Monday 16 November 2009

Stopping ban by schools

No-stopping in school hours outside schools
in Groningen
Groningen has recently implemented a stopping ban by many of its primary schools. This is to spread to cover all schools in the city within a two and half years and will be rolled out as the safety of home-school routes is enhanced.

This means it is now illegal to stop with a car adjacent to the schools between 8 am and 4 pm on week days. i.e. No children may be taken to school by car.

By British or American standards, the rate of children being taken to school by car is already extremely low. Just try to spot any children being taken to school by car in this video shot at a local primary school.

Of course, a good idea like this won't just stay in one place. It's also spreading to other towns within the Netherlands. Perhaps it can also spread outside this country ?

It is vitally important for cycle campaigners to campaign for children. Today's children are tomorrow's cyclists - or perhaps not if the infrastructure isn't good enough and streets are so subjectively unsafe that parents won't let their children cycle.

And further afield ?
In Cambridge, schools look like this
due to parents dropping off and
picking up their children.
Like most countries outside the Netherlands, Britain could do with trying this. Here's the scene that we saw every day outside Mayfield primary school which my children attended in Cambridge. Virtually all the cars in the picture have brought a child to school. Even the car in the middle of this road junction is parked, as is the one in front of it which is obstructing the dropped kerb.

Another view of the Cambridge
school on another day. Children
do not drive. Their schools should
not be dominated by cars.
When "everyone else is doing it", there is no legal enforcement against illegal parking, and there are generally no really safe ways of getting to the schools by bike, is it such a surprise that parents see driving their children as the only safe option ?

But before a ban can be successful there needs to be a proper alternative provided. There needs to be proper safe cycling routes to schools so that it is possible for children to cycle alone or with their parents.

Update 24/2/2010 Mayfield primary school in Cambridge, the school next to which the photo just above was taken, has now decided to campaign against a ban on parking in a cycle lane on a road a few hundred metres from the school on the grounds of "concerns about where parents will leave their cars when they drop off and collect their children". They are prioritizing parents' cars over the safety of children who might cycle, even on roads at a considerable distance from the school.

Update 2011 Despite the school, and others, protesting against them, the very timid proposal of slightly widening cycle lanes on one road in Cambridge did go through - but what they did was to a much lower standard than it should and could have been. Note that this doesn't change the situation on the road which the school itself is one, as that's in a different road. Similar scenes to those in my photos continue at that school and many others in the UK, and other countries.

Update 2013
Parents waiting outside a Groningen primary school for younger children as older children ride by. On a study tour in June we saw a parent stop her car at this school illegally. Other parents were shocked and deliberately blocked her way. After driving her car home, the driver caught up with us by bike to explain, apologise and ask me not to report her to the police. As it happens, this driver really did have a good reason to do the wrong thing on this occasion. It was never my intention to cause her a problem, but this demonstrates how great the social pressure on parents not to drive to school is in Groningen.
There are more posts about school travel, including videos and photos of schools and children on bikes. Also see posts about the problems facing British children vs, the joy of being a Dutch child.


  1. What a great initiative! - of course it should be implemented here in Australia too! - but we have such a long way to go before the 'hallowed' car is re-prioritised to the appropriate place in our national psyche - sigh

  2. I agree Sue - we have a long way to go in our countries (I'm in Canada).

    But David's video gives me hope for a better future...

  3. I enjoyed your Video very much. In Ireland we are just like the UK with Parents Picking up their Children by Car,very few use a Bike or Walk.

    In my Area it is just an ordinary Working Class Area so the Children are all Local and live within 2 K or 1 Mile of the School and yet they prefer to Chauffeur their Children to the two Schools. Latterly in the last few Years they have banned Parking outside the Schools along the Perimeter which is 200Metre to Protect the Children from Cars.

    There are no Cycle Tracks in the Area except along the Main Road into the City about 1 K away,so no incentive to encourage anybody to Cycle to School.

    There is a Strong Culture of the Car in Ireland and change comes slowly.

  4. It's a nice idea, but I wonder whether people will actually take any notice of it? In the part of NL where I live motorists tend to be very skilled at ignoring this type of instruction for just long enough to let them do what they want to do anyway - and I can't see that changing in the face of a 'no stopping' sign, unless of course each sign comes with a policeman temporarily attached (and actually I can't see the Dutch police doing that, but you never know!).

  5. Nick: It does vary across the country, but do you actually see many parents taking their children to school by car where you live ?

    They're very much in the minority at the schools I've looked at near here. Not zero, obviously, or the law change wouldn't be needed, but it's really not remotely the same as what you see around schools in the UK.

  6. "No children may be taken to school by car" - not really. It's a largely cosmetic measure as the ban only covers the street directly in front of the school. Nobody will prevent parents driving their children to school from stopping just outside the signs; the only effect being that the children will have to walk a few more metres. The original idea was to ban parking on the entire street (well, the part between two crossing streets) but that provoked much protest from the neighbours who saw their parking spots being taken away. And as Nick says, a sign without a police officer attached to it will not deter a Dutchman - driver or cyclist.

