For many years parents, and school officials, have asked council to address inconsiderate and aggressive driving behaviour outside schools, particularly relating to school drop-off and pick-up times when road space is at a premium. Due to constantly worsening traffic situations outside schools, the inaction and lack of duty of care in improving areas around schools is now at its most unacceptable yet – incisive action is needed, now, to prioritise walking and cycling for the sake of the next generation’s future.
Katja Leyendecker, chair of newcycling.org, says “This utter mismatch must be addressed by council, with urgency. Sitting back and doing nothing is not an option any more. This is about the future of our children – and about leading by example for the next generation. We are majorly concerned. For quite some time now have we been contacted by numerous concerned parents who are telling us that they want to cycle to school but firstly for them to do so the roads and crossings must be made safer. We also have heard that people who do cycle to school with their kids get abuse and insult thrown at them, verbal and even physical, by drivers. These cycling accounts are clearly heart-breaking, as the parents – whilst doing the right thing – are harangued for it. It’s shocking, really. Some have even stopped cycling as the social pressure that’s put on them is too much to bear, we have heard.
“It’s quite insane, and this must stop. Specially, it must be noted that this is not a situation that any individual can solve, but it needs a concerted, decisive and clear institutional response. We implore council to design our roads and streets, especially outside schools, so they are suitable for 8-year olds to cycle or walk there without harassment or danger levied on them or discomfort to them or their parents.
“We want city politicians to lead on this. And to talk to us about what’s keeping them.
“The school run also largely coincides with the rush hours of the commute. It is shocking that three out of four car commutes are shorter than 6 miles in Newcastle; and for 3 miles it’s 2 out of 5 of all car-commutes (Census 2011 data). So, the car-based commute needs sorting too as part of civilising the school run. This means that council will have to follow their own transport-transition policies and start prioritising walking and cycling in their plans, reduce car use and space for car parking.
“The solutions are out there, we do not need to reinvent the wheel.
“It can be done by design and ‘invisible infrastructure’ like car parking reduction strategy, bus-route consolidation, general pricing mechanism and applying Dutch principles of road safety like transport network planning and road classification. In the Northeast we are the fattest people in England and treating obesity costs many millions to the Northeast economy. The tab is picked up by the health system when an interdiscplinary approach is now needed: better urban design plays a big role in population-level inactivity. Climate change pressures on our society mean that business as usual is not a pathway to take. We must change the current trajectory by designing our cities for enabling everyday activity, taking cars off the road by offering real alternatives, building protected cycleways on main roads and creating much better walking conditions too. That way we will reduce the excessive obesity-related health bill and bring down carbon emissions by quite a few percentage points. What’s not to like?”
- Press release, including parents comments “Council will you please listen and help” http://newcycling.org/council-will-you-please-listen-and-help/
- What’s needed for cycling with children http://newcycling.org/cycling-with-children/
- A parent’s account http://newcycling.org/talk-at-jesmond-library-jesmond-2025/
- Census 2011 data http://www.slideshare.net/Katsdekker/katja-leyendecker-cycle-city-newcastle-conference-cyclecitynewcastlejune2015
- Obesity http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/englands-fattest-areas-revealed-in-shocking-data-that-shows-more-than-threequarters-of-people-in-some-areas-are-overweight-or-obese-9107487.html
- Census 2011, car-commute graph