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Kids Cycle To School and Parents Risk Being Reported to Social Services

July 8, 2010

Almost a year ago we asked the question, When Should Tykes Be On Bikes?. Now in the UK the question is being asked, When Should Kids be Allowed to Ride to School — Alone?

For one London couple, Oliver and Gillian Schönrock, they decided it was OK for their eight year daughter and five year son to ride the 1.2km (0.75 miles) to their school along the footpath. But the Head of school has apparently told them unless they ride with the kids to and fro, then the parents may be reported to UK Social Services for putting their children in harms way.

How old were you when you first journeyed to school alone? How old were your children?

I was probably eight when I had to walk my little five year brother the 1.8km (1.1 miles) to primary school. We grew up in a country town and nearly everyone walked or rode their bikes to school, except those kids who lived out of town. And they came by bus. We, and out school mates, were only driven to school in the event of very torrential downpours.

Stranger Danger?
Has ‘Stranger Danger’ increased in the past few decades? I think not. I still remember very clearly, as very young child, my parents taking us to the movies to see a short feature about what happens when you accept sweets from strange men in the park.

Might kids get hurt by a collision with a motor vehicle? Yes. But ironically the danger increases as more and more parents drive their children to school. For instance, in Australia, at least 20% of morning peak traffic results from children being driven to school by parents, even though approximately 77% of Australian families live within 5km of school. One study found that between 1971 and 2003 the proportion of children taking the car to and from school in Sydney has more than tripled.

Cars: A False Sense of Security?
But has all this car transporting made kids any safer? Maybe not. Pedestrian injury is the leading cause of child injury death in Australia, (one fatality almost every week, and for each child who dies as a pedestrian, 25 other children will be admitted to hospital with injuries).

In the UK, Bike For All have a similar story. “Cars can give a false sense of security. 179 children were killed in road accidents in 2002. Of these, 22 were cyclists and 78 were car passengers.”

Yet in Denmark, where now over three quarters of children ‘actively’ commute to school (ie, walking or cycling), child pedestrian and cyclist fatalities in 2001, reduced to one eighth and one sixth respectively, compared to 1981 rates.

The more kids out there cycling, the safer they are, it seems. And that goes for adults as well.

Two mothers debate the issue of child safety and biking to school, whilst London’s Mayor, Boris Johnson, also weighs in with his views on “the glutinous tide of political correctness,” and “this age of air-bagged, mollycoddled, infantilised over-regulation.” (we guess you’ll work out who he supports!) Via ABC.


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