In early October, 2020, once pupils and students had settled into school after the extraordinarily long interruption caused by lockdown, we asked people in Exeter to join us for a conversation about active travel to school in a post-covid Exeter. 

Active travel describes modes of transport that enable us to be physically active, such as walking or cycling during our everyday journeys to the shops, to work, and to school. Inspiring more journeys to be made by foot or by bike can help support health, wellbeing and cleaner air for us to breathe by reducing the amount of cars on our roads. 

We wanted to find out how schools and local residents are enabling young people (and specific year group bubbles)  to walk or cycle to school safely, in the midst of a pandemic and whilst adhering to social distancing guidelines

We were delighted to hear about several fantastic projects that are already happening across Exeter! The presenters, including several teachers, shared some great examples and advice for making active travel more accessible, and, just like our previous Connects, we had a very informed and enthusiastic audience who offered excellent support and suggestions for developing these projects. 

If you were unable to join us for the Travel to School Connect event, you can find out about all the projects, including how to get involved, below:. 

Devon County Council

Liz Holloway, Sustainable Travel Officer for Devon County Council, provided a helpful overview of the Exeter Transport Strategy

The strategy incorporates changes to the cycling infrastructure around Exeter, collaboration with Exeter City Council and local businesses, as well as free Bikeability cycle training for children and adults. 

Liz also shared information about the percentage of students who currently cycle to secondary schools in Exeter, which varied from 6% to 13%.

A principal objective of the Exeter Transport Strategy is to reach 50% of adults and children walking or cycling to work and school by 2030. 

Get in touch:


Charlotte Stokes, one of Sustrans’ Active Travel Officers for Exeter, explained how the charity works with primary and secondary schools to develop bespoke active travel strategies for pupils. As well as general initiatives, from recruiting teachers as ‘School Champions’ to organising guided rides and ‘Bling your bike’ competitions, Charlotte also told us about specific projects that Sustrans are trialling in Exeter.  

These projects include the Road Safety Trust Pilot Project at St. Michael’s Academy in Heavitree, which has implemented an image of a traffic-calming dragon on to the road, to remind drivers that they are approaching a school, and, more recently, a ‘School Street’ at Redhills Primary School in Exwick, which is closing the street during school drop-off and pick-up times. 

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West Exe School

Chloe Fox, from West Exe School, told us about the encouragement and support that they offer to students who cycle to school. Like Sustrans,’ West Exe also collaborates with Ride On to provide 6 loan bikes, including a maintenance package, to students who need it. They also support Bikeability training, a national scheme that is delivered by local authorities and schools to help students learn to cycle. The school has also removed blockers by providing secure bike parking and storage for helmets and coats.

Finally, Chloe also highlighted a rolling road block on Balls farm road that they formed in November, 2019. This was done to raise awareness of careless and aggressive driving that was making it difficult and unsafe for students to cycle or walk on.

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St Peter’s Church of England Aided School

As well as collaborating with Sustrans and working with Devon County Council to provide Bikeability training, Ali Sinden told us about an ambitious project to map the safest cycling routes for students coming from all 20 of St. Peter’s feeder schools. 

After lockdown forced them to cancel the original plan of organising lead rides for Year 6 pupils before they arrived at St. Peters, Ali took on the task of cycling all of the routes herself and tracking them via GPS. The digital maps, which highlight pinch points for students to be aware of, were embedded in videos that include advice from Ali on safe cycling and how to store bikes once students arrive at school. The videos were uploaded to their website and circulated to the incoming students. 

The ask: As she was mapping the cycle routes to St. Peter’s, Ali noted several points where signage was unclear or there were other barriers to safe cycling (such as overgrown vegetation taking up too much road space making it less safe for cyclists). She wanted to know who to contact at Devon County Council to resolve these issues. 

Fortunately, Liz Holloway was on hand to tell her about the council’s portal for reporting problems on roads and pavements

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St. James School/Exeter City Council

Caitlin Cornwall, who has recently started leading on cycling support for St. James School, and Paul Samuels, from Exeter City Council, explained how they were working together to enable students to walk or cycle safely to school. 

As well as organising Bikeability training for Year 8 students who were unable to do it during Year 7 because of lockdown, Caitlin has opened up Bikeability training to students in later years who might have missed it because of illness or other personal reasons. 

Paul Samuels showed us their recent mapping project, adapted to show changes in travel time caused by hills or other obstacles, enabling students who live within walking and cycling distance of St. James to do so. Caitlin then uses the map to discuss appropriate active travel options with individual students who live within these areas. 

The map is still a work in progress, but could be expanded to other schools in the near future.

Thank you to those who volunteered their time and presented projects to our audience! It was fantastic to hear all of the positive advice, ideas, suggestions and support coming out of the conversations.

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The Next Connect: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle

Travel to School is part of a series of Connect events that have been running throughout this year. 

Our next event is on 17th November and will focus on the theme of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. 

At this Connect event we want to hear about projects being delivered by community groups, charities and organisations that support a reduce, reuse and recycle ethos. If you’re based in Exeter and have a relevant project, please come and share your reduce, reuse, recycle project! 

Please follow the registration link below to share your project and/or come and listen. 

Register Here

What Next?

We are urging everybody – organisations, staff, communities and residents – to play a vital role in the delivery of the city’s Net Zero Exeter 2030 Plan.