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Greens want kids walking and cycling to school

I happened to be part way through writing a post about transport policy for the upcoming elections when the first policy announcement of this cycle appeared in my inbox. I aim to cover election policy from all major parties over the course of the year.

It’s not their full policy but the Greens say they will put invest $200 million to make it easier for kids to be able to walk and cycle to school.

The Green Party has announced $200 million of new investment in infrastructure so kids can cycle and walk to school safely and to ease congestion on New Zealand’s roads.

Launching the policy at Auckland’s Belmont Intermediate School this morning, Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei said the Safe Walking and Cycling to School plan would make our roads safer for everyone – cyclists, walkers and drivers – and improve the health and wellbeing of our kids.

“We will invest $50 million a year over four years to ensure kids can walk and cycle to school safe from traffic. This is a policy that’s good for our kids, good for motorists and good for the environment,” Mrs Turei said.

In 1989 half of New Zealand’s kids cycled or walked to school and only a third came by car. Today, these numbers have reversed. Each morning, Kiwis make a quarter of a million car trips just dropping kids at school.

“In a survey of parents that we conducted, 93% of parents who drive their kids to school said they would prefer for them to walk or cycle, but only if they knew it was safe. Our plan will help make walking and cycling to school safe by protecting kids from traffic,” Mrs Turei said.

“We need to turn around the decline in cycling and walking numbers. When kids walk, bike or ride their scooters to school, it’s good for their health and learning, it eases congestion, and it benefits the environment. We just need to make it safe.”

According to the New Zealand Transport Agency, safety is the main reason people have stopped walking and cycling to school.

Local authorities, in conjunction with schools, will be able to draw upon the $50 million a year ring-fenced fund for walking and cycling infrastructure to protect kids from traffic so they can travel safely to school.

This funding will be drawn from a total of $100 million a year in the National Land Transport Fund that the Green Party will ring-fence for walking and cycling.

Funding for walking and cycling is currently only about $15 million a year.

“The latest research shows that we can get up to $20 of gains for every dollar spent on walking and cycling. That’s a billion dollars of gains for each year’s $50 million investment,” Mrs Turei said.

“Our Safe Walking and Cycling to School plan is a smart way to get kids to school safely, and is a smarter spend than wasting money on low benefit projects.”

The full policy paper is here.

I think that regardless of political allegiance, getting more kids walking and cycling to school is a good thing. Currently information from the Ministry of Transports Household Travel Survey shows that for kids 5-12 only 2% ride a bike to school while that goes to only 4% for those 13-17. By contrast in the 5-12 category 58% are driven to school while in the 13-17 category around 41% arrive by car (some drive by then).

There would of course be quite a few challenges with a policy like this, just because the money is available it doesn’t mean that council (or AT in Auckland’s case) may actually use the money as far to often we hear stories of improvements to make it safer for kids around schools being declined due to it having the potential to disrupt the flow of traffic.

As mentioned at the start, we’ll be covering transport policy announcements of all parties.

Edit: I just noticed on twitter this from George Wood, this is a seriously concerning attitude

 

58 comments to Greens want kids walking and cycling to school

  • Fred

    Seems like a no-brainer policy. You just need to see how quiet the roads are during school holidays to realise how driving the little ones to school causes huge congestion.

  • The hard sell here is that parents have convinced themselves that dropping kids off at school means they’re safe.

    • Max

      True, but you can still support this (in fact it is hard not to), even if you – initially – approach it with a “that’s fine for them but I still won’t do it” angle. More safety for kids is hard to top as a feel good policy. In this case, it combines with being a highly sensible policy.

      • Bryce P

        Kids want to ride. Once they see mates riding to school, they will pester their parents to let them ride to school as well. The reverse of what the ‘helmet lady’ managed.

    • Ant

      Is the real reason for the rise in driving kids to school a lack in walking or cycling facilities? Seems more like a mixture of personal convenience and fear of ‘stranger danger’ being major motivators (which are a bit more embarrassing for parents to admit).

      I don’t think this policy will increase walking or cycling much, but at the very least the kids (and rest of the community) that do walk or cycle will be safer so still much smarter than many other transport projects.

      • Steve D

        Surely it’s more “personally convenient” to let your kids walk or ride on their own than for you to have to drive them.

