Sustrans calls for safer streets for kids; parents say road threat bigger than stranger danger

Riding or walking to school could be a lot safer, says active travel charity Sustrans, citing the results of a new survey that shows 41 percent of parents say their kids have been involved in some sort of ‘near miss’ while walking or cycling to or from school.

Sustrans today launched its Campaign for Safer Streets. The charity is urging parents to write to their local MP to demand every child be given the right to a safe journey to school.

Safe routes to school has long been a plank of Sustrans’s campaigning platform. Schoolchildren are among the most vulnerable road users, and enabling them to ride or walk to school safely has huge benefits in maintaining their fitness and helping them develop resourcefulness and independence.

The number of children killed or injured on the roads has dropped substantially in recent years, but some commentators have pointed out that this has been at the expense of children’s mobility. If kids are not walking or riding, they’re less likely to get hurt, but the resulting lack of activity contributes to the problem of childhood obesity.

In a survey conducted by YouGov for Sustrans, parents of 5-11 years olds were asked about unsafe roads and unsafe driving that had resulted in a ‘near-miss’ between their child and a vehicle on the way to or from school. Of the parents surveyed:

  • 18% said their child had experienced a vehicle not stopping or stopping too late at a pedestrian crossing
  • 13% said their child had experienced a speeding vehicle nearly hitting them while crossing the road
  • 5% said their child had been hit by a vehicle while walking

Parents are more concerned about road danger than ‘stranger danger’, the survey discovered. Forty-four percent were most concerned about their child crossing the road safely, compared to 28 per cent of parents most concerned about stranger danger.

Sustrans chief executive, Malcolm Shepherd said: “In 2012, 33 children were killed and more than 1800 were seriously injured while walking or cycling – if a whole classroom of children had been killed under other circumstances there would be public outcry.

“And there’s a simple solution in our hands. We must urgently make our roads safer for those children already making a healthy, active school run and also to encourage those who don’t feel safe enough to start walking or cycling.

“With today’s children the least physically active in history, and set to have shorter life expectancies than their parents because of this, shuttling kids to and from the school gate in the car is not the answer.

“Giving children the opportunity to walk, scoot of cycle the school run is vital to their health and wellbeing so making our roads safe enough that they can do this must be a top priority.

“Every child has the right to a safe journey to school; I urge the government to make this a reality – it’s a matter of life and death.”

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.