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Human Powered Transport: Sydney Northern Beaches School Bans Scooters, Skateboards

26 Aug

If you live near a school, you have probably noticed that very few Australian kids ride bicycles. Many of them are ferried by their parents in their cars, causing frustrating traffic jams. There are still some children who ride skateboards, scooters and even some who walk, but they seem to be an endangered species.

There are a lot of factors involved in this, sure, but a big one is ‘safety’. Riding a bicycle to school is now considered by many parents as ‘unsafe’ because of all the traffic (ironic, much?)

Scooters and skateboards still seem to be popular amongst kids though. A school in Sydney is now attempting to snuff this out as well. 

NORTHERN Beaches Secondary College Cromer Campus has come under fire from parents after it banned students from riding skateboards and scooters to school.

Last week parents were sent a text message announcing that “Due to a number of serious incidents, including a collision with a car, students will no longer be allowed to ride skateboards or scooters to school.”

The ban is also included on the school’s website under its code of conduct.

The response is somewhat mixed – the Manly Daily article states that parents are outraged, but Channel 10 reported on the story this evening, and some of the parents, interviewed vox-pop style while sitting in their SUVs, inarticulately stated their support for the ban. There was a lot of ‘well they should stay off the roads and out of the way of cars.’ It’s hardly fair since these kids are just trying to get to school.

When we talk about cyclist safety on the roads, comments about ‘lycra loonies’ abound. What about the kids, though? When I was in the Netherlands I often had instinctive reactions to sweep children and pet dogs off the street. There was no need for it, if cars were allowed, they were only travelling at 30kph – plenty of time to stop.

As long as we steadfastly stick to the ‘cars always have right of way, and should be impeded as little as possible’ philosophy of road planning, it will come down to a trade-off between the risks of getting hit by a car and the risks of physical inactivity and obesity in our kids.

In fact, according to David Hembrow, cycling was resurrected in the Netherlands in part because people were concerned about children being injured and killed by cars. In 1973 a group called Stop de Kindermoord was formed and started lobbying for changes to traffic and road planning. You can read David’s version of history here.

Also thanks to David Hembrow – this is how Dutch children get to school. Watch the video – it shows massive mobs of kids riding to school on separated bicycle infrastructure. If we had this in Australian cities it would go a long way to helping them get their daily exercise, and helping their parents save a lot of cash on running multiple cars.

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