      • Kevin Welsh

        I agree with Ant. Perceived fears seem to overrule any rational examination of reality. Growing up in a small town, everyone walked or bike to school. Getting dropped off by parents in the car was almost enough of a novelty to have kids lining the fence wondering what was going on. The college I attended for secondary school had a driveway lined with bicycle stands. Now? None. Even in small to medium sized towns, where safety is not an issue, parents are dropping their kids off school. I think it is as much to do with the current sedentary lifestyles many indulge themselves with as it is with safety. Bad habits need to be changed, exercise encouraged and it begins and ends with parents.

  • The Greens are going to have to do a lot better than throw money at the problem. As much as I support better pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, unless there is some vision (such as the Skypath for the Harbour Bridge), then this ‘policy’ is just political fluff-posturing and is ultimately meaningless.

    • Chris O

      I disagree Glenn. Increasing the amount of transport funding dedicated to walking and cycling is the most important thing that central government could do. And “cycleways safe enough you would be happy for your kids to ride along” seems like a pretty straightforward vision. How that money actually gets used at a local level is up to local authorities and schools, and some places are going to be more ambitious than others in what they build.

      • But that’s just my point. Just earmarking a chunk of cash isn’t good enough. For starters, there isn’t enough detail in the ‘what’, ‘where’ or even the ‘how’. Will the cycle way just be painted on the footpath? Are there to be x km of cycleway up to the school gate? What is the first major project? Is it just for Auckland? What about high speed roads in rural areas? There’s just no detail yet. The Greens seem to have established zero partnerships in regards to actually *implementing* change, they’re just declaring a money scramble in the hope that someone will take it and say “hey, I’ve got a solution.” They’ve got their policy strategy all back to front.

        • Max

          Glenn, you obviously aren’t a politician. Giving too much detail for any policy tends to only provide nitpickers with minor details to be hung up on. I agree with Chris O – this is an election policy announcement. The general gist and the soundbites ARE the most important for those.

          • Steve D

            > Local authorities, in conjunction with schools, will be able to draw upon the $50 million a year ring-fenced fund

            The central government’s providing the funding. The details like where cycle lanes will go, are up to schools and local authorities to agree on (and NZTA, since they’ll doubtless be administering the fund).

  • Funny, just yesterday I said to Kent that I wish one party would make an election pledge to fund cycling so we could get some real discussions going. Good stuff.

    Focussing on school access to begin with is a master stroke. The school rush is a big problem, cycling is a big part of the solution, and it avoids the ‘but I would never ride a bike myself’ angle because even the most conceited resident or ratepayer can see that kids will ride bikes and ithat they are a real good fit with mobility in the younger years.

    Meanwhile we get a while generation for whom riding is normal and expected.

  • Braw

    Matt, your point about pedestrian improvements near schools being declined because of the knock-on effects on traffic flow is an issue. This is a reply I received from an AT traffic engineer after I asked about decreasing pedestrian wait times outside my daughter’s school

    “The pedestrian waiting time on xxx Street is up to 90 seconds. Underground detectors detect the presence of traffic which extends the phasing time for traffic and triggers the 90 seconds maximum pedestrian waiting time. If there is no traffic then the traffic phase will be shorter and the pedestrian phase will be introduced earlier.”

    If there is one place where pedestrians should be given greater priority over those in cars it’s outside a school.

  • aa

    One of the worst safety issues is cars backing across footpaths (usually from behind high fences). My primary school aged kids have been verbally abused for using footpaths near their school by residents who think their car has right of way over the footpath.

    • Gary Young

      And there has been some discussion of this point on National Radio recently. I’m not sure why but many motorists seem unaware of the rules in this situation.

      The law is absolutely clear: pedestrians have right of way on a footpath passing across a driveway and cars must give way in all circumstances.

      The rule is breached so often that most car drivers are either oblivious or they are selfish, self-entitled or just arrogantly dismissive of people on foot.

  • shorty

    Hurray finally lets wind back the spending imbalance.
    But wait wheres the Greens coalition partners policy. The Helen government wasn’t exactly stellar for active transport. Has 6 years in opposition changed anything? Looking forward to seeing other parties policies and response to this announcement.

  • Richard C

    I am a part time care taker at a primary school and the problem we have is parents who park in the 2 minute drop off zone and then proceed to walk their child to the classroom or who park on yellow lines or over driveways. You say something to them and just get a filthy look. There is already a walking bus system in place for schools which works well IF you have parents willing to walk the kids but also not enough kids use it. If you have an increase in bike usage then schools will have to provide extra facilities to store them and at what cost. Current school budgets couldn’t afford to do it.

