In his latest opinion column, Helensburgh and Lomond South councillor Richard Trail says a network of safe walking routes would encourage children to walk to school.

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The holiday period is a great opportunity for a change in the reading diet.

Over the Christmas and New Year break, I happened across the speech given by Mala Yousafzi in the United Nations headquarters. To those of you who don’t recognise her name, this was the Pakistani girl, aged just 15, who had been shot in the head by the Taliban on the school bus.

Her offence, in the eyes of the Taliban, was to campaign for the rights of girls to be educated.

This young teenager knew the importance of education for the young girls of Pakistan, and she had the audacity to speak out about it.

What a contrast with Scotland, which was one of the earliest to set up schools in every parish, and which brought in compulsory education for all nearly 150 years ago.

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In the early years of compulsory schooling, all children would walk to school – sometimes barefoot and, in rural areas, the distance they covered could be several miles every day.

Now that has changed, and while there are still children walking to school, what is striking is how many are driven to school over even short distances.

At the bigger schools this causes severe traffic problems around the school gates. Parents like to drop their children off as near the school as they can. While they have a concern for their own children’s safety sometimes they are less than considerate to other road users.

Even the school crossing patrollers with their high-visibility waterproofs and lollipops are put in danger by careless drivers.

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There is growing concern that at the junction of Sinclair Street and Argyle Street, a serious accident may occur as school opening time approaches and driver frustrations lead to impatience and carelessness.

These transient peak flows at the start and end of the school day are not desirable, and are not necessary. More children can walk or cycle to school. But parents are naturally fearful for their children’s safety when roads are busy and traffic speeds are high.

To alleviate these fears a network of safe routes to school should be created. They would be designed to put walkers and cyclists first and constrain vehicles only to access houses.

As well as reducing the peak flows of traffic, it will bring a health benefit to the children by the vigorous exercise of their legs before and after school.