bikeability. Most recently, the National Foundation for Education Research ( NFER) reported in 2015 on their research into the impact of Bikeability training on the ability of children to perceive and appropriately respond to on-road hazards faced by people who cycle. The research involved pupils who were in year 5 in summer 2014 and tracked them as they moved into year 6 in the autumn term. A total of 668 pupils were involved in taking one or more on-screen quizzes and a questionnaire to find out about their attitudes towards cycling. The survey included both pupils participating in Bikeability and also schools where pupils had not received cycle training. The research identified that:

  • Children who participated in Bikeability Level 2 training scored significantly higher on the quiz than the children who had not received training. Interestingly, this effect was undiminished even when the children re-took the quiz more than two months later; and
  • Children who received training reported that they felt more confident when cycling on the road after training. This increase was found to be statistically significant.

A research study by the Department for Transport which evaluated the impact and perceptions of cycle training, with a specific focus on Bikeability also reported positive results. In summary, key findings included:

  • 98% of parents surveyed said they were satisfied with the Bikeability scheme, of which 76% were very satisfied;
  • The majority (93%) of parents whose child has taken part in Bikeability feel that it has had a positive impact on their child's safety when cycling on the road;
  • 93% children who had taken part in Bikeability reported that they feel more confident about riding their bike generally and 86% when riding their bike on the road (86%); and
  • In terms of what children had learnt - 68% stated 'to ride my bike more safely', 'to ride my bike safely on the road' (53%) and 'to ride my bike with confidence (36%).

In terms of mode shift, the Department for Transport published research in 2012 which compared school census travel data with Bikeability delivery data in local authority areas with different histories of Bikeability delivery. The study reported that apart from findings for Hertfordshire schools, there was little overall difference in pupils cycling to school (averaging 2% for all areas).

A local survey of over 200 hundred pupils in four primary schools where Bikeability is delivered in Cambridge found that more:

  • Trained than untrained children cycle;
  • Trained than untrained children cycle to school and that girls demonstrate the greatest difference between trained and untrained children cycling to school;
  • Untrained pupils than trained children would prefer to cycle more than they normally do;
  • Trained than untrained children normally cycle to local places;
  • Trained than untrained children prefer to cycle to local places and out with their families;
  • Trained than untrained children cycle on the road and not on pavements; and
  • Trained than untrained children feel confident cycling on the road.

Behaviour Change

Walk Once a Week - WOW (Living Streets) has been running for over 20 years with the objective of encouraging school aged children to walk to school more often. Participation is encouraged by the reward of collectible badges which are awarded for all active travel journeys - cycling, scooting/skateboarding and park and stride as well as walking. While the scheme promotes walking at least once a week, the ambition is, however, for school children to walk as often as they can and is all embracing in terms of promoting and awarding travel by all modes of active travel.

Walk Once a Week - WOW (Living Streets)

In Scotland, a baseline number of schools are directly contacted each year by Living Streets and local authorities can also order more packs independently. In 2015-16 Term 1 there were 20 local authorities in Scotland actively participating in the scheme spanning 374 schools and involving over 62,000 pupils.

Press releases and media activity undertaken to raise the profile of the programme and there is ongoing engagement at the school/grass route level such as school gate events. Strider visits to schools also help with increasing visibility and awareness.

The Centre for Local Economic Strategies ( CLES) was commissioned in 2013 to evaluate the impacts of the Walk to School 2012 - 2015 programme in England. The evaluation was conducted over a 18 month period, involving a baseline, interim and final phase. Surveys were sent out to all primary and secondary schools nationally which had "intensive" status in 2013, for one form or class group to complete during the school day. Case studies of five local schools that participated in the Walk to School programme were also undertaken as part of the final evaluation.

The main findings reported by the evaluation noted:

  • The programme had a significant impact on walking behaviours of school children, and become embedded across primary schools in particular;
  • The impact of activities within secondary schools had mixed success;
  • Other variants of walking to school, such as park and stride, are becoming increasingly significant; and
  • Engagement with parents was the biggest gap in the programme.

The evaluation also reported positive impact in terms of mode share. The national primary school survey undertaken as part of the final evaluation identified that 26% of pupils who were aware of WOW reported that they began to walk to school because of it. A further 14%, who were aware of WOW and already walked to school beforehand, reported that they increased the frequency of walking to and from school as a result of the scheme. Living Streets own surveys report that WOW typically results in a 25% increase in the proportion of children who walk to school.

