The school rush is well and truly back as we return to the office and our kids begin to settle into Term 1.
But with the return of the commute and the school run comes the question of how we start to encourage our children to walk or cycle to school and ensure that they continue to be safe.
Many parents across the Illawarra feel there is no choice but to drive their children to school. Especially when allowing their children to walk to school unassisted involves walking along grass verges and crossing busy roads with no pedestrian crossing.
The alternative is walking or cycling your children to school, rushing back home to drive to work. For many, that's not possible when working a 9am to 5pm job.
That's why the work that Safe Streets to School is doing is so important. The alliance of 13 health, transport, education and climate organisations has presented three transport priorities to federal politicians to get more children walking or cycling to school.
Their plan includes lowering speed limits in school zones, and having pedestrian priority crossings, footpaths and no drop-off zones within 1,500m of schools.
An NSW Health-funded research programme in 2004 found how a parent journeyed to work had a significant influence on whether children walked to school. For example, competing pressures like distance to work, school start times and weather conditions make it challenging for parents to accommodate the walk to school.
As part of the Safe Streets to School initiative, the group has demanded an e-bike subsidy, which presumably is designed to make it easier for parents to commute to work by bike and drop their kids at school enroute. A nice idea, particularly in areas of the Illawarra serviced by a bike track. However, it still doesn't account for weather conditions and the commute distance, particularly if a parent has inflexible work hours and a long cycle.
While the jury's out on whether an e-bike subsidy will help get more parents cycling to work, this type of thinking is needed to move towards a position where our children can feel safe walking to school.
- Gayle Tomlinson
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