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Island Bay children get safer walking school route

Island Bay children will soon find it easier to walk to school safely using specially devised routes that clearly show the safest places to cross.

The five routes - developed as a pilot by Wellington City Council in consultation with Island Bay School, St Francis De Sales School, the community, public health representatives, cycling lobby group Cycle Aware and police - are the first of many Safer Routes to School now being planned suburb by suburb as part of the SaferRoads project.

New signs - including some at child height - are going up this week to complete the new routes which will be officially launched on Thursday 7 October (or Friday 8 October if Thursday's wet). The launch has been timed to coincide with International Walk to School Week and children are being encouraged to walk to and from school to try out the routes.

To help celebrate, Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast will be in the Island Bay School hall at 2.30pm on Thursday to give a few words of encouragement and chat with parents and students. The city's zebra road safety mascots Zanda and Zeena will be at the school gates before and after school giving out stickers and hugs.

Wellington City Council's Road Safety Coordinator, Kate Brockett, says both schools are already reporting an increased awareness of road safety and improved driver and pedestrian behaviour as a result of the Safer Routes to School programme.

"The programme identifies hazards and problems children may face on the way to school," she says. "Teachers, parents, police, traffic engineers, the wider community and the children themselves then work together to find road safety solutions - a mix of education, engineering and enforcement. The aims are to reduce the daily traffic chaos outside school gates and make it safer for children to walk to and from school and get some exercise."

Over the last six months alterations have been made to roads and intersections in the area as part of the Safer Routes project.
The model for Safer Routes to School began in Denmark 20 years ago when the country had the worst child pedestrian accident rates in Europe and has since been widely used in the United Kingdom and Australia. Similar schemes have also been developed more recently in other parts of New Zealand including Auckland and Christchurch.

Cr Celia Wade-Brown has been closely involved in the project, encouraging staff and the general public. On behalf of Living Streets Aoteroa, in 2001, before re-election to Council, she made submissions to the Annual Plan requesting support for Safer Routes to SChool and Walking School Buses. Both programmes now exist at several Wellington schools thanks to the allocated budget and the enthusiasm of the co-ordinators.

It's taken a long time to make get these programmes accepted at Council. I believe we now have a new approach to Road Safety around schools that fully integrates engineering, education and enforcement, together with Encouragement which is the most important aspect. Safer Routes to School is an integral part of the SaferRoads $21m project.

Once a fortnight, Celia leads a Walking School Bus for younger children in Island Bay.

© Scoop Media

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