WOW is also reported to demonstrate value for money. An economic appraisal conducted for Living Streets across a mix of primary and secondary schools in 15 local authorities in England in 2015 reported that for every £1 invested there is a return of £4.17. The majority of the benefits (66%) were attributed to journey time savings due to reduced congestion, followed by health benefits (19%) resulting from increased walking numbers for accompanying adults, and accident reductions (10%). In addition, a Social Return on Investment ( SROI) study undertaken for Living Streets in England in 2015 considered the value of wider outcomes such as the value of increasing a person's self-confidence. The results suggested that for every £1 invested in primary schools receiving intensive support as part of WOW, there was £4.30 of social value created, although it was noted this was based on three schools receiving intense engagement and further research required to determine SROI in standard schools.

A further benefit of WOW is that for schools in certain regions (outside Scotland), it directly supports the Modeshift STARS accreditation.

In a Scottish context, an evaluation WOW and Walk to School week in Scotland was undertaken and reported in 2013. Key findings highlighted:

  • There was a statistically significant increase in recorded active travel rates in WOW schools between September 2011 to September 2012 using the Sustrans HUSS, which was not apparent in matched non- WOW schools starting at a similar level of active travel;
  • There was a sense that it was more common the WOW scheme rewarded a continuation of walking by pupils who already walked rather than resulting in a lot more children walking, however pupils were able to describe concrete examples of change;
  • The greatest impact reported by both pupils and teachers appeared to be on children who were driven to school choosing to be dropped off further away in order to walk the rest of the way to school ( i.e. 'Park and Stride');
  • Qualitative data was supportive of a greater impact of WOW than short-term initiatives like Walk to School week or month;
  • Both pupils and teachers were very positive about the scheme as a whole, reporting that it was popular with pupils and staff;
  • There were mixed views about whether pupils were correctly and honestly reporting journeys. Most participants reported some issues with pupils misreporting. This may be mitigated to an extent in some classes through peer pressure if classmates knew that an incorrect report had been made;
  • Many staff reported that they did not feel very comfortable with pupils who have no option to travel actively to school being ineligible for a badge reward each month and that they had or would let all pupils be given a badge; and
  • There was insufficient evidence to report on any specific impact relating to traffic congestion, health inequalities, curricular links in line with Curriculum for Excellence or road safety. Further research would be required to draw any conclusions on these.

The evaluation also made a number of recommendations, including:

  • Introduction of class rewards (or prize draws) for the quality and completeness of recorded data to ensure that there is still the potential for a reward for pupils who cannot walk to school and to encourage regular recording;
  • When pupils go for a walk after reaching school, it should be recorded separately, on the interactive whiteboard, and not as Park and Stride. Further consideration should be given as to whether such pupils should be given the same reward as those who have travelled actively, or something different, so as not to undermine the active travel goals of the scheme;
  • Alternative rewards to badges should be considered for future years of the scheme to maintain levels of pupil enthusiasm; and
  • Further clarification should be provided to schools and pupils on what the criteria are in terms of how far away a pupil has to be dropped off in order for a car journey to school qualify as 'Park and Stride'. This advice may need to be specific to each school in order to be meaningful for pupils.

Walk to School Week (Living Streets) is an annual week-long event held every May in celebration of the walk to school. The challenge is for everyone, where possible, to walk (or cycle, scoot/skateboard, park and stride) every day during Walk to School Week. It is supported by a number of themed activities to encourage/maintain interest with 'Walk on the Wild Side' being the theme adopted for 2016 and integrated learning about animals and wildlife into activities. Living Streets reported that 40,000 packs with themed diaries were issued in May 2016, achieving a coverage of 1 in 9 pupils.

Figure 4.4 summarises key information about the Walk to School Week in Scotland from 2013. This suggests a positive impact in terms of more travel by active modes being sustained beyond the actual week of activities.

Figure 4.4 Walk to School Week 2013 in Scotland (Living Streets, 2013)

Figure 4.4 Walk to School Week 2013 in Scotland (Living Streets, 2013)

During Walk to School Week, a Walk of Fame now also takes place during as well as the week before and after Walk to School Week. This has been developed to provide inter-school competition and proven to have impact in terms of promoting increased levels of active travel and to have a long-term impact in maintaining levels. Travel Tracker activity has shown a marked increase in levels of participation, with instances reported by Living Streets of 50% of the school role recording travel beforehand increasing up to 80 to 90% during Walk of Fame.

