Cycling to school story proves it has legs

Debate rages over the case of the Schonrock kids – but still no official complaint

by Martin Thomas   July 6, 2010  

Kid on a bike (Creative Commons Werner100359)

The debate over whether it’s safe to allow young children to cycle to school unsupervised continues to gather steam.

The case of the Schonrock kids – aged eight and five – has appeared all over the media following the news that their school, Alleyn's Junior School in Dulwich, south London, was considering reporting their parents to social services for letting them cycle to school on their own.

The story has appeared in much of the national print media and on the local BBC news programme.

Even David Cameron has expressed his support for the Schonrocks, according to the Daily Mail

Following the CTC’s comments to road.cc yesterday, Sustrans’ School Travel Director Paul Osborne told Bike Biz, “Parents have the right to decide how their children travel to school; they know the capabilities of their children and should be allowed to act accordingly. If others are unwilling to let their children walk or cycle, our streets clearly need to be made safer.


“The government is rightly concerned about the rise in obesity, traffic congestion, pollution and the stifled lifestyles of children; children should be encouraged to cycle to school, not prohibited.”

Kevin Clinton, head of road safety at RoSPA, told the Telegraph, "One of RoSPA’s key principles is that life should be as safe as necessary, not as safe as possible. We believe that children can develop valuable skills for life when they are given opportunities to get out and about to experience risks and learn how to cope with them.

"We encourage children to cycle and advise parents to ensure their children have had some formal cycle training before they are allowed to ride on and near roads unsupervised."

Meanwhile, back in the real world, Southwark Council confirmed to road.cc this afternoon that it has still not been officially approached about the case and the school continues to reserve comment.

6 user comments

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As long as the kids know what they are doing and their bikes are functional and maintained.

posted by Alankk [121 posts]
6th July 2010 - 15:10

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I'm conflicted about this one.

I'm not sure I'd let my two ride unsupervised, not because I don't trust them, but because I don't trust the drivers around them.

--
"Tant que je respire, j'attaque!"

John_the_Monkey's picture

posted by John_the_Monkey [416 posts]
7th July 2010 - 8:13

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I feel the same way JTM. I think the nub of it for me is that it should be the parents' choice and nothing to do with the local authority. Of course it hasn't actually been reported to the local authority yet...

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posted by Martin Thomas [566 posts]
7th July 2010 - 8:19

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It's the parents choice... hmmm, think I agree but... so is 'discipline' and 'punishment' and we know where that leads sometimes.

So I guess there is a balance in here somewhere and that there is a role for schools. But firstly the role of the school should be in supporting people who chose to ride to school in the first instance and then working with the parents to ensure that the route is safe. That would be progressive wouldn't it? Otherwise it's the same old bullsh*t knee-jerk that schools are particularly good at. Of course the same school will be expecting those parents to do lots of unpaid fund raising as well!!!

The culture of referral is really quite bad. I have a friend who is a social worker and her husband a teacher (so really irresponsible then) who continually get referred to social services for letting their 14yr old son with mild autism take the bus to school by himself because he got 'lost' and was late once. Lost, with a cell phone mind you which he called his mum on... so not really lost then.

Also should be legislation that allows children to ride on footpaths legally - at the moment it's illegal but you can't be prosecuted before you are 16, go figure! This can't make it any easier for schools can it, if they are seen to be condoning 'breaking the law'?

Multiple rants concluded...

A

alotronic's picture

posted by alotronic [242 posts]
7th July 2010 - 10:14

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much better to drive them to school in a nice and safe four wheel drive...... Thinking

I cycle my six year old two miles to scholl every day and I'd be fairly confident wh could do it alone pretty soon. my only worry would be the two busy road crossings, both of which have pelican crossing though...

At some poin twe have to let kids start to grow up and take responsibility for themselves, it just seems large organisations are fearful of prosecution these days.

ALotronioc makes an excellent point regarding legistlation, we break teh law every day by cycling on the pavement. Admittedly it's a very wide pavement and only a short distance, but shared pedestrian/bike routes would make life a lot safer.

Speaking of shared routes, we live in Bournemouth and yesterday my wife was cycling along the prom with my youngest two in the trailer when she was stopped by a council worker and two police officers. She was told she was breaking concil bylaws and faced a fine of up tp £500. I can understand to some extent the ban that exists on the prom during July & August but it was the middle of teh day, there was no-one on the beach. By using a safe and traffic free route she had teh confidence leave the car at home and take the kids out all day without haveing rely on teh car. Then to add insult to injury when she was forced back onto the road she was nearly squashed by one of those damn sightseeing buses!

Sorry rant over!

Carpe Diem ab absentis: seize the day off

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posted by Coodsta [95 posts]
7th July 2010 - 12:22

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At age 8 I was responsible for getting my younger siblings to school about a mile away, and had been for a couple of years. I'm not sure whether I would do it where I live now but I have no problem with a parent assessing that risk and deciding it was safe enough. Far better that they have some independence and learn not to view the world from the confines of a child seat in a car. After all its the car that is creating most of the danger that exists - if you like "get rid of the car instead"

posted by slugbike [4 posts]
7th July 2010 - 13:29

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