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Off the buses: parents plan to use the car more for the school run – AA 

Off the buses: parents plan to use the car more for the school run – AA 
A fifth of parents (19%*) say they will stop their children taking buses to school because of coronavirus, parent focus groups are telling the AA. 

With schools starting to return from 1 September, the AA is warning there could be more localised congestion as car use is expected to increase by at least 10%. 

Focus groups totalling 176 parents with school-age children clearly show there is a lack of confidence in allowing children to travel amongst their peers. Similarly, the restrictions on car sharing and recommended limits spent with other households means nearly a third of parents say they will stop lift sharing. 

Following encouragement from the government to minimise the number of people passing through the school gates at any one time, more than a third (35%) of parents say their children have a new drop off and pick up time. 

While many offices and workplaces remain closed, it was hoped parents would walk or cycle with their children to school before they worked from home. However, the staggered timetables may be the reason for the increasing number of parents planning to drive to school. 

Some parents, for whom walking or other alternatives are impractical, are having to use two cars because drop-off times for children in different schools now coincide and one parent can't be in two places at the same time. 

However, some schools have shown innovation by timing drop-offs by first letter of the surnames (A to E turning up 10 minutes before F to M and so on). This will allow families with two or more children at the same school, but in different age groups, to drop them all off at the same time. 

Yet, at least one London borough has blocked access roads and is getting out its enforcement cameras to threaten parents with fines**. This might encourage some parents to drop off and pick up their children further away from the school, with potential safety implications and increased risk of local disruption.   

Overall, the AA urges parents to follow school guidance and drop-off plans as calmly and closely as possible to allow head teachers the best possible chance to spot where improvements might be made. It is also calling on employers to be flexible with staff trying to juggle work time with new school hours. 

The full breakdown of the 2020/21 school-run modal shift is below; 

Mode

Before coronavirus

Return to school plans

% movement

Walk

73

70

-4%

School Bus

20

15

-25%

Public Bus

11

10

-9%

Train

5

4

-20%

Car same household

48

58

+21%

Car other household

13

9

-31%

Drove themselves

1

1

+/-

Bike

1

4

+300%

Other

4

5

+25%

NET NON CAR

114

108

-5%

NET CAR

62

68

+10%

 

Despite a big push from the government for children to return to school, half of parents say they are 'worried' about their children going back to class (51%). By contrast, nearly two fifths (38%) are 'happy' with the plans. 

Jack Cousens, head of roads policy for the AA, says; "The fear of spreading the virus further, coupled with staggered timetables has drawn parents towards using the car more in the coming weeks. 

"Parents seem unconvinced using buses to and from schools during coronavirus is safe and have decided to take the car instead. Regrettably, there is even a slight reduction in walking, as parents try to minimise the amount of contact their children have with others. Car use could continue to grow as we head towards autumn and winter, or even sooner if the weather takes a turn for the worse. 

"While the streets around schools are usually busy, the clamour for parking could get worse as parents will want to be as close as possible to the school gates. Councils should encourage empty office car parks to be used as pop-up school car parks to offset any restrictions caused by temporary walking and cycling schemes. 

"Many school runs are part of trip-chaining where working parents connected the morning drop-off with the commute to the office. Despite the fact more people are homeworking, parents plan to use the car to minimise the time spent away from their makeshift offices. 

"To try and minimise the impact, employers should be flexible and allow parents more time to get to and from school. That could encourage more to walk or cycle to school and keep congestion down."

*Article Source www.aa.com