Living Streets, a national charity that lobbies for pedestrians, claimed that preventing parking around school gates and playgrounds would cut congestion and make it safer for people to walk or cycle.
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But the suggestion was labelled “impractical” yesterday by motoring groups who said it could hinder access for staff, deliveries and parents who had no choice but to drive while having little impact on accident rates.
Separate surveys have estimated that the proportion of children who walk to school has dropped from 56% to 49% over the last seven years, while 28% are being driven in the morning.
Living Streets claimed that improving access for pedestrians around schools was a logical next step in promoting healthier lifestyles and cutting accident rates and appealed to schools and local authorities to implement more stringent measures ahead of the new academic year starting next Monday.
It also called for “park and stride” sites – which would involve parents parking up to 10 minutes’ walk away from a school – to be adapted.
The charity, which was originally founded in 1929 as the Pedestrian’s Association, led the original campaign for the creation of a 30mph limit in residential areas and for the driver’s test. Since changing its name 10 years ago, it has pushed for further reforms, including a roll-out of 20mph limits in residential areas in Scotland.
Tony Armstrong, its chief execu- tive, said: “We strongly believe an exclusion zone around schools is worthwhile for many reasons: it stops parents being stuck in congestion but also reduces the potential for collisions around the school gates.
“We would really like to see schools and local councils introduce and enforce parking and waiting restrictions and promote more park and stride schemes to give children the chance to get some much-needed fresh air and activity into their day.”
However, the Automobile Association said the proposals should be met with caution.
Paul Watters, the AA’s head of motoring policy, said he supported moves to increase rates of walking to school, but added: “In some parts of Scotland the car is the only way of getting children to school. Parents often drop their kids on the way to work, which is an efficient use of the car.
“Creating an exclusion zone would make it harder for delivery vehicles and staff to gain access to a school and we know that most accidents don’t occur outside the school gates but in the surrounding road network so it’s hard to see it cutting accident rates.”
The Scottish Government has invested £7.65 million in extending the National Cycle Network and the Safe Routes to Schools programme, which is designed to encourage more pupils to walk ro cycle to school.
A spokeswoman for Transport Scotland said: “The creation of vehicle ‘exclusion zones’ is a matter for each local authority. The Scottish Government is committed to people sustaining and improving their health and this year it is providing over £9m to local authorities to deliver cycling, walking and safer streets projects, including those which encourage children to walk and cycle to school.”