A school community in Kilkenny City is making great strides in improving the health of pupils as well as alleviating the traffic issues at school start and finish times.
Two neighbouring schools are creating 'Safe School Zones' outside their school gates. This space becomes prioritised for walkers, cyclists and buses, and parents are asked not to drop at the gates for everyone’s safety.
St Canice’s primary school, on Granges’s Road, launched the plan with their pupils and parents in September, and this week the Loreto Secondary School is also starting to take part.
Drivers are asked not to stop at the school gates - instead they can pull in to park in James’s Park, on the Freshford Road, where there is space for the children to safely get out of cars, and then walk the short distance to the back gates of the schools.
A dedicated pedestrian gate from the park out onto the path to school means children don’t have to share that space with vehicles.
Not only does the project make the space safer, the younger children especially are enjoying the independence of the short walk to school with their friends, and the social aspect of the walk.
“They enjoy it so much, they love the walk,” Caitriona Corr, Kilkenny County Council’s cycling officer said.
It was cooperation between a number of groups that ensured the success of the project. Ms Corr, paid tribute to the school principals. She also praised the Kilkenny Agricultural Society, owners of the land at James’s Park, for making the land available to the community.
Kilkenny County Council did the preliminary work, and a survey of students in both schools, earlier in the year, showed many didn’t want to walk to school because of the amount of cars around the schools. The irony of that was many cars were parents dropping off students. Now cars are moved off the road, preventing traffic flow delays, and cars dropping off students are not stopping on bike lanes and paths.
Another successful school project is being undertaken at Gaelscoil Osraí The Gaelscoil have set themselves an ambitious target of 20% arriving to school on wheels. Last week, over 70 students arrived by bikes or scooters.
These projects are also helping the overall traffic situation in the city. Some of the students will walk or cycle from home, when they feel safe on the route and are encouraged. This means that we are taking away cars circulating, on the school run, so some of the general traffic will “disappear”from the roads altogether.
In the next few weeks, cycling friendly workplace programmes will be introduced in Kilkenny. If your workplace or school is interested in becoming involved, email firstname.lastname@example.org.