Why aren’t more kids cycling to school?

A recent article was published on The Conversation by Jan Garrard, Senior Lecturer, School of Health & Social Development at Deakin University, posing the question ‘why aren’t more kids cycling to school’.

Ms Garrard published some interesting statistics about how car use has changed over the past 40 years, claiming that in 1970, nearly all young people in Australia walked, cycled or took public transport to school or university (84%). Few travelled by car (16%). In 2011, almost every child is driven to school, with Melbourne data claiming cycling to school comprising only 2.6% of trips increasing to 4.6% when combined with walking.

Jan claims that whilst many parents would like their children to walk or cycle to school, there are several real or imagined worries that prevent them, from trip distance to traffic hazards, ‘stranger danger’ to the increase inconvenience of cycling compared to being driven. Safety concerns lead parents to keep children safe from cars by keeping them in cars. The article claims that long distances travelled with children in cars are equally as risky as short trips by bicycle, yet the two have very different perceptions.

Schools are trying to encourage active travel programs, and yet the number of children riding to school is actually declining. The author claims that urban environments that are appealing for cycling, and convenient, fast and safe for bicycle riders will lead to increased usage. When the children’s mothers, fathers, grandparents, teachers and friends are all using bicycles to get around, it will no doubt make the leap of faith for children to ride to school a little easier.

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