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Photo of the Day – The Walking School Bus

With some schools back today, perhaps we need some more of these.

Photo is credited to oh.yes.melbourne

47 comments to Photo of the Day – The Walking School Bus

  • Sigmund

    I’m not sure when things changed but what happened to kids just walking to school on their own, or with friends? I did when I was five and conditions remain the same, if not better, in my old hood. Invariably kids living further away would just pop into mates’ houses en route, gradually collecting more friends as they made their way to school. And at home time, the reverse. Is it really necessary to have parent-supervision of everything?

    • Helicopter parenting meets SUV overload.

    • Molly Woppy

      I never used the walking school bus BUT I walked /modeled safe walking with my kids for several years. Perhaps you are OK with your five year old crossing a busy road where drivers habitually run red lights, but I was not. Both of my kids walk to school independently now (often sigh friends) and have done for several years.
      The walking school bus can be a great intermediate step for those who don’t have the time/inclination to model safe road skills. I know there are plenty of users at my son’s school and surely the fewer people driving, the better. Kids eventually reach the stage where they no longer “need”/want the “bus”. Raising competant, confident kids is surely the end result we all want.
      May I ask I question? Do you have a five year old child and would you really let him/her cross several busy roads without adult supervision?

      • Phil

        Quite right Molly. When I was a kid 11. I was walking home from Northcote Intermediate with a class mate on a wet Friday in Winter. As we approached the pedestrian crossing (by the supermarket) there was a crash. A car had slid in the wet and a concertina nose to tail accident involving 3 cars happened. (Look away now if you have a weak stomach).
        The next thing my mate started screaming as we saw that 2 little primary school kids had been hit crossing the pedestrian crossing. It was his younger twin brothers. When he ran to them he tried to pick one of his brothers up and half the childs skull came away. Not nice.
        So you cant blame the woman who was driving the car that killed both those little children. She had stopped for the crossing and as everyone said when defending the cyclist running the red a few weeks ago – accidents happen – so no point blaming the driver who actually started the crash. No doubt they crashed due to rain effected vision.
        Tragic events like this happen all the time – The Walking School Bus is an excellent initiative to reduce risks to children while encouraging walking.
        As an adult I cross against the lights all the time – like a cyclist – I feel the law doesn’t apply if I am careful, and look both ways. However when ever their are children around I always stop and wait for the lights in the hope that good habits rub off. Once again – The Walking School Bus does exactly the same.
        I hope all parents are like Molly and make the effort to walk and model safe walking with their kids.

        • Bryce P

          Rain effected vision? So they were going too fast then. Drive to the conditions. The driver who caused the crash (not the one whose car actually hit the kids) was at fault unless there was a mechanical failure or medical problem. Simple as that. Another good reason to reduce speed limits around residential areas and to create safe crossings where traffic volumes are high / speeds are high.

          As for walking school buses? They are a response to the environment adults have created.

          • Phil

            Bryce – conditions change very quickly. It was an awful day in Auckland as far as I remember and it is not hard to imagine that a car traveling even slowly in the heavy rain could run into a stopped car in front. That is a flaw in car design. If you stop and use the handbrake there rear tail lights are not illuminated. Are you going to tell me that it is easy to distinguish between a stopped silver or white car in heavy rain and one that is traveling slowly?
            Perhaps cars should be designed like race cars and have rain lights that you have to have on in the wet?
            As for walking school buses – cars and trucks enhance our lives by making life easier. They are hear to stay so just saying it is a response to the environment adults have created is a bit of a foolish statement. The children are a creation of the adults as well – Walking School Buses and good parenting skills like Molly describes are what allows transport and kids to exist together.

          • Bryce P

            All I’m saying is that other nations manage to create a more forgiving environment for all road users. As you’ve noted below, 30kmh limits are a good idea. There is a lot of evidence these work. I would encourage anyone to take a ride or drive along Glenfield Rd and look for crossing opportunities suitable for kids. That’s what i mean when i refer to environment. Trust me, I’m not trying to remove cars. I drive to work, 99% of the time outside of peak times.

          • Phil

            I love speed – I race cars! But there is a time and a place and urban environments, especially where there are high numbers of children, cyclists, old people etc are not a place to put the foot down.
            Glenfield Road must be an awful place to live if you have a family with small kids. There are a lot of cars on that road and as you say – not a lot of places you would want your kids crossing unsupervised.
            Its worse in Europe though. There are streets in London where cars are doing 80km/h and the only thing separating the traffic and the footpath is a single level of Armco.
            We need to find a better way to mix cars and people. There needs to be sensible consensus because the ultra left demand of removing cars is never going to happen and we also don’t want a continuation of the car drivers outbursts (we pay for the roads) vented recently after the cyclist died,
            Surely common sense dictates that some roads are going to be dominated by cars and trucks (Stanley Street as an example) and others should be quiet places where kids can cross (not play in) the roads safe in the knowledge any traffic will be moving slowly. Surely we can come up with a solution that doesn’t mean a choice between all roads being race tracks or cycle paths.

