20 May 2011

Walk to School Day 2011 - success or farce?

In case it is not 100% clear, the blue 4WD is parked next to parked cars illegally, with the champagne car deciding to do the same.
This is on a Friday afternoon school run at a local primary school.

TODAY is national Walk to School Day and, as the name suggests, the idea is for parents to get their primary school aged children outside to get some fresh air, get some exercise and walk to school. Did your kids walk to school today? Or for those childless folk like me, did you encounter a flood of walkers this morning in your travels?
The Pedestrian Council of Australia (PCA) started Walk to School Day twelve years ago to help promotes the message "active kids are healthy kids" and asks parents to walk all or part of the way to school with their children to start healthy habits from a young age. Some of the functions the PCA is concerned with are the continual improvement of pedestrian safety, amenity and access, and the promotion of walking as a legitimate transport mode and an important, healthy, social activity.
In the later years of primary school I rode my bike to school and in high school I walked so the idea that there needs to be an advertised “walk to school” day seems sad to me – but also a sign of the times (we are all so time poor and reliant on our cars now). Then again my family didn’t own a car so really there was no alternative for me.  
There are of course many different circumstances preventing children from walking or riding to school regularly. However Deakin University found that less than half of all primary school children who live within 15 minutes of their school actually walk to school. They also found that 75% of those kids who are driven to school WANT to walk to school. Hmmm...
Walk to school day makes me ponder two things. One – the dire parking situation at schools. Two – why are teenagers exempt from this day?

Parking at schools

I have done the school run (drop off and pick up) a few times recently with my sister for my two nieces. While the mornings are busy, the afternoons are absolutely ridiculous. “Wow” and a head shake in disbelief, is really the only way to describe the influx of cars, parking or stopping illegally, causing a litany of various traffic hazards. No doubt some of these parents who drive their kids to school and pick them up would claim to do so for the child’s safety – then park 3 cars deep over a two laned road.
Recently an article in the Sunshine Coast Daily argued that schools need more parking as the current situation is dangerous.
The parking problems listed are no doubt apparent at most schools (especially primary schools) around Australia:
-      limited parking spaces for parents dropping off or picking up their kids
-      drivers stopping in no-parking areas
-      drivers staying too long in the drop-off zone

Naturally, debate raged amongst readers, although most comments seemed to be in favour of parents not driving their children (a feat easier said than done perhaps). However one reader argued that it is not safe to let your kids walk or ride to school because of the “amount of paedophiles” around, and quoted the Daniel Morcombe case as an example. The reader also quoted “crazy drivers” as a risk to their child’s safety (ironic perhaps, my opinion is above). One thing is for certain here – a life lived in fear is not a life lived. Statistically a child is more likely to be in a car accident, with a family member driving then have an encounter with stranger danger.


As mentioned above, Walk to School ay is directed at children to encourage a healthy lifestyle and healthy habits at a young age. Still, shouldn’t it be open to all school age children including teenagers? Is it ever to late to foster healthy habits? Or are teenagers left out under the assumption that they are more likely to walk to school?
On my morning walk I have been privy to some interesting behaviour. I witness cars banked up at the bus stop for both pick up and drop off. Now I don’t know how far these cars are travelling to and from said bus stop – they may in fact be too far away for the child to walk.  However I have even witnessed one parent drive their two children up their street (which is a steep incline), drop the kids at the top, then do a U-turn and head back home. While I acknowledge the street is steep, and would be a pain to walk up every day, what lesson is this teaching these children? The street would not be 100 metres in total, so even though it is steep, it is not a mammoth walk.

What are your thoughts on Walk to School Day?

No comments:

Post a Comment