Park smart to help schools combat congestion issues

06-03-2017. Picture Michael Gillen. SOUTH QUEENSferry Primary School. Children holding up banners for their park smart campaign, local police officers in attendance.
06-03-2017. Picture Michael Gillen. SOUTH QUEENSferry Primary School. Children holding up banners for their park smart campaign, local police officers in attendance.

Did you know that one in five cars on the road at 8.50am is on the school run?

As a result, some schools have a massive traffic problem as parents drop their children as close to the gates as they possibly can, breaching parking regulations in the process.

This poses a danger not just to their own children but to other pedestrians as well.

Cars are frequently parked on the yellow zig-zags, double parked or sometimes even kerbed on pavements.

This causes obstructions and makes it impossible to cross the road safely and with visibility greatly reduced, makes it dangerous for other pedestrians.

Which is exactly why the City of Edinburgh Council this month initiated its latest ParkSmart initiative to raise awareness of the road safety hazards.

Launched at the start of this month, it aims to cut congestion at the beginning and end of the school day while promoting active travel among children and their families.

The three-week scheme, which is being run at a number of schools city-wide, raises awareness of the hazards caused by drivers parking on yellow zig zag lines, double parking or mounting the pavement.

And instead, parents are being encouraged to consider alternative modes of transport, such as walking and cycling, or park and stride – parking further away from school and walking the last part of the journey.

During its first week of action, pupils shared their own ways of getting to school as well as surveying traffic outside their school gates.

They also asked parents to pledge to walk, cycle or park and stride to school in future.

During the second week, parking attendants visited schools, issued tickets to those who persistently parked on double yellow lines and pupils continued to learn about safe and active travel.

In the final week, participants will carry out final surveys and traffic counts to compare with the beginning of the campaign and to reflect on lessons learned.

Edinburgh’s transport and environment convener, Councillor Lesley Hinds, said: “We want to create a safer, more relaxed atmosphere around schools.

“That’s why we’re working to discourage parents from driving straight up to the gates at the start and end of the day.

“We’ve already seen from our School Streets scheme how limiting traffic around schools can have a positive impact, so I’m certain that this period of awareness-raising as part of ParkSmart will have a similar effect and result in parents rethinking their travel choices.”

Queensferry Primary School headteacher Karen McGregor said: ‘‘There are 410 pupils and 56 nursery pupils at the school so it can get very busy in the morning with buses and everyone dropping their kids off.”

Led by junior road safety officers and house captains, pupils at the school also recently staged a ‘silent protest’ outside the school gates as parents brought their children to school.

Karen added: “I think parents and carers were pleased to see that we were being proactive and encouraging everybody to make better choices.”

Also in a bid to cut down the speed of traffic in and around schools in South Queensferry, the town was one of the first areas city-wide to introduce a discretionary 20mph scheme on roads near schools as part of the Safer Routes to Schools initiative.

This was launched long before Edinburgh adopted its 20mph speed limit earlier this year.

The Journal and Gazette’s two other local authority areas, West Lothian and Falkirk, have also introduced ParkSmart to monitor the number of vehicles which drop off children at schools.

A West Lothian Council spokeswoman said: “We have been successfully running the Parksmart programme since 2008.

“It is currently being updated to incorporate digital approaches to learning before being re-launched and rolled out once again throughout our schools.

“The new programme will also include banners to be designed by pupils, providing an element of ownership and individuality for each school.

“In our primary schools Parksmart is often led by the pupils themselves in their role as junior road safety officers.

“However, it incorporates the whole school and wider community.”