    • PS1

      Good strong sensible policy from the Greens! I bike to school with my kids. I would be happy to be a bike to school bus leader but only on safe seperated paths. ** At our school transport meeting, an example was given of a school who had Kid Concierges at the 2 minute kiss and go zone. And the Concierges (like school road patrol) would open the door for the child arriving at school and escort them to the class. Sending mum or dad on their way.

      • justintohugs

        I think i just gagged – about the concierges I mean

        • PS1

          Ha Ha my word choice was pretentious but i couldn’t think what they had called them. But basically it’s to keep cars moving . Just like the airport with a drop and go. Kids let the kids out and keep the cars keep moving. Simple.

    • dantheperson

      Schools have always provided bike racks. For those schools that have thrown some of them away in the last 20 years, what’s the cost of an extra couple racks?

  • Hamish Campbell

    As I pointed out to George, his conclusion is based on the faulty assumption that the Ports of Auckland figure has anything to do with the bigger picture.

    https://twitter.com/polemic/status/443822174722199552

    NZTA’s car registration statistics are easy to find (http://www.nzta.govt.nz/resources/motor-vehicle-registration-statistics/docs/2013.pdf). They show a 20% drop in total car registrations since 10 years ago. Even if we choose the GFC slump 2009 as a baseline, it’s still only up 50%.

    In other words, while car registrations are up 50% since 2009, they are yet to beat pre-GFC levels by a significant margin.

  • Ari

    Braw, I know that at school start/finish times many of the crossings near schools run longer than normal to facilitate crossing. It doesnt depend on the definition of priority and engineer KPI’s. Drivers going to work, or kids going to school. Who has greater priority from an economic standpoint? Getting to/from school quicker makes no difference to a child but does for a commuter. Politics aside, in a capitalist system, economic performance is king.

    Cycling to school is a perception issue. If you believe government propaganda, the roads are safer now than 30 years ago. But people only hear bad news so now we all think the streets are some warzone and that you need to drive around in a tank to keep your family safe. Unless you have fully grade separated cycleway from your house to the school, parents will still think it is too dangerous to let their kids walk/cycle to school. I think the Green policy is waste of time and probably money.

    I am well aware of the long term health benefits of investing in cycling, but I view this as a separate matter. And it does depend on what you are investing in. Technically speaking you get more bang for your buck if you spend $200m on meandering shared paths and cycle crossings for children. However, all that infrastructure is completely useless to serious commuter/recreational cyclists who want direct routes and proper on-road facilities.

    The Green policy will increase children cycling over several years, but is unlikely to see much benefit once children leave school. Therefore a waste of money.

    • Kent Lundberg

      Wow. The barriers to cycling and walking to school are NOT a perception issue. We have designed our local streets as swirling, sucky, pedestrian-free zones. 50kph on residential streets. No stop signs. No crosswalks. Overly wide intersections, with “refuges” and splitter islands. It’s a disaster out there. It’s embarrassing actually.

    • PS1

      It’s more than kids who will use seperated bike baths – it’s kids, adults, old people , walkers, dog owners. It’s all kinds of recreational users . And the amount of people using shared cycleways also depends on the road environment on the 70k road near me even grown men cycle on the footpath, because the roads not safe there. Car drivers are being asked to change their behaviour and mindset and accomodate other users. Cyclists need to compromise and change their behavior too – it may mean using shared spaces in certain situations to make it safe for all.

    • “Politics aside, in a capitalist system, economic performance is king” – Then we need to start talking about what is important to us as a society and whether the current approach is working. Denmark and the Netherlands have made another choice and dont seem to be going too bad economically.

      “Unless you have fully grade separated cycleway from your house to the school, parents will still think it is too dangerous to let their kids walk/cycle to school” – And that is exactly what the Greens are proposing. Look at page 7 of the policy.

      I have just been to the launch at Belmont Intermediate School on behalf of Cycle Action Auckland. The prinicipal told me that they will get 160-200 children a day cycling to school and the bike sheds were chocker block.

      Seeing the pupils mostly arriving by bicycle and walking really brought back memories of my school days. They looked so happy and proud of themselves and really keen to talk about their bikes. Many cycle together with their friends and I am sure get up to all kinds of adventures on the way.