A short follow up survey about Walk of Fame was undertaken by Living Streets in 2014 and issued to participating schools with 17 responding. Key findings noted:

  • There was strong support for the initiative in terms of raising awareness and driving up walking rates;
  • It was viewed as a positive addition to the standard WOW programme;
  • A longer-term impact in maintaining engagement at schools using Walk of Fame as indicated by the number of pupils recording their mode of travel to school each day on the Travel Tracker. Participation rates increased by 29% from 14% in April to 43% in June in Walk of Fame Schools while rates rose by 14% from 11% to 25% in non-Walk of Fame schools over the same period; and
  • Travel Tracker data indicated that schools taking part had on average 11.8% lower active travel rates compared to non-Walk of Fame schools at the start. This subsequently decreased with both Walk of Fame and non-Walk of Fame schools increasing their active mode share by 7.3% and 4.8% respectively.

I-Bike (Sustrans) is an intensive pro-cycling curriculum linked programme to schools in Scotland which takes the form of a variety of activities and competitions throughout the academic year. In 2016 the programme has expanded and in excess of 160 schools are enrolled, covering 13 local authority areas. The overarching aim is to increase the number of pupils cycling to school and in leisure time. Specific aims are to counter the decline in cycling levels as pupils move from primary to secondary school and to recognise and support the different needs of boys and girls.

Core monitoring tools include pupil surveys, activity logs, parent and carer surveys, teacher and partner surveys and focus groups. Based on data collected in I-Bike schools during the 2014-15 school year across the five participating local authorities (City of Edinburgh; Perth and Kinross; Fife; East Dunbartonshire and Dumfries and Galloway), pupil survey figures showed an increase in the number of pupils cycling to school following engagement in I-Bike:

  • Increased regular cycling to school over a one-year period (3.1%), a finding supported by pupil surveys, parent and carer surveys, teacher surveys and partner surveys; and
  • Over a two year and three-year period regular cycling increased from 11.5% to 13.4% and 12.1%, respectively.

Reported results suggest that the aim to increase active travel to school was addressed in I-Bike schools with:

  • The number of pupils travelling to school by an active mode increasing after one-year of engagement with I-Bike (2.3% increase); and
  • A reduction in the number of pupils being driven to school after one-year of engagement (2.2% decrease).

I-Bike officers have developed a number of activities which meet the aims of the project and are focused specifically on encouraging more girls to cycle to school. Pupil survey results indicate:

  • Increased regular cycling levels to I-Bike schools by both female and male pupils by 2.6% and 3.7% respectively; and
  • Increased active travel to I-Bike schools by both female and male pupils by 2.4% and 2% respectively.

Results from 2013-14 showed similar positive results. Figure 4.5 summarises key headlines of the programme over this period.

Figure 4.5: Sustrans I-Bike Headlines (Sustrans, 2015)

Figure 4.5: Sustrans I-Bike Headlines (Sustrans, 2015)

Give Everyone Cycle Space (Cycling Scotland) is a road safety campaign asking drivers to give space to people on bikes, regardless of age or ability, with a focus on overtaking as the key message. The campaign works at a national and local level. At a national level, the Give Everyone Cycle Space message is visible on buses, bus shelters, billboards, online and on television. Locally, Cycling Scotland is working with 14 local authorities to deliver a range of activities including route planning workshops, lesson planning, led rides between primary and secondary schools and a cycle to school competition.

The campaign is primarily aimed at people in cars. Drivers are asked to be considerate of people on bikes and to give them plenty of road space when overtaking. There is also engagement with parents with the aim for them to see local activities in action and provide reassurance that the roads around their child's school are more cycle-friendly with the hope this will result in more children cycling to school.

Junior Road Safety Officers (Road Safety Scotland) is an education programme aimed at upper primary years and puts pupils in control of raising awareness of road safety issues within their own school and transport issues more widely through different activities such as a safety noticeboard, presentations to classes or assemblies and running school road safety competitions. In 2013, 74% of primary schools were participating in the JRSO initiative with activity tracked through the online ordering of resource material ( e.g. JRSO personal organiser, prizes etc.).

Streetsense 2 is another core primary school resource, providing pupils with the opportunity to challenge and reflect on their own behaviour and attitudes. Both initiatives are aimed to help address real and perceived issues around road safety which can be a particular barrier to the uptake of more sustainable and active travel choices. Road Safety Scotland has also developed a range of options for teachers to engage primary and secondary school pupils in learning about road safety.

