Safe Independent Travel To School Needed To Give Children Hope
Children are heading back to school this week and many organisations including NZ School Speeds join other organisations to ask for safer routes for children travelling independently to school.
NZ School Speeds advocates for a maximum speed of 30km/h outside every school. Meanwhile the new Minister of Transport, Simeon Brown asked all councils to stop work on current speed management plans and “remove mandatory requirements for Road Controlling Authorities to implement speed management plans and remove deadlines for local Road Controlling Authorities to submit these plans by 29 March 2024.”
Brown’s message on his December media release was about roads being “faster and safer”. Lucinda Rees, spokesperson for NZ School Speeds thinks this is an irresponsible message, especially after all the previous research completed in Aotearoa. She also questions where he has sought advice about this.
With ‘Road to Zero’ the last government were in the process of putting safe speed limits in place to reduce road deaths and injuries, making roads safer for those using transport other than cars. Although road deaths in Aotearoa were down in 2023 from 372 to 341, action to date has still been insufficient with January 2024 deaths significantly higher than 2023 with most on the state highways with 100km/h speed limits. “Is this what we can expect from Simeon Browns’ faster and safer message?” asks Ms Rees
“To get to Road to Zero ministers consulted with experts and researched the latest data, as well as putting plans out for comment. Now the new Government is looking to throw away all the money spent, expertise sought and some progress made, to go back to where they were when last in Government. In those days road safety seemed to be a bad word and it looks to become the same again. They are petulantly playing with peoples lives.”
With increasing speed limits many are reluctant to use roads for walking and cycling due to safety fears. Children who cycle or walk learn about their local area and traffic conditions, which is more likely to make them better drivers when they to learn to drive. Studies have also found that this can help with wellbeing and they arrive at school refreshed, as well as helping with cognitive abilities. Lets not forget our world is burning and cars driven faster will just add fuel.
Children are at their most distracted outside schools, so we need consistent speed limits of 30km/h outside every school and safe routes for the journey, with roads at least 3km away from a school being no more than 60km/h. With the message from the Minister of Transport this seems an unlikely scenario, but the hope is that when he consults with roading professionals they will guide him in the right direction.
Children need to be given the opportunity to walk or cycle safely to school, wherever they may live. This will help with resilience and should give them hope for their future.