Belfast Telegraph

One in five rush hour vehicles is on a short journey to school

BY LINDA STEWART

Parents dropping their children off at school are responsible for one fifth of Northern Ireland's rush hour congestion – prompting calls for action to tackle the chaos it brings.

Green campaigners are now calling for decisive action by Government to get schoolchildren out of cars and into alternative forms of transport such as cycling, walking and public transport.

But safer routes to school are needed across Northern Ireland, according to Friends of the Earth.

The Department for Regional Development says its latest figures show that a fifth of cars on the road during peak hours are due to children being dropped off at schools all over Northern Ireland.

As a result, there appears to be a significant reduction in traffic when the schools are on holiday, as was evident during the recent Halloween break, a DRD spokesperson said.

"Many of these children live within 10 minutes' walk of school," she added.

"Incorporating walking or cycling into the daily travel to and from school will keep children fit and healthy by contributing to their one hour of recommended daily exercise.

"It also encourages the younger generation to consider their impact on the environment by connecting with the world around them and allows them to gain valuable road safety skills and general awareness."

Friends of the Earth NI director James Orr said DRD needs to concentrate on moving people rather than moving traffic.

"What we know is that one of the biggest impediments to people walking to school is the risk of traffic. It's a self-perpetuating vicious circle – the traffic levels are so high that the roads are not safe," he said.

"In the morning and when the schools come out at 3.30pm, it's bedlam in Belfast."

School run congestion needs to be tackled with better public transport and cycle provision, the Green Party said.

Spokesman Ross Brown said: "The safety of children is of paramount importance and it is understandable why so many people drive their children to and from school for both peace of mind and convenience.

"However, when you are caught in the daily commute it is easy to think you are stuck in the traffic congestion without realising you are actually part of the traffic jam," said Mr Brown.

"The Green Party promotes active healthy transport for children to and from school for both health reasons and to reduce traffic congestion and pollution.

"But for that to become a reality, there needs to be better planning and improvement of public transport infrastructure and better provision for cycling with an emphasis on safety.

"Reducing traffic congestion is something the Executive should be tackling seriously," he said.

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