“No parent really wants to drive their child to school twice a day across London.”
Q&A with Nicola Pastore, mother and campaigner in South East London co-founding Sustainable School Run.
What made you realise the school run was an issue in your area?
We live near a lot of schools. And it’s obvious that between 8-9am, there's a lot of traffic and at other times of the day there isn't. Another interesting observation was there are certain weeks in the year when my children were still in school - they’re at a catchment primary school - but there wasn't any traffic on the road, or much lighter traffic. And so we realised this was because there were lots of non-catchment schools, which pupils don't live so close to.
We also got data from the Transport for London Scoot system, which tracks traffic levels around junctions, and it showed really clearly that in the weeks where non-catchment schools are off, there's a big drop in traffic. There’s a further drop when catchment schools are off as well, but not as significant.
It can't all be attributed to the school run, but that was the starting point, as well as looking at just how many children there are at non-catchment schools here - about 9,000. When you gather all the facts together, it's really hard to think that it doesn't have a big impact.
How did you come across HomeRun?
I was researching the topic online. I was sure there must be some kind of support for this situation; no parent really wants to drive their child twice a day across London. I googled and came across HomeRun and thought: bingo.
Photo : Croxted Road during holidays vs term time congestion
How has looking at the data helped?
I think what’s unified everyone is a clear understanding of the number of schools. It's a unique area in terms of non- catchment schools and how much traffic that creates.
The second thing is looking at the data when it comes to congestion; there’s a tipping point. So traffic on a road can run freely, and then when you get slightly over the number of cars that that road can handle - it could be two or three - you start getting a backlog. And then when you've got a backlog, only half the number of cars can flow through that road. So when the roads really need to work the most, they're really, really inefficient.
So Croxted Road, for example, which is near us, is much less congested on a Friday. And that's because people make slightly different decisions on a Friday - they may have Fridays off, and take their child to school, or they might work from home. Our data shows you’d only need to take 75 to 150 cars off Croxted Road, as an example, to really get the road flowing again.
“Behaviour change won’t just happen, you've got to give it time.” Nicola Pastore