The Big Pedal (Sustrans) is an inter-school cycling and scootering challenge. On each day of the challenge schools compete to see who can record the greatest number of pupils, staff and parents cycling or scootering to school. Schools log their journeys on the Big Pedal website and are given a daily score to help mark their progress. During the Big Pedal 2016, 1,680 schools involving over 537,000 school pupils across the UK took part and recorded over 1.7 million journeys by bike and scooter in two weeks.

School Camps (Cycling Scotland) is an annual week-long residential camp targeted at S4 to S6 pupils to develop a project with a focus to promote cycling in their school which is complemented by certified bike maintenance, first aid and cycle training courses. On return to their school, pupils implement their project and are also encouraged to take part in wider activities such as led rides for pupils at feeder primary schools. S3 pupils have been included in some schools to extend the involvement period before pupils leave.

The School Camps are organised by Cycling Scotland and communicated to schools via local authority Physical Activity Lead Officers ( PELOS). Schools are invited to participate in a competitive process where project ideas to encourage fellow pupils to cycle to school are short-listed. Between 10 to 15 schools are invited each year to attend a residential camp in the October school holidays.

At the camps pupils further refine and develop their project idea which can range from purchasing and managing a bike pool for PE lessons to the mapping of cycle routes in the local school community. Each attending school is awarded grant funding to deliver their project. Pupils also gain a variety of qualifications during the camp, including First Aid training, Cycle Maintenance as well as certified Cycle Trainer Assistance accreditation.

At the end of the camp the pupils return to their school and implement the plan with progress monitored over a 6 and 12-month period by Cycling Scotland to see how things are progressing. Staff awareness and involvement is integral to the delivery of projects at the school level.

The camps aim to create a 'Cycle Hub' within each school with participating pupils returning to their school as Cycle Champions. Pupils are also encouraged to transfer their learning into the wider school community through, for example, assisting with the delivery of Bikeability in feeder primary schools. The programme also helps continue the cycle training work from primary schools. 'Peer to peer working and ownership' is integral to the programme and a key success factor.

Uptake of the programme by schools is not on a Curriculum basis, although some schools have embedded the programme into their learning. Rather the programme is promoted to offer wider learning and life skills, such as providing pupils with skills and experience to support UCAS applications and the basis for volunteering opportunities through the cycle training qualification which contributes towards award schemes such as the Sports Leader and Duke of Edinburgh.

In terms of impact, this is a relatively new initiative (entering its third year). Post-camp surveys have found that 72% of participants said they would cycle more frequently as a result of the camps, however the major impact of the Camps should be found in the success of the projects implemented by participants at their respective schools. Of the schools that have participated, follow-up progress is tracked as they deliver projects to make their school more cycle friendly. In addition to positive feedback received by participants on the courses, the progress of schools is monitored through the Cycle Friendly Schools Award and via HUSS. Ten of the participating schools have gone on to attain Cycle Friendly Secondary School Awards.

School Recognition Awards

Cycle Friendly Schools (Cycling Scotland) is a nationally recognised award which is open to every school in Scotland and designed to provide best practice guidance in the provision of facilities for those cycling to school as well as a form of recognition to incentivise schools (including staff, parents and volunteers) around Scotland committed to increasing cycling in schools and for it to become part of the school's culture. To achieve Cycle Friendly School Award status, it is a requirement for primary schools to deliver Bikeability Level 2 training. Over 300 Cycle Friendly School awards have been made since 2008. The award is valid for three years. There are currently over 150 schools with a Cycle Friendly Award which is due for re-assessment between 2016 and 2019.

Cycle Friendly Schools (Cycling Scotland)

The application process involves online registration by the school of their interest and completion of an online assessment. Following this, Cycling Scotland provide recommendations prior to visiting a school where required or proceed directly to set up the next step and then undertake a school visit to carry out a short assessment and provide support if needed. If a school is successful in achieving Cycle Friendly status a framed certificate is issued in recognition. The award status is reassessed after three years. Through this process some direct contact is established between Cycling Scotland and individual schools, but the local authority would also be involved so they are aware of the school's involvement in the scheme.

In terms of impact, mapping of participation undertaken by Cycling Scotland with HUSS data indicates there is approximately a 3% difference in levels of cycling between a Cycle Friendly School and one which doesn't have the award. In providing this figure, it was noted that attributing the specific contribution of individual measures to mode change is difficult, and it is more likely a combination of different measures which combine to result in a positive impact.