  7. My son DESPERATELY wants to bike to school. He doesn't like the bus, and we are within 5-miles from his school. I would probably be able to ride with him, as well, provided my daughter could wait with the neighbor for her bus a little earlier. But the school won't even allow me to RIDE WITH HIM on bike!

    He's had to take the bus, where he was just assaulted by a high school kid!

  8. Dear anonomyous,

    How can the school possibly stop you from riding with your son?

  9. @Anonymous - "But the school won't even allow me to RIDE WITH HIM on bike!"
    And you don't point out a parent's rights to this school?

  10. Hey...I think about that all day here in Portugal! : )
    Here people seat on the car for half an hour waiting for the kids...and guess where they park?
    regards to all! ;)

  11. Frits, Nick: I understand what you mean. It's true that the Dutch will happily ignore laws that they don't think apply to them at any given moment. That's just human nature. However it's really not remotely the same around schools here as it is in the UK.

    The six cycling demonstration towns in the UK have just produced their report. They are talking of success because across the six towns because the "proportion of children who usually cycled to school increased by 16% or 0.3%-points (from 1.9% to 2.2%)" over a twelve month period. The 2.2% figure is after a successful campaign to increase the cycling rate. Can you imagine such a low cycling rate at any Dutch school ?

    While our youngest daughter was in primary school here we received weekly letters from the school about what the lessons would cover in the next week and upcoming events. They would also occasionally name parents who had driven their children to school in an attempt to put them off doing so again in the future. This simply doesn't happen in the UK. Even when parents put the lives of children at risk outside the school, the school will generally remain silent.

  12. In Groningen, what are typical distances to these schools. I can't see anything similar happening soon here, but perhaps we can at least embarrass people a little bit.

    And also (since the question will surely come up), "are there any hills?" We do have hills, and the middle school is up one -- not enough to force me into the lowest gear hauling my daughter up on a cargo bike, but definitely a hill.

  13. Nick: A small item in today's local newspaper (Assen). 15 parents were fined last week in Kloosterveen, the newest "suburb" so extremely safe, for parking their cars on sidewalks and verges (60 euro) and invalid parking places (150 euro) when taking their children to primary school. If you have parking attendants, use them well!

  14. Frits will know this, but others may not. The video was taken at the school site in Kloosterveen, the same place as these people were fined. Clearly some are trying to take their children to school by car.

    Enforcement of the law is definitely part of the story here. The photo of the UK situation shows what it's like every single day, and motorists can do this with no threat of enforcement at all.

    dr2chase: Distances to primary schools are usually quite short. For most children the journey length is a kilometre of less. It's when they go to secondary school (high school) that the journey lengths tend to be longer.

  15. Hi David,

    Saw you on 'Tonight', you and Simon O'Brian were the only ones talking any sense... the programme was awful and seemed mostly to be a way of making car drivers feel that accidents are all the cyclists fault. They also failed at any point to explain the real meaning of changing the 'fault' law and seemed to keep saying the same lies as the Daily Mail.

    Anyway... I find it hard to understand in the H and S culture of noughties Britain how we can allow the car situation outside our schools. I have recently come to the conclusion that it is time we stopped all on road parking, as it is just too dangerous; the whining car freaks will just have to park elsewhere and walk a little.

    I am a UK school teacher and can confirm that all the schools I have ever taught at, have a huge car problem, caused by this being the preferred delivery and retrieval method for most UK parents. The schools remain silent because we cannot take up what would be seen as a political stance and ban cars. What is needed is a Health and Safety directive about the dangers of cars that would force schools to limit access by car. It won't happen though because the car is God and nothing seems to be turning the tide over here.


  16. I wish that would happen in the United States'schools for our children's future, to have clean air but in US we are too lazy to change our bad habits.

  17. This is great! Can I put this post on my blog and give the URL where more of your work can be found?
    EIther way, I want to blog it. It's just great -- and so encouraging!
    Yours --
    Lenore Skenazy, founder, and author, "Free-Range Kids."

  18. The view from Cambridge MA

    We are told we are luckier than most because 60-70% of the kids at our schools walk, bike or take the bus to school but I still find myself dodging cars when I go to the school to pick up my daughters.

    Last Friday of the month in Walk/Ride Day here and the kids are excited to have a day to be proud to be Green each month and for those parents who are still driving their kids---the Green Streets Initiative--Walk/Ride Days Program gives their kids a day to challenge their parents to change their ways.

    Sarah Fresco
    Cambridge Coordinator Walk/Ride Days Program

  19. I still remember the day my son was knocked over on the pavement outside his school. The school sent letters home with each child about the incident, and the next day I watched a car drive 75m along the pavement at a point where there were railings between the pavement and road. This was a school where no child lived more than 1km away - we lived on the edge of the areas and regularly walked to school more quickly than those around us who drove. We often observed parents driving in their pyjamas!

  20. So why did that Gronignen driver drop her child off by car?

  21. Restlesstablet: She'd planned to drive home and then collect her child by bike but she'd been held up by her boss and without stopping on the way home she'd have been late and her child might have been walking along the street unaccompanied. One of those very human reasons to do something which you're not supposed to do.


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