School’s traffic congestion battle

Cockle Bay School principal Dorothy Bigwood encourages parents to have their child walk to school if possible to reduce the number of vehicles on nearby roads. Times photo Wayne Martin

Traffic congestion around an east Auckland primary school is so heavy its principal considered changing the time its pupils are let out to make life easier for parents and motorists.

Cockle Bay School principal Dorothy Bigwood says the amount of vehicles moving around the school at peak times is causing major problems.

“We have several schools in close proximity,” she says.

“Cockle Bay is a big school. Straight across the road we have Howick College, a big school.

“Just along the road is Somerville Intermediate and not too far away is Shelly Park School.

“New Zealanders traditionally use cars because public transport doesn’t go where they want to go at the time they need to go.

“Many people choose to either drop their children off or collect them by car, so there’s huge congestion on the roads.”

Bigwood says her school’s small car park doesn’t accommodate parking for her teachers and staff.

Some of them park around the corner in Trelawn Place, but those spaces have a 90-minute time limit.

She’s been talking to Auckland Transport (AT) officials in an effort to improve traffic flow around the school and is pleased the agency installed a pedestrian crossing in Trelawn Place earlier this year.

“If parents want their children to walk to school I’m sure they worry about their safety,” Bigwood says.

“We try to have walking buses and we have as many staff as we can outside the school to assist with traffic management after school.

“We’re trying to work with our parent community and traffic management isn’t always a positive thing.

“There’s a little bit of tension there sometimes.”

Bigwood says the school considered changing its hours in an effort to reduce the amount of traffic at peak times, but not all parents were on board with the idea.

“We try to be proactive and think how we can help with the congestion.

“Knowing when Howick College dismissed its children, we thought maybe if we altered our school hours and finished a little earlier, we could stagger it.

“We consulted our community, and legally we could do it because we met the criteria, but it really polarised our community.

“Approximately 50 per cent were really for it and 50 per cent said it didn’t work for them because of obvious things like collecting siblings or the time parents finish work.”

Bigwood wants consideration to be given for the school to use bus stop spaces in Sandspit Road as a supervised drop-off and pick-up area for pupils between 8.20am-8.45am and 3pm-3.15pm.

“I have asked informally one of the [AT] people I liaise with and was told that’s not possible.

“I’ve been told they can give us one more car park if we want it, but that’s trivial really.”

AT spokeswoman Natalie Polley says the agency is “actively engaged” with Cockle Bay School and is working with it to implement the Travelwise programme.

She says several walking school buses are in operation and AT is hoping to carry out a survey to get a better understanding of parents’ opinions and concerns.

“We will do a mapping activity so the school has visibility of five, 10 and 15 minute walking zones and we are looking into the request to utilise the bus stop as a time-restricted pick-up and drop-off zone.”