The Government’s Safe Routes to School programme is currently closed to new applications because of a backlog in implementing measures for the schools which first applied.
A total of 931 applications were received from schools across the country in 2021 but only 278 have been accepted into the programme so-far. The details were outlined in an answer to a parliamentary question by Galway East TD Ciarán Cannon (Fine Gael).
Supporters of the programme, including councillors and campaigners, have expressed concerns that objections to various projects further delay the progress of making streets safer for children. There are over 3,300 primary schools in Ireland.
The programme, despite its name, is mainly concerned with the treatment of roads and streets outside of schools. Although in some cases it has included longer sections of walking and cycling routes to schools.
Deputy Cannon asked the Minister for Transport “when he intends to open a new round of the Safe Routes to Schools Programme, bearing in mind the large number of schools that have yet to be supported through the programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter.”
In a written response, Minister Eamon Ryan said: “As Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to Active Travel. Funding is administered through the National Transport Authority (NTA), who, in partnership with local authorities, have responsibility for the selection and development of specific projects in each local authority area.”
“The Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Programme was launched in March 2021 with the aim of supporting walking, scooting, and cycling to primary and post-primary schools, and creating safer walking and cycling routes within communities, through the provision of infrastructure interventions. This should help alleviate congestion at school gates and increase the number of students who walk or cycle to school. The Safe Routes to School Programme is funded by my Department through the National Transport Authority and An Taisce’s Green Schools is co-ordinating the programme,” he said.
“Invitations to express interest were sent to all primary and secondary schools in the country, and 931 applications were received from schools across every county in Ireland. 170 schools were notified on 21st June 2021 that they were selected for inclusion in the first round of the SRTS Programme, while a further 108 schools were announced for Round 2. It should be noted that all schools that applied to the original call for applications were accepted into the programme, and if not selected in Rounds 1 and 2 will be selected for forthcoming rounds.”
He added: “Given the pipeline of projects due for completion, there are no plans for an additional call for schools to join the SRTS programme currently. Where possible, schools outside the SRTS Programme are included in wider Active Travel projects if they are in the vicinity of these works. I would therefore recommend that any school not currently registered with the SRTS Programme to contact their local authority in relation to potential funding in this area.”