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Rural safe routes to school initiative launched

27 June, 2008


Every child deserves a safe route to school according to Michelle Gildernew MP, MLA. Rural Development Minister Michelle Gildernew and Transport Minister Conor Murphy attended the launch of the Rural Safe Routes to School initiative in St Mary's Primary School, Derrytrasna, County Armagh.

This small eco-school, with a big environmental focus is one of 18 rural schools involved in the project, coordinated by sustainable transport charity Sustrans. The initiative aims to keep children safe on their journeys to and from school, to improve children's health and to reduce traffic congestion and pollution.

Speaking at the launch the Sinn Féin Minister Michelle Gildernew said:

"This project is an excellent example of what can be achieved by a small rural school in the heart of the community, when everyone works together. The Rural Safe Routes to School initiative is an innovative project that integrates health, fitness, environmental and safety concerns. It's important to keep our children as safe as possible and this project not only improves the safety of the infrastructure near the school, it also educates our young people about how to travel safely.

"Sustrans and DRD Roads Service have worked closely with the school to effectively address safety concerns and not only have they improved the infrastructure outside the school they have also installed solar powered flashing signs and a new cycle shelter. It is important to encourage young children and their parents to adopt a healthier lifestyle, and children who stay fit now by walking or cycling to school are more likely to stay active when they are older."

Sustrans were awarded almost £1million towards the implementation of the project from the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) through the EU Programme for Building Sustainable Prosperity. Funding was also received from the Department for Regional Development (DRD) Roads Service, the Department of Education and the DOE Road Safety Education Branch.

Sinn Féin Transport Minister Conor Murphy said:

"This is an excellent partnership project that also highlights the benefits of considering alternatives to the 'school run' which accounts for 20% of the traffic each morning and adds to congestion outside schools. I commend the work of all the partners but especially the work of my own Department's Roads Service who were responsible for organising the installation of the school safety zone measures."

The Rural Safe Routes to School project was just one product of the 2000-2006 Rural Development Programme that has made a real and meaningful difference to the lives of rural people. Further opportunities exist through the new £500million Rural Development Programme 2007-2013 with over £100million specifically set aside for improving the quality of life in rural areas, contributing to sustaining local communities and diversification of the rural economy.

Congratulating everyone involved in the project, Minister Gildernew said:

"This project is a fine example of working in partnership in pursuit of common goals for the good of local dwellers and the development of the local community." ENDS

Notes to Editors:

Rural Safe Routes to Schools is funded by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) through the EU Programme for Building Sustainable Prosperity, Department for Regional Development (DRD) Roads Service, the Department of Education and the DOE Road Safety Education Branch.

DRD Roads Service traffic engineers were responsible for installing the school safety zone, improved road markings and installation of new cycle paths.

Sustrans' Rural Safe Routes to Schools project in the North of Ireland caims to achieve a 10% reduction in car journeys in 18 schools and also to increase levels of walking and cycling. St. Mary's Primary, Derrytrasna is a small rural school with 71 pupils and 26 pupils in the nursery unit. The project at St. Mary's includes the installation of the following infrastructure:

  • Solar Powered Flashing Signs
  • High Friction Red Surfacing
  • New Footpath and kerb built out at the front of the school for pedestrians
  • Keep Clear Lines
  • Kerb built out with bollards to stop people parking in front of the schools
  • Cycle Shelter
  • Overgrown hedges have been taken back to improve visibility

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