      That is what childhood should be about, not being ferried around in a SUV. What economic value do we give that? Which column on the GDP balance sheet quantifies quality of childhood? Are we right to have taken that away from our children?

      The Dutch have the happiest children in the world, that sounds like a pretty good measure of success.

  • Gary Young

    “Current school budgets couldn’t afford to do it.”

    Then the funds must be made available; no ifs, no buts, no conditions. Bike sheds were once so commonplace at schools that they were taken for granted.

    If they have been removed over the years then they can just as easily be put back. And really, just how expensive are a few supports and a corrugated iron roof?

  • Braw

    Ari, it took me a long time to get AT to increase the time that the “green man” phase is on outside my daughter’s school and I kept getting knocked back with arguments about traffic flow even though, during school start and finish times, there are far more people crossing by foot than there are travelling through in cars. The issue is that traffic light systems are heavily weighted in favour of car drivers to the detriment of pedestrians. Your argument is too simplistic. Do we want to create environments that are people friendly or car friendly? I would have thought that most people would say that streets around schools should be more people friendly.

    • Max

      Also, traffic modelling is only just waking up to the fact that there is another type of traffic flow to be included and modelled and PRIORITISED other than cars. Way too many traffic modelling exercises are still about car convenience, or at best, about retaining the status quo for cars while improving other modes (which of course ends up in those other mode improvements being makeshift, and not nearly as convenient as they could be if they were actually given priority).

      The fact that our “school zones” are 40 km/h, for a limited time, and often for a limited area only – where best practice is 30 km/h (or lower), all day – shows where we still sit.

  • mfwic

    After a decade of graphic car crash ads on TV it might take more than a cycle lane or two to make parents think walking and cycling are safe. The irony was when people didn’t think the roads were unsafe we had lots of walking and cycling as well as car crashes, now we have less of all three. The second point is that kids don’t always go to the nearest school anymore just like you dont choose the job that is nearest your house. It is good to see the Greens getting their policy out early but if the main parties dont go into a coalition with them then it wont matter what they say. Labour might talk about working with them but remember how Helen Clarke took them for granted for 9 years, its not like the Greens would ever side with National on major issues so Labour can assume their support on confidence and supply and ignore them.

    • Sanctuary

      This. The media is soaked in crime and disaster porn. We cycled to school and biked to our mates and generally roamed far hither and yon as ferral 8-14 year olds. My Mum would kick us out of the house on a nice day in the expectation that we’d make our own fun in the neighborhood and come home at feeding time.

      But then my Mum wasn’t subject to back to back Miami/New York/Los Angeles CSI and she didn’t have the CI channel on Sky.

      Someone upthread says parents are reluctant to admit they drive their kids to school in case of stranger danger. I think most parents will happily admit to that as a reason. In our history, the terrible abduction and murder of Teresa Cormack in Napier in 1987 was a big turning point. the impact of a child rape and murder to a killer unknown was psychologically tremendous at the time. Defore then, no one really worried about their kids going off to school under their own steam afterwards, everything changed. Her killer, Jules Mikus, wasn’t caught until 2002 and no one in the land wanted their kids out alone with such a beast on the loose. It is the societal change brought about by Teresa Cormack that also needs to be addressed.

      • Neil

        Well put. Stranger danger is a far stronger reason than traffic safety. I know of families who drive their children along quiet suburban streets and their reason is stranger danger. Why walk a kid to the classroom door? There is no traffic in the school grounds. The Green policy would be a waste of money.

        • lefty

          1. Clearly not a waste of money, as prioritising more funds for cycling and walking infrastructure has a better return than spending those same funds on more roads and motorways.

          2. While some parents do helicopter-parent their kids, not all do.

          3. Those that do helicopter-parent can always cycle or walk with their kids instead of driving. Just because you provide walking and cycling infrastructure for kids doesn’t mean others can’t use it!

          4. Even if only 10% of the parents that currently drop their kids off were to change their behaviour, this would be a massive saving in terms of congestion around schools.

          Ignoring the thousands of kids and parents that WANT to be able to walk and cycle just because a few can’t properly evaluate the extremely small risk of something-bad-happening ™ is ludicrous.

          More funds for cycling and walking (rather than more roads) is good for everyone.

  • Ari

    Braw, Which school is this?

