Cycling to School
Why and how to make school travel "active and mobile"?
Travelling to and from school is often the first step in a childs independence. Cycling to school has various advantages for kids: it promotes the development of motor skills and helps children learn to navigate independently in traffic. Regular physical exercise contributes to a healthy lifestyle, improves academic performance and builds the self-confidence that young people need in life. However, parents often take their children to school or to recreational facilities by car, using the so-called "parent taxi" system. Such "accompanied travel" represents a time burden for parents and fosters excessive dependency in children; and moreover, it creates dangerous traffic situations at school entrances: double-parked cars impede the flow of traffic, and children exit their parent's vehicles between cars that have stopped temporarily and could drive off at any moment, also endangering pupils arriving by foot or bike.
Concerns about the safety of their children in traffic motivate many parents to continue with the time-consuming and costly parent-taxi system. And these concerns are not unfounded: according to the German Road Safety Council, in 2010, more than 28,600 children under the age of 15 were involved in traffic accidents in Germany.
However, when parents respond to such statistics by driving their children to school, the risks for children are further increased both on or near roads and as passengers in cars. After all, one third of the child accident victims were car passengers. By the same token, for every car journey saved with the corresponding accompanying measures the accident risk for children is lowered.
The independent mobility of schoolchildren can be promoted at any age: special programmes for nursery, primary and secondary schools are already being successfully implemented in many cities. Such programmes can benefit from cooperation with supra-regional organisations and platforms in order to make use of existing experience and materials.
The creativity used in school-based projects is almost infinite, but the strength of these projects lies in the involvement of various stakeholders: the police can contribute in the area of road safety, the local retail sector can provide materials, and the parents can actively participate in the projects. The distribution of tasks not only guarantees a pooling of competencies but also prevents the teaching staff from becoming overburdened with the project.
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