Sustainable Travel Accreditation and Recognition for Schools ( STARS) was a three-year European project supported through the Intelligent Energy Europe programme. The City of Edinburgh Council was one of nine implementation partners with one common goal: to increase the number of pupils cycling to and from school, who would previously have been escorted by car. Wider impacts in terms of congestion, health, environment and learning were also acknowledged.

The initiative was different to many previous programmes because it centred on the principle of recognition. Schools can work their way up an awards scale from bronze to gold star accreditation, based on how much they are doing to promote cycling (and other modes) and the mode shift they achieve. In Edinburgh a total of 11 secondary schools were engaged across 3 school years and 36 primary schools across two school years. At a programme level, a review of the impact of STARS reported:

  • A 5.7% modal shift from motorised modes to active modes of transport at primary schools;
  • A 8.8% modal shift from motorised modes to active modes of transport at secondary schools;
  • 436 ton CO2e saved by 191 Primary STARS schools in 2013-15;
  • 458 ton CO2e saved by 71 Secondary STARS schools in 2013-15; and
  • 894 ton CO2e saved by all STARS schools in two years and 447 ton CO2e saved per year.

Other conclusions and key findings reported noted:

  • Incentives: the positive effect of rewards in generating the desired change in behaviour. Rewards which support the goal of the activity are desirable;
  • Competition: the added element of a competition can lead to an increase in motivation and achievement, and should seek to recognise all that are making a switch from car use towards other sustainable modes;
  • Teacher workshops: create a network of teachers and key stakeholders to share experiences, lessons learnt and challenges across the network.

A different scheme, National STARS School Travel Awards, operates for schools in England. Any type of school is eligible to work towards achieving accreditation with the only requirement being a commitment to supporting cycling, walking and other forms of sustainable transport. Accreditation is on a Gold, Silver and Bronze basis. In the first year of the National STARS School Travel Awards, 346 schools achieved STARS accreditation in 2015 which represented a 37% increase in the number of accredited schools nationally compared to 2014. In total, 406 schools nationally have been accredited since the inception of the award scheme.

  • Between 2013-14 and 2014-15, average cycling levels for all STARS accredited schools increased from 3.7% to 5.1%, an increase of 38%;
  • STARS accredited schools reduced car use by an average of 16% between 2013-14 and 2014-15; and
  • Average walking levels for schools that have achieved STARS is significantly above the national average of 46.9%.


Safer Routes to School is a single year grant scheme for active travel infrastructure associated with school travel in Scotland. The scheme is managed by Sustrans and has been running since 2013 with the aim to:

  • Create infrastructure that encourages people to cycle, walk or use another active travel mode as their preferred mode of travel for everyday journeys;
  • Meet the needs of communities - provide communities with the opportunity to shape their local environment and link the places people live in with the places they want to get to;
  • Encourage innovation - support partner organisations in raising the standard of infrastructure for walking and cycling in Scotland;
  • Encourage place-making which facilitates greater use of public space and higher levels of active travel; and
  • Create an enabling environment for active travel.

A budget of £1 million is available for the 2016/17 Safer Routes to School Fund. Funding awards for individual projects usually range between £10,000 and £300,000, however there is no limit on how much funding is available for a single organisation or for a single project. Safer Routes to School funding can provide up to 50% of project costs, with other sources to provide the additional funding required.

A review of the Links to School programme undertaken by Sustrans in England highlighted:

  • Safer routes for walking and cycling can substantially increase the numbers of children walking and cycling to school - more than half of children counted using Links to Schools routes were recorded during school commuting times;
  • Safer routes for walking and cycling that serve schools can also make a major impact on local travel patterns in the communities through which they pass - route user surveys undertaken to monitor Links to Schools schemes suggest that the routes are used for a diverse range of journeys;
  • The combination of infrastructure with soft measures, such as Bike It, can serve to further enhance route usage, and to lock-in the benefits; and
  • The effect of a safer route extends beyond the school journey with occurrence of a growth in commuting and leisure usage as well as school travel, suggesting the wider effect of the Links to Schools scheme.

School Streets is a scheme which involves the prohibition of vehicular traffic on streets within proximity to schools during the school travel period with the aim to:

  • Increase walking and cycling and more active and healthy lifestyles for pupils and parents/carers; and
  • Reduce traffic speed, congestion and pollution around the school gates.

