Safe Routes to School Programme delivers bike parking to 154 schools nationwide as Minister Naughton officially opens Cork’s first Safe School Zone

15 February 2022

More students around Ireland have somewhere safe to park their bike, thanks to the installation of 2,830 cycle parking spaces in schools nationwide during 2021. Not having somewhere safe – or sheltered – to store a bike has been a barrier for many students in primary and secondary schools. The installation of 2,830 cycle parking spaces and 153 bike shelters in 154 schools nationwide has been delivered by Green-Schools with funding from the Department of Transport through the Safe Routes to School Programme. The provision of this infrastructure will support students who can now cycle in the knowledge that their bike will be safe and dry at the end of the school day. Today, Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton, who has delegated responsibility for the new Safe Routes to School Programme, has opened Cork’s first Safe School Zone for Scoil Phádraig Naofa in Bandon as part of Round One of the Programme.

Bike parking is funded as part of the Safe Routes to School Programme, which was launched in March 2021. The programme is an initiative of the Department of Transport and supported by the Department of Education. It is operated by the Green-Schools Programme in partnership with the National Transport Authority and the local authorities.

Alongside the provision of cycle parking the Safe Routes to School Programme aims to support active travel to school (walking and cycling) by offering schools the opportunity to: Improve safety at the school gate by providing ‘front of school’ treatments to alleviate congestion and improve access and improve access routes to school by improving walking and cycling infrastructure.

170 schools are currently in Round One of the Safe Routes to School Programme. The Programme works with local authorities to provide infrastructure in and around the school gates which will allow more families to walk, cycle or scoot to school. In addition to increased cycle parking, these schools are working with designated Infrastructure Officers who are currently engaged with local authority partners and school communities in areas such as: mapping the routes to school, carrying out front of school and walkability audits, undertaking attitudinal surveys and developing delivery plans for each school. There is still some way to go before improvements are seen outside these schools, but Green-Schools are working hard to ensure the right infrastructure is delivered to support more active journeys to school.

In addition, 15 School Zones have been delivered to schools in counties Dublin and Cork. These zones focus on making the school gate safer for children by moving cars away from the school gate and prioritizing access for students. The School Zones can be easily identified by their pencil shaped bollards, coloured circles and signage. The design features assist in creating a safer, calmer and more attractive environment at the school gate.

An additional 297 schools nationwide will get cycle parking in 2022 which will encourage more students to cycle to school. This along with an increase in the number of School Zones and walking and cycling links to school will allow for a more active commute to school.

The Government has committed €15 million to complete interventions at the 170 schools in Round One of the Safe Routes to School Programme. 761 schools will come onto the programme on a rolling basis over the coming years. This money will be provided from the €1.8 billion funding earmarked in the Programme for Government to support sustainable transport.

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan TD said: “It is clear from the engagement with school communities that they are interested in finding ways to support children and young people in commuting to school by active means. There are currently 170 schools progressing through this first phase of this rolling programme which looks to provide safe infrastructure and ultimately support families in leaving their car at home. Cycle parking is an important step on this journey, and it is fantastic to see delivery of these amenities on the ground.

There are multiple benefits to travelling to school on foot or bike – improving health and well-being, alleviating congestion, and cutting carbon emissions. While we have some way to go, work is underway to deliver the right infrastructure to support more active journeys.”

Speaking from the official opening of the School Zone in Bandon, Cork, Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton TD said: “The Safe Routes to School programme can make a real difference to school communities while also supporting our national climate objectives. Through this initial phase of the programme, children in 154 schools nationwide now have somewhere safe to park their bike while they are at school with a further 297 schools to benefit from bike parking facilities in 2022. We are working to remove barriers to walking, scooting or cycling to school while also finding ways to make the daily journey to school fun, active and safe. The delivery of bike parking is just one element of this programme which will see the introduction of safe infrastructure and reimagined school zones at schools across the country.”

Continuing, Minister Naughton said: “The Safe Routes to School programme reimagines the journey that our children make to school every day. I am delighted to launch the new School Zone at Scoil Phádraig Naofa in Bandon, the first School Zone completed in the County of Cork. Barriers to walking, cycling or scooting for the school community have been significantly reduced as a result of this fantastic project, allowing for the daily trip to the classroom to be fun, active and safe. In time, as the Safe Routes to School programme is rolled out across Cork County, I am confident that through continued investment and cooperation, thousands of other students and school communities will be able to travel safely to and from school by walking, cycling, or scooting. The commitment is certainly there from Government as we continue to spend almost €1 million each day on walking and cycling projects right across the country. Congratulations to everyone involved in bringing this project to fruition – it wouldn’t happen without the dedication of parents, teachers, pupils and Cork County Council.”

NTA CEO Anne Graham said: “Schemes like the one in Bandon are examples of the kind of improvements that we want to see in every part of the country as part of the Safe Routes to School programme. Green Schools, supported by the NTA, is actively engaging with school communities and councils all around Ireland, so we can deliver solutions at local level that will make it easier and safer for children to walk and cycle to school. NTA looks forward to continuing to support projects like this in 2022 and into the future.”

Jane Hackett, Senior Manager of the Green-Schools Travel and Safe Routes to School Programme: “It is incredible to watch the number of bike parking spaces grow across the country and know that more young people are getting on their bikes and scooters each morning, safe in the knowledge that they have somewhere to store their bike and they can now cycle to school with confidence. Children want to cycle to school and, through the Safe Routes to School Programme, we’re working hard to improve infrastructure around schools so that more children can have social, fun and safe journeys to school.