Walking to School – how maps can help your health

Walking to School – how maps can help your health

As children across the county prepare to either start or return to school, we thought it was a perfect time to highlight the benefits of making the journey to school by walking or cycling.

The importance of keeping children active is rarely out of the news and both schools and councils work hard to promote the benefits of travelling to school by foot or bike by producing active travel plans. Staffordshire County Council have successfully increased the number of children walking or cycling to school by 27% using walk zone maps distributed to parents of new starters.

These walk zone maps were created for each school in minutes using our TRACC software and show how easy it is to access the school from surrounding areas by foot or bike. As well as benefitting the health of the students, these maps also helped reduce congestion and emissions around the school site and relieve parking pressures.

Sue Benton, School Travel Advisor at Staffordshire County Council explains “the new school packs are concerned with behaviour change and habit setting. With a new job, a new house, a new school, the first 2 weeks sets the pattern as to how you are going to travel for the next 4 or 5 years so those first weeks are crucial.” Read the full case study here.

The maps worked well as they avoided the ‘as the crow flies’ or circles approach which does not accurately show distance or actual journey time as does not consider route or obstacles such as rivers/major roads. Below we have shown the impact of using TRACC to calculate travel distance to a Junior school in Surrey.

The first map is showing a circles approach, showing that 8,233 people can access the Junior school within a 1km radius, around a 10 minute walk. This doesn’t however take into account crossing the River Wey or train line running through the middle of the town.

The second map has been created in TRACC and calculates an accurate distance to the school looking at access and obstacles including crossing the river and the train line. Here we can see that the actual number of people who can access the school within a 1km radius has been reduced to 4,170.

The final map demonstrates the impact of adding a new footbridge across the River Wey and shows 4,442 people can now access the school within 1km distance, an additional 272 people than without the footbridge.

These maps highlight the importance of using accurate travel time analysis when looking at access to schools rather than the circle or crow flies approach. They also show how, within TRACC, changes to access, such as new footbridges/cycle paths, can impact the number of people who would be able to walk or cycle to school.

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