Monday 22 March 2010

Yellow school buses for Britain again ?

I covered two year ago how the Yellow School Bus Committee in the UK wanted to introduce US style school buses. This organisation was established and sponsored by a bus company, and it was quite obvious that they would benefit from the proposal more than children riding in the buses.

Now the CBI (Conferederation of British Industry) is at it. They "want to see more use of US-style yellow school buses to cut school-run congestion." Apparently "the average length of journey to school for 11-16 year-olds rose from 2.8 miles in 2000 to 3.4 miles in 2006... It is estimated that 12% of school pupils would use such a service, which would eliminate 130 million car journeys a year (saving 55,000 tonnes of CO2). This would cut rush hour car traffic by 2.6%."

That's right, this again has nothing at all to do with making children's lives better, but they'd like to see children kept out of the way of important people in cars. Here in the Netherlands, children quite routinely make much longer journeys by bike to get to school. They can do so because of the infrastructure.

Where are the calls for similar infrastructure in the UK, reducing dependence on motor vehicles by increasing the directness of journeys and the subjective safety for cyclists, and giving children a greater degree of freedom ?

If the CBI really is concerned about the cost to business due to congestion then why don't they really, seriously, try to encourage more cycling ? If cycling in Britain reached Dutch levels not only would it save British businesses 2.5 billion pounds per year, but it would also do a lot more for the environment than the CBI's motor vehicle oriented "low-carbon transport roadmap," in which the only mentions of changes to infrastructure are in terms of charging stations for electric cars. Yes, it seems they really do believe that the problems caused by cars can only be solved by more cars.

Freewheeler covered this story from a different angle.

See our selection of products for cycling with children and other blog posts about school travel, Dutch children and the UNICEF child well-being index.


Taliesin said...

Surely it doesn't get more inefficient than buying and operating busses to make one run in during the morning and one out in the afternoon, plus a few school excursions?

And we already have school buses, they just look like all the other busses and coaches on the road, only they can be used to run commuter services and other charters as well.

What a wasteful suggestion by the CBI.

SteveL said...

Having lived in the US, I know that school buses aren't that great

1. Costs of the buses come onto the schools budget. Right now, if a parent chooses to drive: they pay. With school buses, an already stretched budget suffers

2. It gears the children up to going to school in a vehicle, albeit a shared one. But certainly not walking or cycling.

Another way of reducing congestion would be to ban all parent parking within a mile of all schools. That would reduce a mile of driving on every parent, remove any time advantage of short-haul driving, and make it safer to walk or cycle

David Hembrow said...

Steve: FYI, cars are banned from stopped near many schools here.

Anonymous said...

Bear in mind that the CBI are only interested in the impact on businesses. If 20% of the traffic is from the school run then 80% is from the work run, and that group live more than 3.4 miles away for sure. Few of these self important pin striped duffers cycle to work, nor do they make provision for their staff to do so. Evidently few of them have been to the Netherlands, which is most unfortunate.
Mark Garrett, Bristol UK

Kevin Love said...

Not all of the USA is yellow bus dependent. One place where so many children cycle to school that they got rid of the yellow busses is Davis, California.

From their official website at:

"City residents voted to get rid of public school busses many years ago, so many children walk or bike to school."

sheffield cycle chic said...

I used to go by bus to school on a 3 mile journey. Bikes were banned and there was no pavement for part of the journey - so my parents forbade me from walking because they considered it too dangerous. When the bus subsidies on child fares disappeared in the mid 1980's with privatisation my parents started driving us to school. Bear in mind the cost of sending 3 kids to school went up from 72p a day to £1.98 or from £140 a year to £386. Petrol was about £1.20 a gallon then. It was a no brainer, with the free option of walking and cycling denied due to poor infrastructure and stupid rules of course parents started driving their kids to schools - it was the cheap option.

Compare this with the current cost of sending 3 kids to school by bus in Sheffield at 2010 prices - £2.40 a day - 40p more than 25 years ago in Lancashire! But old habits die hard and many parents that were driven to school 25 years ago wouldn't even consider the bus as an option for their children, let alone cycling or walking. This is why we have such ridiculous congestion - the short sighted money-grabbing policies of the Thatcher era have wrecked our infrastructure and the same misguided policies seem to think "american style buses" can somehow solve it! Do these yellow busses have a greater capacity than a normal single decker? I can't see how they have more capacity than a double decker (which is the standard school bus in Sheffield). And I seem to recall they have an appalling safety record.

Until we have better infrastructure, I am afraid school buses are the only viable option - but we have them already and in much more modern wheelchair accessible designs than these ancient yellow contraptions. I would dispute the notion that you don't get any exercise on a bus - I seem to recall as a small 11 year old it took my whole strength to remain upright whilst standing on a 3 mile journey and my arms and legs got a fair work out from all the effort not to be sent flying by all the jolting from the bus and all the shoving from the older lads!

Neil said...

"Bikes were banned" - Of course the school has no authority to dictate how you get to school, just what you bring on to the school premises.

Kevin Love said...

Here in Ontario, here is an example of a school that banned parents from taking their children to school by car.

kfg said...


Increasingly school administrators do not see things that way; believing that they have a mandate, obligation and the actual authority to police the behaviour of children 24/7, even in their own homes, in their own bedrooms.

This is an issue that has come to a head recently in America where a school was "caught" monitoring children using the cameras built in to their school issued (with personally owned machines being banned for school work) laptops.

I put the word "caught" in scare quotes because the monitoring came to public awareness when the school suspended a student for "inappropriate" behaviour, yes, in their own bedroom; thus they themselves revealed the monitoring, rather than being "caught."

They took such measures and revealed themselves doing it, because, of course, they believed in the above and did not seem to realize they were doing something wrong.

Keeping the authority of school administrators to the administration of schools is likely to be one of the great social battles facing us in the next 20 years or so.

Neil said...

Unbelievable! Hopefully it wasn't considered in any way reasonable or legal!!