Tuesday, March 29, 2011

National Ride 2 School day

National ride to school was held on the 16 March, though this day in the ACT had  received no attention  from the ACT Education Department or the ACT Government or dare I say our cycling advocacy group Pedal Power. The recent pedestrian and cycle review which was completed over a year ago yet has just been released by the ACT Government, only focused on the commuting to work networks. Yet Children nationally make up a significant proportion of the cycling community, more so than adults who cycle regularly.

About 30 to 40 years ago ,80% of school students in Canberra used to ride and walk to school ,yet here we are a generation on, the situation has reversed with about 80% of school children being driven to school. This is the same situation around Australia. What has happened over that time?
School Bike parking,1965 (ACT Heritage Library)

Woden Valley High School 1969, (ACT Heritage Library)
Yes there are the arguments about road safety ,stranger danger and that ,parents don't have enough time any more at it is easy to drop them off in the car. So much so that parents are driving past the local schools and dropping them off at schools closer to their work. So there is no chance for children in some areas to walk and cycle to school.

Now there is no law against this as the ACT government supports parental choice ,but what about the rights of the child, is this what children want .Many children when asked would like to walk cycle,scooter and skate to school as opposed to going in the car.

A recent study by the Australian Council for Education Research  found that children who traveled to school by car had a remarkably narrow view of their community. When researchers asked car-borne kids to draw pictures of the way they saw their world they drew abstract, isolated images of neighborhoods where the car and the road were the central theme. Traffic lights, road signs, office buildings, shopping centre's and fast food outlets dominated.

This is the current scene at many schools in the ACT during Primary School Start & Finish times.
Children that ride or walk to school are more resilient in the urban environment and are more capable of adapting to changes that happen to them in life. Another  recent study on heath and well being  by UNICEF has shown that children with more active lifestyles have better numeracy and literacy skills and are generally more happier about there future life prospects.
On average children in the Netherlands are the happiest in the world according to the UNICEF study and their rates of walking and cycling to school haven't changed in 50 years despite the changes in lifestyles, for example, like both parents working. Yes there is a big difference in infrastructure as there is more cycle paths and right of way provisions at intersections ,but many of us  here in Canberra live within 2 km of primary schools and within 5km of high schools so there is no reason why more children can't ride to school.
1970's Canberra,(ACT Heritage Library)
1970's Canberra,(ACT Heritage Library)