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The school run is a modern British phenomenon resulting from parents taking their children to school by car. Many parents park their cars in school parking lots and driveways to drop off and pick up their children at the appropriate times.
In the past it was normal for children to walk to school, either on their own, with friends, or accompanied by an adult. Walking to school has fallen from 61% of primary school pupils in 1992/4 to 50% in 2004. In recent years walking to school has become less common as more and more students are dropped off at school by parents using cars, sometimes in a rota with other parents.
The reasons for this are manifold. Firstly, in many cases both parents work and do not have time to walk their children to school, and do not know any other parents who have the time either. Secondly, even if the children are old enough to walk on their own (or cycle), most parents are worried that something may happen to them, e.g. abduction, car accidents, etc. Often there is no convenient bus service, and the distance is too far for walking, thus forcing the school run.
The risk of children being run over near their schools is much higher than in the past due to all the parents driving their own children to school and parking in unsafe places near the school gates. It is not unusual to see cars parking in bus stops, on pedestrian crossings or facing the wrong way, with children getting in or out of the car.
The fear that something may happen to the children has perhaps more to do with media coverage of isolated cases than any real threat.
Problems arising from 'the school run'
Some schools now have a 20 mph speed limit operating when the children are about, though traffic congestion often necessitates a lower speed.
With the increase in a choice of schools for parents, children may have to travel further and are more likely to require a bus or car ride.
It is claimed that the school run is responsible for a large amount of the traffic problems in the morning rush hour.
To combat the issue of exercise, or lack thereof, schools have started employing programs and techniques to encourage children to walk to school, whilst mitigating the possible dangers of walking to school. An example of one of these programs is the 'walking school bus' whereby children at selected schools can elect to travel within an organised group of school children and volunteer parents.
The school run has become a popular target for some politicians and campaigners against the use of cars for journeys which could be better walked or cycled. One of the campaigns promoting this alternative is the walk to school campaign.