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Parking outside schools is a perennial problem. For those who drive, the problem is how to get a space close enough to the school to make it worthwhile getting the kids into the car in the first place.
For those whose children cycle, walk or scoot to school the problem is how to safely negotiate the route to school when cars are parked on footpaths, obscure the view at junctions or block the school gates.
I know this isn't just a problem at our school, as others have been blogging about it. In Edinburgh, Sara Dorman is experiencing similar problems taking her 6 year old to school. In Manchester, Emma Copson wrote to the local council, and Sally Hinchcliffe gives an insight into a council meeting discussing the problem.
So I'm really excited to report that my boys primary school is doing something to try and sort this problem before there is a serious incident.
Now, I am very lucky that the school is very proactive in encouraging the children to walk and cycle. The wonderful Miss W organises 'Bike It' and 'Walk It' breakfasts, treasure hunts, incentive schemes, as well as arranging for the school to take part in all the cycling to school and road safety initiatives that come along. All these efforts have been paying off, as the number of walkers and cyclists is definitely increasing. Some days during the summer, it was almost impossible to get room in the bike shed as there were so many bikes and scooters. In fact, only the other week, the following notice appeared in our school newletter, which highlights a new problem that comes with increased cycling and scooting:
Scooters and Bicycles on the School Grounds
Can we please remind everyone that riding scooters and bicycles on the school grounds is not allowed
Please dismount and push them between the gates and the bike shed.
However, whilst an increasing number of parents are seeing the health, behavioural, environmental and economic benefits of walking, cycling and scooting to school, it is unfortunate that a small minority continue to ignore the calls not to park on the junctions near the school, or block the footpaths.
Polite items in the school newsletter are ignored, and even visits from the local PC only have a result on the day he's actually standing there. The next day it's back to normal.
Now, I must stress this is only a VERY small minority of parents and carers, but it only takes one instance of a child not being able to see a car coming out of a junction, or being forced to step out into the road to pass a parked car and the consequences don't bear thinking about.
But what can you do to change the mindset of parents who consistently refuse to change their behaviour? The answer the school has come up with is to educate and incentivise their children instead. Several weeks ago, during a 'Bike It' breakfast, the school launched it's Road Safety Team, comprising a group of Year 6 pupils and school staff who now monitor parking outside the school.
Each week they award a status of red, orange or green, and the whole school is kept updated in assembly. So far, the children have been disappointed each week when the long awaited green fails to materialise.
The school newsletter reports back to parents and carers the status, giving specific examples of why they'd awarded a particular colour, so offenders can be in no doubt as to the effect their actions are having.
Our road safety crew went out and about on Wednesday morning. Could this be our first Green week....? Sadly not, no. No one parked on double yellow lines or on the zigzag lines which is a massive improvement, thank you.
And we should say thank you to the vast majority of people who are great and do park safely, but we still have a few who won’t for some reason.
As a result the crew scored the parking this week as Orange
3 people were parked too close to or even right on the corner
3 people parked right across the top of our neighbour’s driveway
I can imagine some of the conversations taking place - kids can be brilliant enforcers of rules, and it's hard to justify your actions when the children know you are blatantly wrong (especially when it's putting their friends lives at risk).
This week there has been some desperate last ditch attempts to avoid the Road Safety Patrol which have been dealt with swiftly in the newsletter:
A few people park where they know they shouldn’t until they see the kids coming, then shoot off quickly before they think they’ve been caught. They do see you, and they do note it down, so please try and find somewhere safer to park/drop off/talk to friends.
C in Year 6 wanted to let everyone know that there are 26 parking spaces available to use in the car park at the Baptist Church, and it only takes 3 minutes to walk to school from there. It’s a great little place to park if you need one.
I hope they feel suitably chastised after that telling off!
So far the scores have been Orange, Red, Orange, Orange. This is a huge improvement, as previously it would have been Red every week.
Personally my family are reaping the benefits of this. When the junction near the school is clear of cars it is so much safer for both children and adults cycling to school. We don't have to edge into the road to see if there is any oncoming traffic, or manoeuvre into the path of oncoming traffic to get into the school gates.
I'm hoping that it won't be long before I can report back that we've had our first Green week.
Has your school solved the problem of unsafe parking? Do let me know in the comments section below.
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