  • Ari

    I dont understand why the reply function never works… *SIGH*

    Kent, what you describe hasn’t exactly changed in the past few decades when more kids walked to school. I live in the same place I grew up and the road is no more dangerouse than when I walked to school as a child. All that has changed is parents perceptions that the roads are more dangerous when statistics show they arent. So I disagree. It is a perception issue but maybe not 100%. I dont disagree that we could do more to improve the roads such as reducing speed limits on residential roads and designing them for people instead of cars.

  • mfwic

    Putting up the driving age probably didn’t help. I rode a motorbike to school when I was 15 and 16 then drove my old car when I was 17. We drive our kids then drive back home where we work. That requires two trips not one.

    • But you arent really suggesting that children would be safer if they drove a motorbike than ride a cycle to school are you? Even a 17 year old driving a car would have worse safety stats than one on a bike.

      • mfwic

        Hell no. Motorbikes are not safe and I would discourage my kids from it. I was young and stupid. But my point is simply if they drive themselves that is one trip each way. If their parent drives them then it is a trip there, then another to where the parent needs to be. The government likes big secondary schools as they cost less overall. That makes walking an option for some but not all. By contrast most suburbs have a primary school so walking is so much more convenient. When our kids were too small to walk on their own one of us walked with them and home again. Of course if you live in the central city that might not be an option and maybe you would have to drive them.

  • Benidorm

    Hey Ari,
    “Who has greater priority from an economic standpoint? Getting to/from school quicker makes no difference to a child but does for a commuter. Politics aside, in a capitalist system, economic performance is king.” Even though I think there is more to a capitalist system than economic performance, even by this measure there are still solid reasons why you should invest in solid cycling infrastructure that enables kids to cycle to school.
    If the kids are cycling and not being driven to work you get a double whammy of improved economic performance:
    + Reduced commute times for parents who previously had to divert via the school
    + Some parents no longer having to make a car trip at peak times at all = overall reduction in number of peak time trips = reduced commute times for everyone else

  • john smith

    George Wood: ‘Where will these cars be accommodated?’

    Hopefully, in people’s garages.

    There is not perfect correlation between car ownership and car use. Other rich countries and cities have similar rates of car ownership, but less car use, because they have better public transport etc.

    I don’t mind if people buy cars as much as they like if that’s how they want to spend their money. Public policy should still aim to encourage other modes of transport where that gives better social and economic outcomes.

    • Exactly right – The Dutch own more cars per capita than the UK but drive much less.

      A car is just another transport tool – and like a tool it is good for some situations and not for others. Transporting large numbers of people at peak times by SOV is like hammering in a nail with a screwdriver.

      • Sailor Boy

        You don’t even want to know how many times I have had to actually hammer a nail with a screwdriver. It sucks. Just like getting dropped off at school instead of riding

  • Bryan

    Convenience is a factor. A lot of parents drop their kids off on the way to work (not me!). I walked 10 minutes to primary schhol, then 20 minutes to intermediate school, and finally 45 minutes to high school. But that was before “stranger danger” was invented/discovered.

    • Sailor Boy

      I rode 20 minutes to primary and intermediate and walked 45 to secondary school all well after stranger danger was invented and all alone or occasionally with school friends. However this in purely anecdotal tripe to distract from a discussion about infrastructure. The most important psrt of my anecdote is that at primarye I had the choice of a gravel road where traffic struggled to manage 30 and I probably only saw one car a week or a main road with big shoulders in a town where more than half of the school kids rode to school. At intermediate I had a couple of quiet streets and a path through a park or a cycleway in the rail corridor.

      At high school I had East Coast Road and every other kid chauffeured in a tank to deal with. Guess why I chose to walk despite it taking three times longer.

  • mfwic

    $50million per year for four years is a respectable pile of cash. Perhaps the best way to get people cycling is to buy every kid a free bike. The census says there are 573,588 people aged 5 to 14. If a bike is $300 then thats $172million leaving $28million to waste of TV adverts telling people they really should walk or cycle.

    • mfwic

      sorry I forgot to mention that as two wheels are inherently unsafe the health and safety people will require every bike to have a minimum of five wheels.

    • Actually, ina reversal of the car situation, owning bikes is not the issue. NZers own a LOT of bikes. It is convincing them to use them in a transport context that is difficult.

    • Sailor Boy

      Except that the majority of children in nz have access to a bike. They just don’t want to be murdered on the way to school

  • Ari

    Kent, my point still stands, the stats indicate safer roads. So it is a perception issue, not a reality.

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