The school run is causing 50% of traffic congestion in Bath at rush hour

Transition Larkhall and the University of Bath have been conducting a research for the last year to understand the transport movements to the east of Bath and what residents think. The research included sampling traffic flows both in and outside school holidays, and a survey of residents.

They presented an update on the results of their research at a presentation of Community Matters Projects at the Guildhall on 21st September 2017 and have released a report.


A brief summary of some of the feedback from the report includes:

  • About 50% of rush hour traffic comes from the school run
  • Public transport is perceived as expensive
  • Roads are dangerous and there aren’t enough cycling lanes
  • Cars are more convenient, cheaper, and it is perceived that parents who drive they children around Bath care about them

Transition Bath’s conclusions from this research

  • There is a significant structural problem with Bath’s education system, particularly at secondary level where a significant number of children are travelling across town a school which is not the closest to their homes
  • St Mark’s secondary school’s poor academic reputation exacerbates Larkhall’s traffic problems; many local children travel outside Larkhall to school
  • St Mark’s new sixth form building has recently opened 5 miles away on the opposite side of town from St Mark’s main campus in Larkhall
  • Pupils at Bath’s private schools who travel into Bath from the surrounding area are a major contributor to congestion
  • Public buses are perceived as expensive and inconvenient
  • Roads are seen as dangerous and there is an underinvestment in cycling infrastructure

Solutions to the problem

  • Require pupils to attend their local secondary school; this is probably politically impossible, parental choice in terms of their children’s education is paramount
  • Continued encouragement to St Marks to deliver higher academic standards (recently upgraded to ‘Ofsted Good’)
  • Make public buses cheaper and more convenient
  • Improve cycling infrastructure
  • Set school targets to reduce the number of parent’s driving their children to school, support them with investment to do this -more shared buses, even shared cars
  • Encourage private schools to provide bus transport from rural areas, or from park and rides
  • Set safe zones around schools which stop parent’s dropping their children off nearby

A summary of the survey report appears below:

Traffic Sampling – about 50% of rush hour traffic is attributable to the school run

On 4 consecutive Mondays in November 2016 traffic in the Larkhall area of Bath was sampled. The 4 Mondays were chosen, because on the 1st all schools were open, then it was half term, but the following Monday although all state schools expect Beechen Cliff and Hayfield had returned, the private schools were still on holiday, the final Monday being used as a control when all schools were back. The exercise was repeated over a 13-day period around February 2017 half term.

The map below shows the reduction in overall traffic during school holidays (red%):

Some comments:

  • The analysis shows clearly that about 50% of traffic is associated with the school run
  • The 27% reduction on the London Road A4 heading east is a good control as it potentially indicates a reduction in parents travelling to work during school holidays, but not taking their children to school (there aren’t many schools to the east)
  • The November analysis also indicates that about 50% of the school run traffic was from private schools, Beechen Cliff and Haysfield, as they were on all on holiday one of the sampled Mondays when the rest of the schools were not

Survey of Residents

34 residents were surveyed using 7 questions, but were not told in advance the survey was about transport. Cars were the main way of getting around for 20 of the 34 surveyed. The graphic below produced by Transition Larkhall gives a feel for resident’s transport choices:

Survey Results Summary Graphic

Some general themes emerged from the survey:

  • Children travel by car because:
    • Public transport is expensive, “bad experiences”
    • Parents worry about children’s safety on roads and at night
    • Bath hills are a problem
    • Using a car was more convenient than other forms of transport for children
    • Being driven to school proved parents cared about their children and their education
  • Other perceptions
    • Roads are dangerous
    • Little provision for cycling
  • Solutions:
    • Make public transport cheaper
    • Improve cycle lanes
Posted in Transport.