Safe Routes to School :: Practice and Promise
Promising Practices -
From Whom Can We Learn?
Blocks image
Chapter Four
  Great Britain  








In the early 1990s, awareness was growing that auto traffic had increased throughout the country, and that cars on residential streets frequently exceeded the speed limit. Research showed that the United Kingdom (UK) had among the worst child pedestrian casualty records in Europe, and at the same time one of the highest rates of restriction on children's outdoor play and independent travel. Injury was an obvious impact on children's health, but their loss of independence and increasing overweight status were also of concern.

Public agencies and private organizations responded to the situation. Sustrans, a civil engineering advocacy group, began promoting Safe Routes To School in 1995. Drawing on successful efforts in Denmark, Sustrans began with 10 schools and four local authorities. To reduce car speeds, the UK's Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions implemented traffic-calming schemes in rural and urban areas. The Children's Play Council and Transport 2000 initiated the Home Zones effort, which pulls together health, safety, and community-building goals. All of these efforts, while not officially coordinated, have contributed to safer travel for pedestrians and cyclists, increased numbers of children walking and bicycling to school, and improved quality of life in neighborhoods.

People Riding Bicycles

Description of Efforts

Sustrans: Safe Routes To School

  • Offered telephone and e-mail help-lines to demonstration sites and hosts a Web site available to all.
  • Conducted research on Safe Routes To School.
  • Organized conferences.
  • Produced curricula for teachers, general information for the public, and guides for traveling to and from school.
  • Helped projects plan and implement infrastructure improvements such as bikeways, walkways, better signals, traffic-calming, and bicycle parking.


  • Local governments' interest in developing safe School Travel Plans rose from 38 percent in 1999 to 50 percent in 2001.
  • Sixty-four percent of Local Transport Plans established targets for travel mode changes in 2001, up from 28 percent in a previous survey.
  • The national downward trend of children walking to school (down 11-13 percent from 1985 to 1997) seems to be reversing. In 2000, walkers increased by two percent from the previous year.

Sample Effects at Demonstration and Pilot Sites

  • Horndean Community School, a secondary school, improved pedestrian crossings, provided bicycle lanes and parking, and implemented traffic-calming. Walking to school increased from 39 percent in 1996 to 41 percent in 1998, cycling from two percent to seven percent.
  • Admiral Lord Nelson, a new secondary school, promoted walking and cycling to school when it opened. In 1998, 31 percent of students walked to the school, 25 percent cycled.
  • Sandringham School, a secondary school, provided a safety zone with traffic-calming, bicycle lanes and parking, a new bus shelter and bus priority. Pupils who walked increased from 35 percent in 1996 to 47 percent in 1998, cyclists from two percent to five percent.
  • Hafren School, a primary school, provided covered cycle parking and a network of bikeways, encouraged curriculum activities, and increased cycling from one percent to 14 percent in four years.
  • Rosendale School, a primary school, changed its policy on cycling from cautious tolerance to active promotion, installed parking for bicycles, created a 20-mph zone, and provided bicycle training. The number of cycling students, most accompanied by parents, doubled from two percent in 2000 to four percent in 2002.


  • Lack of coordination among cycling and walking efforts.
  • Lack of funding for infrastructure improvements in the early days.
  • Lack of support for travel plans, monitoring, and evaluation.
  • Reluctance of schools to take on extra projects.
  • Parents' fears for the safety of their children and their perception that cycling is unsafe.
  • Habitual car use and perception that cars are the safest, best way to travel.


  • Sustrans SR2S budget is approximately $307,000* a year.
  • National government allocated $76 million* in the last four years for cycling and walking projects, including Safe Routes To School.
  • In 2001, national government provided $14 million* over three years to fund school travel plans in 100 communities.
  • Local transport authorities allocated between $230,000* and $768,000* a year for SR2S efforts in four communities involved in SR2S since the demonstration phase.

Complementary Efforts

Home Zones

  • Advocacy groups have been campaigning for public support of Home Zones since 1996. In home zones, residential streets have been redesigned using the Dutch concept of “woonerf” or “yard” to promote interaction among neighbors.
  • In 1999, legal changes allowed streets to be used for purposes other than moving vehicles. Several pilot sites were recognized.
  • Local residents helped plan and implement projects, resulting in community-building.
  • National government allocated $43.5 million* in 2001 to develop and construct more Home Zones.
  • Fierce competition for funding resulted in awards to 61 different communities.


  • Experience with more than 50 traffic-calming schemes report that lower speeds reduce injuries.
  • Strategies include narrowing roads, marking roads, coloring surfaces and traffic islands, and placing physical deflection measures and signs on gateways.
  • In a project at Ayres Road, slower speeds and less vehicle noise led to greater numbers of villagers saying that they walked to shops daily — up from 25 percent to 40 percent in one year.
  • Looking at village traffic-calming projects from 1992 to 1997, the project leaders found that when auto speeds dropped two to seven miles per hour, injury crashes were reduced by 47 percent.
  • Installation of village traffic-calming greatly reduced injuries to children in the communities involved:
    • Child pedestrian injuries dropped by
      40 percent
    • Child pedestrians killed or seriously injured dropped by 77 percent
    • Child cyclist injuries dropped by 51 percent and
    • Child cyclists killed or seriously injured dropped by 49 percent
  • Funding from local transportation agencies varied widely.

Lessons Learned

Great Britain's national efforts – public and private—although not originally coordinated, complement each other and have led to significant reduction in injuries, changes in how parents and children travel, and better facilities for bicycling and walking. Advocates say that coordination is improving but needs to be better. Communities and local governments have become more interested in making changes so that children can walk and bike to school more safely. Using information from established projects such as “woonerfs” in the Netherlands and Safe Routes To School in Denmark was helpful. Funding from various sources has been required to implement educational efforts and make engineering changes.


Rhian Barnes, Geoff Gilbert
Web site:

Home Zones
Peter Lipman
Web site:

Traffic Calming
Department for Transport
Web site:
(formerly Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions)

A Safer Journey To School
Transport 2000 Trust












The national downward trend of children walking to school seems to be reversing. In 2000, walkers increased by two percent from the previous year.

    Blocks image    

Back to Index Page
| Chapter Four continues to Marin County, California
Blocks image