Schemes are administered through Traffic Regulation Order ( TRO)s. Permits are issued to residents, local businesses, Blue Badge holders and other permitted vehicles, such as emergency services, exempting them from the prohibition.

East Lothian Council was the first local authority to introduce School Street TROs in Scotland. Following a pilot, the scheme was made permanent at three primary schools in Haddington in 2015 and a further pilot is under trial in Dunbar.

The City of Edinburgh Council ( CEC) has also implemented a School Street Pilot. Six primary schools were included in the first phase introduced in October 2015 and the second phase introduced in March 2016 and involving three further primary schools. An Experimental Traffic Regulation Order ( ETRO) was advertised and progressed for each school to enable the legal restriction of motor vehicles on relevant streets. As part of the Pilot, the schools spent a term using Living Street's WOW resources that encourage pupils to walk, scoot and cycle to school.

The findings of an evaluation of the Pilot were reported by CEC in August 2016. The aim of the evaluation was to determine the success or otherwise achieved through the Pilot, and to inform a decision on whether to progress a permanent TRO at each location. The evaluation comprised 'before' and 'after' surveys including vehicle speeds and volumes, perceptions (including pupils, parents, teachers and residents as well as wider stakeholders such as Police Scotland and local community councils).

Key findings reported included:

  • An average speed reduction of 1.2mph across School Streets and surrounding streets;
  • Improvement in air quality in all streets;
  • An indication of an increase in the number of children walking to school by 3% alongside a 6% reduction in the number of children being driven and 2% increase in Park and Stride, although cycling reported a 1% drop;
  • Improved perceptions of safety associated with the restrictions; and
  • Improved perception of motorist compliance, especially amongst residents with a reduction in the level of perception that the restrictions are a difficulty.

Key lessons learned highlighted in the evaluation, include:

  • School streets which act as a through road are more challenging and resource intensive to deliver and enforce; and
  • There needs to be strong ongoing commitment from the school and school community.

The evaluation also identified road layout and enforcement related-issues which in turn informed recommended revisions and additions to the selection criteria, including:

  • 'Good infrastructure ( i.e. surrounding streets can accommodate displaced traffic movements)' amended to 'good infrastructure provision: peripheral streets can accommodate displaced traffic movements, and contain appropriate parking capacity';
  • Schools are willing to formally sign a written commitment to ensure that they will pro-actively promote the scheme to parents, regularly ascertain pupil travel data and facilitate the gathering of views from parents/the school community;
  • Peripheral streets can safely enable new 'Park and Stride' movements via appropriate footways and crossing points;
  • School Streets have little by the way of alternative trip attractors ( i.e. homecare, doctors) that necessitate increased vehicle exemption permits; and
  • School Streets offer sufficient space and visibility options for prioritising signs (entry and potentially internal repeater signs).

20 MPH Speed Restrictions - Local authorities have a number of options available when considering introducing a 20 mph speed restriction, namely:

  • 20 mph speed limit zones;
  • 20 mph limits; and
  • Variable and part time 20 mph limits.

New guidance ( Good Practice Guide on 20 MPH Speed Restrictions) on implementing 20 mph speed restrictions was published by the Scottish Government in 2015. The Guide aims to provide clarity to local authorities on the options available to them and aid greater consistency on the setting of 20 mph speed restrictions throughout Scotland. It also aims to encourage local authorities to set 20 mph speed restrictions, where appropriate.

The guidance highlights good practice case studies, including Fife Council. In 2003 the Council's Environment and Development Committee approved a strategy to roll-out 20 mph speed limit zones in Fife. This was accompanied by a decision to put mandatory 20 mph limits around all schools. As the initiative progressed, the strategy was adjusted to include all residential streets and the roll-out of 20 mph speed limit zones to almost all urban residential streets in Fife is now almost complete. An evaluation of the 10-year programme is on-going. Before the introduction of lower speed limits 50% of traffic did not exceed 25 mph, after surveys indicate that 83% of traffic does not now exceed 25 mph.

In March 2012, the City of Edinburgh Council introduced a 20mph Pilot, the outcomes being reported in August 2013. Changes to vehicle speeds and volumes, road traffic incidents, and the attitudes of residents to walking, cycling, and the local environment were considered within the Pilot area through 'before' and 'after' surveys. The surveys showed:

  • The speed surveys demonstrated that the 20mph speed limit resulted in an overall positive drop in speeds in the majority of cases and an average of a 1.9mph reduction;
  • The lower vehicle speeds can be expected to also reduce the number and severity of collisions;

The main benefits of the Pilot, as viewed by residents, (in priority order) concerned safety for children walking around the area, safety for children to play in the street, better conditions for walking, less traffic accidents and better cycling conditions. Specific benefits of particular note to this study, include:

  • The proportion of children (all school ages) walking to school increased marginally from 63% to 65%;
  • The proportion of children (all school ages) cycling to school increased from 4% to 12% in the 'after' survey; with increases notable amongst older primary school age children cycling to school (from 3% to 22%).

