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Making the Ride to School Route Safer

It is well known that the number of kids riding to school in Australia is low - in the 1970s, over 80% of kids actively travelled to school, many on them on bikes, and now that number is less than 20%.

But what is it that's holding parents back from letting the kids ride? Listening to parents who want their kids to ride to school, and reading the media, it seems to really come down to infrastructure and parents' leading by example.

In our interviews with ByK Mums and Dads, who do lead by example, not all of them have the local infrastructure in place to make riding to school a given, even considering how much they want their kids to be able to.

e-350-insta-shaunstar-ride2schoolImage courtesty of Shaunstar via InstagramIn an article, "Why Aren't More Kids Cycling To School" published in The Conversation in 2011, they note that:

"Primary school students consistently say they'd rather ride or walk to school. They say it's fun, they like travelling with their friends, and it makes them fit and healthy.

Car travel on the other hand – which is their least preferred way of getting to school – is considered "boring", it means "you have to sit still", you "don't get any exercise", and cars "make bad gas in the air".

In this article, they also go onto say that children who cycle to school are also likely to have:

  • improved mental health and social wellbeing
  • increased IQ and educational attainment
  • greater independent mobility.

And, the community benefits from:

  • reduced traffic congestion
  • environmental sustainability
  • community liveability
  • reduced chauffeuring duties for parents.

pop-up-bike-lanes

Around the world, cycling events are beginning to include days that close off streets so kids and riders of all ages can 'reclaim the streets' and there have also been instances of 'pop up bike lanes' being created on school routes that allow kids to experience a safe ride to school route. So a culture of increasing awareness and a better shared use of our roads is beginning to be seen.

When we interviewed some ByK Mums and Dads about whether their kids ride to school, all noted that they were wary of letting their kids ride to school on their own because of potential traffic risks.

And these are from parents that ride their bikes in every day life - to work, to the shops, and sometimes with the kids to school.  All of them say that a 'bike bus' whereby a few parents help chaperone a group of kids on bikes is an idea.  But in order to do this, they still need to have safe bike route to school.

But more needs to be done. Its not just relying on our Councils and Government to ensure safer roads and better infrastructure. Its also about us as parents leading by example - choosing to walk or bike for shorter trips, and for all road users to change the focus of 'owning' the road to 'sharing the road'.