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Safer travel skills

Great excitement today at Safeside as Centro contractors start work on converting our old pub into a Travel Centre, and by co-incidence I also met with Centro colleague to plan how to use it.

The new scenario will enable us to teach upper primary children important skills in journey planning, with an emphasis on them developing greater independence from adults as they move towards secondary school. By encouraging walking, cycling, public transport and car sharing, not only can children become more autonomous, they can also make their journeys greener.

The scenario will eventually use iPads on which pupils plan a journey from Safeside to other Birmingham attractions, using various online tools and apps. They will compare the different travel options by time, distance, price and CO2 emissions. But, because it takes place in a realistic travel centre with maps and leaflets like the one at New Street, children will also understand the value of paper-based materials too.

Linked to the new Travel Centre is a second workshop on our bus, focusing on the benefits of using public transport and the skills and awareness children need to do so safely. Pupils will see themselves on CCTV, deal with a suspicious character, and watch and discuss a video about the consequences of travel crime and what to do about it. They will be presented with several real life travel dilemmas such as what to do if you forget your fare or miss your stop.

Instead of parents being concerned about their children travelling and thus restricting freedom, the hope is that they can be more confident that young people have the skills and awareness to do so safely and independently, increasing fitness levels and reducing congestion and CO2 all at the same time.

The new workshops start from our first school visits in September.

And why are we getting rid of the pub? Well, installed as part of our original fit out, the idea was clearly to educate visitors about the effects of alcohol. In practice, we've found it more effective to do this in the alleyway, house, shop and so on, because these are the areas where alcohol tends to be abused. In fact, the pub is a relatively safe environment for children in the sense that it is hopefully supervised with clear legal restrictions. So we weren't really using it. We think our safer travel workshops will be made even more engaging by running them in a realistic travel centre and bus rather than in a classroom.

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