If there is one issue that causes problems between schools and their communities, and generates a significant number of complaints to local authorities across the UK, it is that of ‘school-gate’ parking, writes Jane Deeley, School Travel Advisor at Swindon Council.
While some parents have no choice but to drive their children to school due to its location, busy lifestyles also mean that parents may need to travel on to work, or need a car to access a variety of after-school activities for their children.
Unfortunately most school sites were not built to cope with the volume of traffic that this generates, and parking spills out onto local residential roads.
Parking around the school gate poses a significant risk to children’s safety, as they cannot easily see, or be seen by moving vehicles on the road. It also causes congestion and unnecessary stress for parents and residents alike.
Parked cars often obstruct dropped kerb crossings or residents’ driveways, which can cause a great deal of inconvenience; we have even had reports of people getting abuse when they ask a driver to move.
Swindon Borough Council working closely with schools
Swindon Borough Council works closely with schools to encourage alternatives to the car for the journey to school, even before parents choose a particular school for their child. Most schools include information about travel in their prospectus, and we often attend open evenings and similar events to discuss travel options.
Schools can develop travel plans to identify and address local issues and encourage more walking and cycling.
Many local schools are part of the Swindon School Travel Ambassador scheme, and their pupil teams enthusiastically take on responsibility for organising campaigns, events and competitions.
There are currently travel ambassadors at Bridlewood, Brook Field, Catherine Wayte, Greenmeadow, Haydon Wick, Haydonleigh, Oakhurst, Orchid Vale, Peatmoor, Shaw Ridge, Toothill and Westlea primary schools.
5 minute walk zone
One initiative running at several primary schools in the area involves the children mapping and promoting a ‘5 minute walk zone’ to encourage people to leave their cars at home, or park further away from the school gate and walk the rest of the way. The children plan and run fun events and competitions to persuade their families and friends to walk in the zone.
As part of our School Safety Zone scheme, intended to improve actual and perceived safety around schools and encourage more walking and cycling, new school warning signs will be installed in March at several schools including Brook Field, Isambard, Red Oaks, Catherine Wayte, Toothill, Millbrook, Orchid Vale, St Francis, and Oakhurst. There are also plans for more specific Safety Zone works at Haydon Wick, Westlea, and Oliver Tomkins schools in the next financial year.
If you live near a school, thank you for your patience. Fortunately school parking tends to be for short, albeit intense, periods of time. If you experience continuing problems, please contact your local school in the first instance so they can address the issues through their travel plan.
Consider the alternatives to driving
If you are a parent who drives a child to school, please consider alternatives such as walking or cycling.
If you still need to drive, consider sharing lifts with friends or ‘park & stride’ from somewhere safely away from the school gate. It’s healthier, safer and cheaper – give it a try.
Jane can be contacted at: email@example.com
Heateacher Dale Burr said: “We have huge issues with parking outside Oakhurst. The school council discussed the problems and they were asked for ideas for posters mounted on the school fence. We need parents to read it and park safely; the last thing anybody wants is any kind of accident or tragedy. Parents who drive must take this seriously.”
Pictured: top, Jane Deeley; middle, Jane helping Oakhurst Primary School pupils and headteacher Dale Burr launch a new appeal to parents to leave their cars at home, or think about the children and park safely; bottom, Oakhurst pupils appeal for drivers to think about where they park.
Pioneer Road parking problems
Mark Walker from Pioneer Road writes:
As a resident who lives opposite Oakhurst Primary School, I witness on a daily basis the reckless behaviour of a few individuals who are in a rush, and therefore, put the safety of those around them, including children, in jeopardy.
I fully appreciate that parents have to drop their children off on the way to work and collect them at the end of the day. Having lived in Oakhurst for nearly 6 years I have got used to it. Most are cheerful, friendly and considerate.
There is however another angle to this problem that wasn’t captured in the article and has compounded the safety problem in recent years. To put the following into context it is important to state that most homes on Pioneer Road do not have a front garden or driveway, and therefore, residents have no choice but to park on the road outside their house.
The school car park is not big enough to accommodate the full compliment of staff working at Oakhurst School and therefore school staff now occupy the parking bays and spaces opposite the school from 8am until cease work.
Because the school car park has a barrier, all visitors are forced to park in and around the school on the road. After school and evening clubs are forced to park on the road when there is an empty car park (because the barrier is down).
Vans delivering items to the school (not regular deliveries) park outside the school. It is possible to leave for work in the morning and not be able to park outside my house or the immediate vicinity until 8 or 9pm (teachers, visitors and deliveries during the day and after school clubs in the evening).
The front of the school is opposite a bend in Pioneer Road. The builders wisely built 2 parking bays (with 8 spaces in each) to take resident cars off the road on the bend. The school zebra crossing is just past the bend.
The no parking zig zags extend half way around the bend to ensure that no one parks on the bend and obscures the crossing; especially because there are small children crossing who would be hidden from view by parked cars. When the parking bays are full, people (teachers and parents) have started parking on the other side of the bay in among the trees near the road. Those that park by the road on the bend are literally centimeters away from the zig zags but because a bollard seperates their car from the zig zag they pay no attention to the fact their car obscures the view of the zebra crossing as cars enter the bend in the road. If a 4×4 parks in among the trees the problem is exacerbated.
The true picture is that it is not just parents dropping off and picking up children that have made Pioneer Road dangerous during the day. It is a lack of teacher parking spaces, lack of access to the school car park out of school hours, delivery vans that cannot gain access to the school, visitors and inconsiderate parking in the parking bays, obscuring the zebra crossing through parking in among the trees and bollards.
It is only a matter of time before a child is injured outside the school. The Headmaster at Oakhurst is brilliant and he is always watching out for the children coming to and leaving school. But I fear a combination of volume of cars parked outside the school, an impatient or late parent speeding around the bend and the obscuring of the zebra crossing by inconsiderate parking in one of the bays will lead to an accident.
I would recommend that the whole bend outside the school has double yellow lines painted on both sides of the road and that the areas in the parking bays in among the trees nearest the road are also blocked off or have no parking signs put on the bollards.
That will completely clear the bend and give good visibility of the zebra crossing. Parents and teachers might be incovenienced, but more importantly it will provide a safer environment for the children.