In January 2015 it was announced that 20 mph limits would be introduced to all residential streets, main shopping streets, city centre streets, and streets with high levels of pedestrian and/or cyclist activity. The Speed Limit Order to support 20mph speed limits was approved by the Transport and Environment Committee in January 2016 with phased roll out commencing from summer 2016.


The Smarter Choices, Smarter Places ( SCSP) initiative was established by the Scottish Government and COSLA in 2008 to combine measures to encourage travel behaviour change, with infrastructure and service improvement investment to encourage more people to reduce their car use in favour of more sustainable alternatives such as walking, cycling and public transport. Seven pilot areas received funding under the programme, and implemented local programmes between 2009 and 2012. These were Barrhead, Dumfries, Dundee, Glasgow East End, Kirkintilloch/Lenzie, Kirkwall and Larbert/Stenhousemuir. The total spending of £14.7 million was used to influence wider programmes in health, regeneration, roads, transport, and land use planning. Provision of new infrastructure and services accounted for two-thirds of the funding, and promotion, organisation and management activities accounted for the remaining third.

A range of initiatives were supported by the programme. This included school based activities, with nearly all of the SCSP projects including cycle training in schools. Table 4.1 shows the change in mode share for different journey purposes in each of the Pilot areas between 2009 and 2012. In summary, the SCSP programme can be associated with an increase in active modes (especially walking) for the journey to work, to education, visiting friends and family and to a lesser extent shopping trips. Car reductions were especially strong for education and visiting friends and family.

In 2015/2016, a wider roll out of behaviour change initiatives was undertaken, in partnership with local authorities and with Paths for All administering the programme. The Scottish Government made £5 million available to encourage less car use and more journeys by foot, bicycle, public transport and car share. Funds were allocated on a population basis to local authorities. Of the £5 million available, approximately £660,000 was provided specifically to fund SCSP activity in schools across 17 local authorities. A further £5m in SCSP funding has been awarded in 2016/2017.

A range of activities were implemented during 2015/2016 and an evaluation is currently in progress. From a school perspective, funding awards were used by a number of local authorities to deliver the initiatives outlined in this section. Other interventions include Personalised Travel Planning ( PTP), route assessments, social medial marketing, education workshops and in-school engagement as well as tailored one-off events.

Table 4.1: SCSP - Chan ge in Mode Shift by Journey Purpose (Scottish Government, 2013)

Walk Bicycle Bus Car Driver Car Passenger
To Work Barrhead +11.3 +3.3 -2.2 -18.1 +6.8
Dumfries +2.5 +2.7 +1.1 -2.9 -3.8
Dundee -7.60 +1.2 -1.3 +5.2 +0.5
Glasgow EE +9.4 -0.7 +0.8 -11.7 +2.5
Kirkintilloch/Lenzie +0.4 +0.5 -7.3 +5.6 +4.2
Kirkwall +4.0 -0.9 -0.5 -1.9 +0.3
Larbert/Stenhousemuir +11.8 0.0 +3.1 -13.0 -2.0
Education Barrhead +15.0 0.0 +4.8 -18.8 -5.5
Dumfries +29.4 0.0 -5.5 -14.6 -9.3
Dundee +15.9 +1.0 -14.9 -6.6 +4.6
Glasgow EE +14.2 0.0 -6.5 -5.1 +6.5
Kirkintilloch/Lenzie +0.5 0.0 +8.5 -14.1 +5.1
Kirkwall -10.7 0.0 +1.5 +9.8 -2.1
Larbert/Stenhousemuir +26.6 0.0 +2.7 -28.8 +2.9
Shopping Barrhead +11.4 +0.7 +1.5 -15.7 +1.4
Dumfries +1.9 -0.2 +4.1 -1.9 -4.9
Dundee +4.0 -0.2 -3.5 -8.5 +6.1
Glasgow EE -1.3 -0.2 -2.0 +2.3 +2.4
Kirkintilloch/Lenzie -8.9 +0.7 +16.4 -5.3 -1.5
Kirkwall -1.2 +1.1 -2.2 -0.8 +1.6
Larbert/Stenhousemuir +27.1 -0.2 -3.2 -14.0 -9.7
Leisure Barrhead +20.8 -1.1 -1.1 -31.2 +3.3
Dumfries -2.2 +1.1 -4.7 -0.6 +4.8
Dundee +5.1 0.0 +0.6 -9.4 +2.4
Glasgow EE -1.6 -0.7 -4.2 +5.6 +2.4
Kirkintilloch/Lenzie -9.6 -0.5 +28.4 -25.0 +6.8
Kirkwall +0.3 -1.6 +1.7 +3.5 -0.9
Larbert/Stenhousemuir -3.5 +1.0 +2.4 -4.2 -0.2
Visiting Friends and Relatives Barrhead +14.0 -4.0 +10.1 -16.1 -5.1
Dumfries +14.0 +2.4 -0.5 -18.6 +3.3
Dundee -2.5 +2.9 -1.7 -5.7 +3.8
Glasgow EE +20.6 0.0 -12.6 -0.9 +1.2
Kirkintilloch/Lenzie +21.9 +0.9 -8.8 -12.2 +2.2
Kirkwall +0.8 -0.8 +2.2 -6.9 +3.3
Larbert/Stenhousemuir +35.4 +1.7 +1.2 -35.7 -3.4

