So why don't more children cycle to school? The ECF article identifies 3 things that the Netherlands has implemented that appear to be a recipe for success:
- Child education and training - school children get educated and have practical on-road training in safe cycling and walking on the road network
- Safe infrastructure - a cohesive and continuous network of cycle facilities that separate cyclists from traffic is essential to getting more children cycling to school
- Driver training and legal responsibility - driver training emphasises the responsibility of the driver to be aware of pedestrians and cyclists. If a child cyclists or pedestrian is hit by a car the legal responsibility is almost automatically placed on the car driver.
Infrastructure improvements will only address one of these constraints. Our urban structure will be difficult to address. Parental fear and laziness can be addressed through education and encouragement.
Unfortunately I believe that the shift of Grade 7 to high school will further reduce the number of children walking and cycling to school in Queensland as it impacts most severely on the first of these factors.
My two children (5 and 7 years old) have just started riding and we have had great fun cycling along the cycle paths in Brisbane and surrounds on weekends. But will they cycle to school? Probably not to primary school as the school is at the top of a big hill less than 600m walk from home. But if they wanted to I don't believe it would be feasible. The school is on a busy intersection with few safe cycle routes. I also have not seen any cycle parking at the school, although I have seen a couple of kids cycling.
For high school the prospects are better as our local high school is just off the SE Bikeway, as are we. Despite this the school has awful cycle parking that looks barely used. There is much that can be done to improve cycling for school children.
I suspect (and Jan Garrard would seem to agree) though that the most effective way to get more children cycling to school is to get their parents excited about cycling.