Back to School with Walking Bubbles

children walking past bollard cover walking bubble

How can we cope with all the extra traffic on our roads now the children have gone back to school?

We needed to make it easier, safer and attractive for more children to walk, cycle or scoot even before Covid-19 and with the recent reduced capacity on public transport that need is even greater.

‘Walking Bubbles’ #StaySafeGetActive is the DfT-backed Modeshift scheme which helps address this by enabling schools to print of their own walk zone map and free downloadable resources. With an option to purchase additional supporting resources from us here at Brightwayz the schools have flexibility to introduce this in the style they wish.

How to Make our Roads Safer for School Journeys

Of course, we would love to see Dutch-style cycle- and walk-friendly infrastructure across the UK. In some parts of England we are starting to see trial schemes develop using the new Covid Emergency Active Travel Funding. However, despite the word ’emergency’ this isn’t going to happen quickly.

So what’s the short term solution? Reducing traffic outside school gates makes the area safer and gives more parents the confidence to let their children walk, cycle or scoot. On a practical level it is always a challenge to change behaviour and get others engaged in your ideas.

Complementing School Streets

School Streets schemes are able to force a dramatic change of behaviour; they restrict motor vehicle access to the areas around schools at start and end times. However, if a school community is not able to do this, or they wish to supplement a School Streets scheme with something to engage those who are walking, scooting or cycling, a Walking Bubble scheme can fit the bill.

What’s a Walking Bubble?

A Walking Bubble is a 5-minute walk ‘safe’ zone around the school gates where there is reduced parent vehicle traffic. How do schools create this? All schools in England (outside London) can log in to the Modeshift system and download their own Walking Bubble #StaySafeGetActive map free of charge. This can be printed and shared with parents and pupils who are asked to walk, cycle or scoot to school and, if they have to drive, to park outside the zone or ‘walking bubble’. Unlike School Streets, it is not enforced and is purely a ‘hearts and minds’ initiative. Of course, you are not guaranteed 100% compliance(!) however it could be the step change you need to get engagement from parents and pave the way for future School Streets if needed.

Enhancing Your Walking Bubble Scheme

To get engagement in any scheme it’s good to make it really visible, attractive and any guidance clear… especially for Walking Bubble schemes as they need to engage parents and pupils of all ages and backgrounds.

Here at Brightwayz, we have been working with Modeshift to develop a range of supporting resources and make them available through our Brightkidz website.

From banners, bollard covers and bunting to pavement stickers, signage and even a ‘pupil waiting to walk’ gazebo we have been listening to the needs of councils and schools and developing the range to suit.

Supporting Resources from Brightkidz

For additional Walking Bubble resources, which may be purchased by local authorities, schools, campaign groups or even individuals, visit the range at www.brightkidz.co.uk/modeshiftstarsshop. If you can’t see what you need, get in touch as we are constantly developing the range and always open to ideas. As a social enterprise we are here to meet your needs and enable you to create the change that is needed to make our streets safer, more sustainable and more active.

Local Authority Partnerships

To make it easier for local authorities we offer the opportunity to set up a scheme to enable efficient distribution of agreed resources to local schools funded by the local authority. See an example of what we are doing with Durham County Council here and get in touch if you’d like to set up a similar scheme as a local authority.

Durham map and staysafegetactive stickers

Find Out More About the Walking Bubble Scheme

Schools in England outside London can sign up free of charge for the map resource and instructions. Schools do not need to be within a local authority already signed up to the Modeshift STARS wider scheme – visit www.modeshiftstars.org/staysafegetactive as this has been funded by the Department for Transport.

Within London, Transport for London provide active travel campaign support through their TfL STARS initiative. However the Walking Bubble complements this and London schools can sign up for a one-off £10 charge to access the map resource and instructions. Contact Modeshift STARS for details.

Schools in other parts of the UK can also sign up for a £30 charge per school. Contact Modeshift STARS for details.

Check out our recent Brightkidz blog too about the Darlington launch of the Walking Bubble scheme.

Enjoy your journeys!

Photos: Scott Akoz (outdoor shots), Brightkidz (product photos and flyer)
children by banner outside school

Alison Holland

Alison Holland is a passionate advocate for walking and cycling for everyday journeys as well as for making places better for all. She has worked in the active travel sector for over 16 years as founder of Brightkidz social enterprise, now incorporating Brightwayz, providing resources and support for those working on active travel campaigns across the UK.

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