2009 & 2012 travel diary samples (weighted) used as the base to calculate changes. All figures are rounded to the nearest 0.1 percentage points.

Curriculum and Wider Programme Linkages

Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) is founded on the principles of a coherent, more flexible and enriched curriculum for 3 to 18 year olds in Scotland, and based around six levels - Early, First, Second, Third, Fourth and Senior. This approach provides opportunities to integrate different programmes into classroom learning, including initiatives with a transport theme. A number of the school based initiatives described above, such as Bikeability, WOW and JRSO, are complemented by classroom/teacher packs with suggested lesson plans linked to CfE. Examples of wider learning programmes include:

  • Eco-Schools Scotland - offers schools a choice of ten topics with litter a mandatory topic and two others chosen by the school, including a transport topic which aims to educate the school and community on sustainable transport options. The Eco-Schools Award scheme has three levels: Bronze Award, Silver Award and Green Flag Award. A curricular audit is a requirement at Green Flag Award level for all secondary schools and schools with secondary departments.
  • Clear the Air - an educational programme targeted at 12 to 15-year old school pupils in Scotland with the intention to raise awareness of air pollution. The programme is designed to fit in with CfE and provides hands-on experience of air quality monitoring and assessment, including how changes in travel behaviour can have a positive impact on air pollution.
  • Switch Off and Breathe - an East Central Scotland Vehicle Emissions Partnership initiative which involves the Scottish Government, East Lothian, Midlothian, West Lothian and Falkirk Councils, with a remit to encourage road users to improve their environment by providing free educational events within east central Scotland. The East Central Scotland VEP provides a range of resources and information on air pollution for schools in the area and also a range of services to discourage vehicles idling around schools, such as signage.

Effectiveness of Scottish Initiatives

The Scottish Executive (2002) carried out a comprehensive study to review research on the factors affecting school travel and the effectiveness of school travel initiatives designed to address obstacles to efficient school travel. In terms of effectiveness, the study reviewed school travel initiatives, including public transport initiatives, infrastructure improvements and school travel plans. Community based approaches with safer routes to school initiatives were found to be the most effective ways to ensure successful schemes and to build community ownership for the travel planning process. This review emphasised how success of initiatives depends on local circumstances, for example, the positive features of using bus travel from international research are not reflected in the way that bus travel is used and perceived in Scotland. Finally, this review identified the need for further research, both to understand why there are not more community based safer routes to school schemes being implemented and the need for robust analysis when evaluating initiatives to provide transferrable lessons.


There are a variety of school travel initiatives in Scotland with the overarching aim to encourage more travel to school by active and sustainable options, including walking and cycling as well as scooting/skateboarding, park and stride and public transport. Initiatives are wide ranging in the sense that they cover training, behaviour change/awareness raising and infrastructure elements as well as reward based recognitions. This combined offering provides a complementary package of initiatives and where evaluations have been undertaken, findings suggest a positive impact in terms of encouraging more active travel with the potential opportunity for further analysis to ascertain the impact of initiatives.


Email: Veronica Smith

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