          • Bryce P

            I agree Phil. I love speed as well and have been involved in car clubs, I’m a mechanic by trade and just a few weeks ago, had a great few laps in a midget car. But yes, speed in appropriate places. I still think Stanley St needs a grade separated crossing, for pedestrians and bikes, at the base of Parnell Rise. With the volume and speed of motor vehicles this really is the only option that gives some piece of mind for all users.

        • “As an adult I cross against the lights all the time – like a cyclist – I feel the law doesn’t apply if I am careful, and look both ways.”

          Hang on – is this the same Phil who said on the CAA blog:

          “STOP TRYING TO JUSTIFY RED LIGHT RUNNING!!!!!

          Sorry for the caps but it needs to be said loud and clear that their is NO EXCUSE EVER for running a red light. Until the cyclist lobby takes this seriously they will never get the support of drivers.”

          http://caa.org.nz/general-news/the-problems-with-the-red-light-running-stats-from-auckland-transport/#comments

          So is this a different Phil or just hypocrisy?

          • Phil

            It’s Hypocrisy – You are being selective in your quotes. I also said I am guilty at times of going against the phase on my bike. I just don’t try and justify it or shift the blame on to anyone else.

          • Wow, that is some sophistic dancing on the head of a pin there.

            Have you ever considered a career in politics? Or spin doctor? You have all the skills.

          • Phil

            Have you seen The Wolf of Wall Street? Did I mention I work in trading :D

  • Angela

    When my kids school age id love to have them walk to school but there are two major roads to cross (one without any crossings ) would be very wary about this for a few years at least. Hopefully will be able to have my husband take on his bike or walk with him. I walked to school but was on quiet surburban toads with a walkway no busy roads.

    • Bryce P

      There is a reluctance to create any real fixes around school areas that might impede motor vehicles at all. And for some reason, AT is not keen on zebra crossings. My suggestion, fight for a crossing or do as we have done and move where the street design has made it safe for young and old alike to walk and bike. I gave up on the former as no one in AT seems to care unless it involves moving cars.

      • conan

        AT spent the holidays ‘fixing’ one of the street crossings at my children’s school but they couldn’t paint a crossing there. Apparently drivers wouldn’t see it and therefore it would be dangerous. Already the main crossing for this school is at a less than ideal position least drivers have to deal with a ‘complex’ placement

        • This argument drives me nuts! Traffic engineers saying pedestrian priority is more dangerous because drivers ‘don’t see it’. Well what kind of world have you idiots built then? What is the reason that we are supposed to accept that anything other than total driver right of way is invisible? One where we, as drivers, have been given nothing other than total right of way at all times to anything but another driver. Monomania is what that is.

          And how do we fix it? First by refusing to accept that this is the case. Let’s instead expect that we drive with our eyes open and do expect to give way to humans not only in cars. And of course the more we build that into our street and road design the more it is reinforced.

          • Loraxus

            Yep. Our current rules, in the name of safety, prevent infrastructure that would make us safer. Its looking at the immediate, and failing to miss the wider implications. It’s also a deathly fear of changing anything. If a driver hits someone now, they don’t feel responsible. If a driver hits someone on a pedestrian crossing they built, they worry they will be held accountable. When it’s still the driver who is responsible. AT has a culture of fear of the public, shown by the fact that they these days consult about everything, including removing individual car parks.

          • SteveC

            The solution to drivers “not seeing” pedestrian crossings is more crossings not less. A bit like the safety in numbers argument with cyclists, if there are more ped crossings drivers must become more aware of them and respond accordingly.

            The argument that crossings give peds a false sense of security must be overturned by greater awareness of crossings by drivers, which can be achieved through design, i.e. central refuges to neck down the carriageway and encourage drivers to slow. Many current crossings are too much like normal road with some paint.

      • Phil

        I don’t see any reason not to have a 30km limit around schools – no one is in that much of a hurry they can not slow down for kids. Put in speed cameras and fine people off the roads until they slow down in high risk urban areas. On the few roads where this is not practical then build bridges for the kids to cross over the roads in safety.

        • nonsense

          yes! no one is in that much of a hurry they can not slow down for kids

        • Sailor Boy

          Yes and make the apeed limit 24 7 too,children hang around schools all the time.

        • Yes absolutely – but why stop at school zones. Why not adopt the strategy being used in many cities (including soon in Christchurch and Wellington CBDs) and go for 30km/h zones over a much wider area?

