In North Lanarkshire, the local council is withdrawing school transport from people within 3 miles of Chryston High School. This decision has been defended, at least in part, by claims that there is a safe walking route for young people – but parents don’t agree.

I don’t live very far away, so I decided that the best thing to do would be to find out for myself.

First of all, a quick note of context: I started my walk at the back of 9 on a warm and dry Tuesday just before the start of the summer holidays – not at 8am on a freezing cold, soaking wet, pitch black morning in the depths of a Scottish winter. The roads were therefore quieter, and the overall environment far less hostile, than is likely to be the case for the young people that will, according to the council, be safe walking to school along this route.

But even with that caveat in place, this is still a busy road. It used to be the main route into Glasgow, and still feels like it. I actually know some of it well as I used to use this route to get to work on my motorbike. When busy, it feels like a regular road trying to carry dual-carriageway traffic, and frustrated drivers jumping red lights or just generally behaving badly were a regular feature of my commute.

Almost the entire route follows this main road east, heading away from Millerston, through Stepps, and then out to Chryston. Even during the quieter times of day, it’s still noisy, and I kept having to shout to make sure the parents walking the route with me could hear me properly as cars, vans and lorries rumbled past on what remains, even with bypasses and motorways, a key arterial route. Some of the stretches of pavement are narrow, so some members of the group kept on finding themselves being nudged towards the road itself.


Six children hurt on 'safe' route to North Lanarkshire school

Without a doubt, the most concerning part of the route is at roughly the half-way mark, where pupils will have to cross the Crowwood Roundabout. This is a major junction where several routes converge before being linked to the M80 motorway, and one of the first things I see is a damaged barrier where a vehicle has nearly come off the road and right onto the pavement.

The damaged pedestrian barrier at Crowwood roundaboutThe damaged pedestrian barrier at Crowwood roundabout (Image: James McEnaney)

It’s not just that it isn’t particularly pedestrian friendly – it’s actively hostile to anyone travelling on foot. Young people will have to cross one of the connecting roads at the foot of a fairly blind hill down which drivers – who are heading towards a 70mph road on their way into Glasgow – travel at considerable speed. The ‘island’ in the middle of the carriageway, on which pupils will have to wait if they can’t get all the way across this busy road in one go, is extremely narrow.

But worst of all, there is no pedestrian crossing whatsoever, so anyone trying to get from one side to the other has to do so in between the flow of traffic. I’m 37 years old and it felt unsafe for me, so I genuinely find it hard to believe that anyone could consider this appropriate for children walking to and from school.

From there, the route follows a narrow path running alongside a dual-carriageway. Vehicles hurtle past at speeds that are very obviously above the legal limit. In recognition of that problem there is a sign warning of a speed camera that, it turns out, is not actually in use.

A speed camera along the proposed walking route is not in useA speed camera along the proposed walking route is not in use (Image: Lorraine Kerr)

I also pass a few well-worn desire lines in the long grass, each one highlighting a spot where people try to cross the road – and they all feel like a disaster waiting to happen.

The proposed route then crosses the carriageway at a set of traffic lights and follows a smaller road into Chryston, but before reaching the school walkers have to negotiate another junction that, at rush hour, gets incredibly busy – this time because people are coming from three directions on their way to the M73.

The whole walk took well over an hour, and even in close to ideal walking conditions was a pretty unpleasant experience from start to finish. Cycling would, of course, be faster, but given the near-total lack of safety infrastructure along the way (one section has a painted-on cycle lane, and that’s about your lot) it would also be dangerous.

So, is this a reasonable and safe route for school pupils travelling to school? If you only looked on a map I can understand why you might think so, but actually putting your feet on the pavement and walking it yourself would force to think differently.