Two parents of schoolchildren in Bath have launched a petition calling for safe cycle routes to local schools.
The petition, hosted on the website 38degrees.com, also calls for staggered school opening times to ease overcrowding on the city’s bus network to help discourage use of cars for the school run.
So far, more than 1,000 people have signed the petition, which was started by Joanna Wright and Sarah Warren, reports Somerset Live.
It is addressed to West of England mayor Tim Bowles, and Bath & North East Somerset (B&NES) council leader Tim Warren, and urges them to “Make safe, independent travel to school possible and affordable for every child aged 11 to 18, at all schools, state and private, in Bath & North East Somerset.”
Ms Wright, whose children are aged 13 and 15, told Somerset Live: “There's a lack of infrastructure and a lack of care for cyclists.
“When my children cycle to school there's not a morning when they cycle to school that I don't think that I might not see them again.”
She said that the absence of safe infrastructure as well as expensive and overcrowded public transport options that disadvantage hard-pressed families meant that for many the car was the only viable option.
"My children get up at 6.30 every morning so they can take the 7.17 bus, which is the only one they can sit down on,” she explained. “If they go any later, they can't get a seat."
"Even if the council were able to get school buses, it's not just about getting to school, it's about getting back home after school and many children have extra-curricular activities that are in different locations.
"There aren't enough buses to get children to different parts of the city. Sometimes children will have to get two different buses from two providers just to get to one place"
The petition also highlights that cash-strapped families may not be able to afford the up-front cost of an annual bus pass, and therefore end up paying more than twice as much per child compared to parents who can.
It says that the system is "loaded in favour of being wealthy,” further highlighted by the fact that children buying a bus ticket via a smartphone pay £2 per day while it costs £2.50 in cash.
A council spokeswoman told Somerset Live: "Bath & North East Somerset Council meets its duty to provide home-to-school transport for children who meet the statutory criteria and it encourages regular dialogue between schools and transport providers.
"Also, it has invested in a programme of “Safe routes to school” to improve walking and cycling routes.
"In an open competitive marketplace, it is up to transport providers to assess potential demand and cater for it.
"Where there is unmet demand, other providers are free to step in. They need to cover their operating costs, however, and the costs of running a bus full of children are the same as those of running a bus full of adults.”
The spokeswoman added that the council was sympathetic to the idea of schools staggering their starting and finishing hours to ease pressure on buses.
"The fact that most schools start and finish their days at very similar times creates a peak of travel demand twice a day which gives rise to traffic congestion and makes it expensive for bus operators to provide transport,” she said.
"If schools were to stagger their start and finish times, there would be less congestion and each school bus could serve more than one school per day – thus spreading the operating costs over a higher number of passengers."
The full text of the petition reads:
Air pollution, carbon emissions, and congestion are major issues for the local authority. Air pollution causes ill health, and the council is currently obliged to reduce it to legal levels. Carbon dioxide contributes to climate breakdown, whilst congestion costs businesses and individuals money and time, and increases the risk of road traffic accidents. Childhood inactivity is a major cause of ill-health over a lifetime.
Many parents are currently forced to drive their children to school due to the inadequacy and expense of school transport in B&NES. Few segregated cycle lanes exist. Bus services do not exist for some routes to school, and are expensive, uncomfortable, and insufficient on many routes, with buses often over-full, and children left behind at stops, and arriving late and miserable for school. WECA [the West of England Combined Authority] must work with B&NES Council, schools and bus companies, to ensure appropriate walking and cycling infrastructure, and bus services exist, to allow safe, independent and active travel to school by all students attending state and private secondary schools in B&NES.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.