          This has been standard operating procedure in Northern Europe for some time and now London is adopting the “20 (mph) is plenty philosophy” with great success.

          This would not include arterial roads only residential streets which already have low volumes and represent maybe 5-10% of a motorists total travel time. It would make a tiny impact on cars but the real winners would be pedestrians and cyclists, especially children.

          • Loraxus

            Our current school zones are (mostly) a disgrace. Reducing speed to 40 kph? That’s like giving a burn victim a wet towel instead of a modern bandage (20-30km/h zones).

            Then we make it worse by limiting the operation time to a few hours each day, so drivers don’t get int a habit to ALWAYS slow down.

            And even worse, some schools still only have the static signs without flashing warnings, and use ridiculous times, like this one – starting at 8:25am

            http://www.nzta.govt.nz/resources/roadcode/gfx/school-zone-2.gif

            Nothing exemplifies out car-crazy nature more than these signs!

          • Sailor Boy

            Have you heard of the Trojan Horse?

  • conan

    Easy to say that, but by far the biggest killer of young children in New Zealand is road accidents. So walking school buses are a logical addition to protecting young and vulnerable road users. Much better than plan b which is to drop the kids off at school to save them from the danger and then run someone else’s kids on the way.

    • conan

      That was in response to Sigmund’s comment above.

      • Sigmund

        So, actually, your “fact” about the biggest killer of children is wrong. And you manage to lump fatalities while riding in a car to being hit as a pedestrian, which remains very rare. My old area has had several improvements since I was a kid and I managed. In fact, in the 8 years I attended my primary school, there wasn’t a single pedestrian fatality (though our religious studies teacher did keel over getting back into her car – does that count?).

        • conan

          You looked at the chart referenced below didn’t you? Only in the 20-24 year age bracket is transport not the leading single cause of death.

          Children dying is rare fullstop thankfully.

          “And you manage to lump fatalities while riding in a car to being hit as a pedestrian”

          I do, I did say road accidents.

          “In fact, in the 8 years I attended my primary school, there wasn’t a single pedestrian fatality”

          Glad to hear that. So the statistics are therefore wrong?

    • Greg N

      You sure about that statement about #1 killer of kids is road accidents?

      I’d say it was bad parenting/neglect not road accidents. I’d be certain more kids are killed by parental neglect/chil poverty or stuff happening at home like fires/matches/burns/falls/getting run over in the driveway/poisoning than “road accidents” – whether the kids are going to or from school or otherwise.

      Sure some parents don’t restrain their kids in the car and thus their kids or someone elses (they didn’t see) are injured/killed by “road accident” – but thats not usually due to said kids walking to/from school – more like being they are driven to/from school because ‘its safer than walking’.

      And to be clear, any kid who is killed on the road or otherwise is a tragedy for all or society.

      • Bryce P

        In the course of my job I spend a good amount of time on the road in STMS controlled areas. The number of kids that I see unrestrained in cars is astonishing. It is far higher than statistics would have you believe.

        • Phil

          I don’t doubt you Bryce :( The list of Kiwis ignoring simple road rules and safety laws seems endless. Drivers and cyclists running reds – cyclists refusing to wear lids – people not using restraining devices. NZ seems to be a nation of idiots when it comes to the roads :(

      • conan

        Yes I’m sure. Page 10 of this provides a breakdown of the causes of death in children.

        http://www.hqsc.govt.nz/assets/CYMRC/Publications/CYMRC-ninth-data-report-2008-2012.pdf

        “I’d be certain more kids are killed by parental neglect/chil poverty”

        Are these the same things? I doubt it.

        • Greg N

          Check your data conan.

          If you look at the data, the majority i.e. over half of deaths in that report (for any cause) are those 15 to 24 years old – most wouldn’t class the bulk of them as kids by any stripe.

          And in law by the time they’re 18 they are classed as adults legally (can vote, can be tried as an adult etc) and in most other ways too.

          So you can’t count most of those deaths as kids (as yes, they have a larger %age of death by transport causes than other groups, but we and NZTA/LTSA/Police know this and thats why they target this group specifically)..

          So 50% aren’t kids by any common definition..

          Regardless, if you subtract Intentional, Medical and SIDS from the breakdown causes of death, the remainder is “Unintentional” (and the missing data group where cause is not known) which if you assume Intentional is nearly all Road Deaths (which is not the case) then this is only about 25%-30% of the total for any age bracket.

          So, no no way are the “majority of kids killed in road accidents”.
          For most age groups “medical” is the majority/primary cause of death.

          Now you may say that well the kids got hurt in a car crash and then died in hospital so they were a “medical” death but thats a step too far as the data doesn’t support that conclusion.

          Also if you look at the death by age bracket sections, the deaths that are intentional make up 33% at best of the total causes for those age brackets under 15, and transport make up no more than half of that group when broken out further. See pages 20, 24 and 28 of that report for details by age group..

          So for any age group 33%/2 = ~17% of the total death is “transport” caused at best, some groups its lower (e.g..28 days to 1 year is very low)

          Even those 15-19 age group the death cause of “transport” is only 28.2% of the total – which is overshadowed by suicide at 31%.

      • Not sure about biggest killer but we are the third worst for child traffic deaths in the OECD, I believe behind Portugal and Greece.

        “New Zealand has the third-highest child road death toll in the OECD, they say in this month’s New Zealand Medical Journal.”
        http://www.stuff.co.nz/motoring/9644186/Car-restraint-age-must-rise

        That is a terrible statistic – when we had similar statistics for SIDS, NZ spent a lot of money and put out a strong message on the contributing factors – like condemning co-sleeping (especially where obesity, alcohol or drugs are involved), despite it being a cultural issue for Maori and Pacific Island communities in particular.

        Of course, similarly challenging NZers to question their assumptions around the safety of ferrying their children everywhere by car would not be tolerated. We have made the car such a central part of our lives that everything – including the safety of our most vulnerable – must take second place.

        • My BS radar went on when I saw this quote, and apparently I’m not the only one – see http://www.statschat.org.nz/2014/01/24/citation-needed/. This stat isn’t even directly quoted in the document concerned and appears to be based on crash data from ~15 years ago. Our road fatality rates for children have dropped to less than a third since then. For 2011 data we’re probably about 10th worst (NB: out of the 29 countries that mostly have the best road safety records in the world). But the rankings jump around from year to year because we’re talking about <20 fatals/year.

          It could definitely be better; the best countries still have a child traffic fatality rate half of ours (and most of the countries better than us routinely use 30km/h speed limits in busy urban areas). But let's not get too shrill about out-of-context safety stats.

  • Kent Lundberg

    It’s so basic. We need better traffic control devices- like stop signs, combined with tightened up intersections. http://transportblog.co.nz/2012/11/15/grids-gone-wild-episode-1/
    And while we’re at it, all-way stop sign controlled intersections. Oh the horror.

  • Ari

    In poorer areas, the kids mostly walk to school without any adult supervision. No such thing as walking school buses. 30kmph speed zones seem useless when school principals get stopped doing 70kmph outside their own schools.

  • Molly Woppy

    I really don’t get the hate for walking school buses. They are not compulsory, they are useful for many and they reduce driving. I take your point regarding the lack of crossings though.

    • Loraxus

      No hate – just worried about the fact that we have to corral, and marshall and guide and clothe in high-viz our kids for what should be a natural thing to do individually, one of the first things a kid gets to do for themselves, without adult supervision. Because our roads should be safe to do it.

      It’s a weak attempt to fight back. Not negative, but a symptom of a deeper malaise for me. I want my kids to be able to go to school without needing adults to guard them from death.

  • Ian Auld

    Yes! It’s so bizzare how residential areas, particularly those in higher density residential areas on the isthmus, have such poor pedestrian infrastructure, and seem to be built to allow cars to rat run between the main arterials as fast as they can. Epsom, Mt Eden, Sandringham, Mt Roskill etc are particularly bad for this. I think these areas should all be 30km zones with speed humps, sharrows to encouage cycling and stop signs and ped right of way at all intersections. This will not only make these environments safer, but also decrease the number of people rat running across quiet residential areas. Auckland is meant to be a city of villages, but for these “villages” to function properly people need to be able to walk and cycle from thier homes to their local shops, parks and schools safely.

    I was in Toronto earlier this year, and stayed with a friend in a downtown neighbourhood (Northcliffe Village) surrounded on all sides by major arterials (one of which had a streetcar on it). It was so easy to walk around and felt so much more like a neighbourhood than the equivalent suburb in Auckland. So much so that kids felt safe enough to take their hockey goal out into the middle of the street to play some street hockey. This is reinforced by the “children playing” signs (like this http://johnsmitchell.photoshelter.com/image/I0000faCXzEIOEvE), warning drivers to take care as there are likely to be children playing in the middle of the street – as this is accepted and encouraged. Cars only drive around these streets at a crawl. If you want to go somewhere, you walk to the main street and catch transit. As Auckland grows int a “proper” city, we need to ensure our residential neighbourhoods remai safe and atractive places for families to live.

    The safety for children walking and cycling around thier neighbourhood should be an equal (if not superior) priority to commute times for transport planning. This is the kind of thing that local boards should be prioritising.

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