A month from now, thousands of children across the UK will be marching for safer roads, as part of Brake’s Giant Walking Bus. The event encourages primary schools to educate kids on road safety, through running creative and practical activities, but more importantly it sends out a message about adults’ responsibilities in protecting kids on foot.
Children are arguably our most vulnerable and most important road users. ‘Most vulnerable’ because, however well we educate children on road safety, they can’t be expected to always make the right decisions to protect themselves: they must be safeguarded. ‘Most important’ firstly on the basis that a death or serious injury of a child on roads is utterly devastating and unacceptable in civilised society. And secondly because children’s ability to get out and about is critical to their development and health. It’s important for all of us, but children are especially likely to be prevented from walking and cycling by road danger, and it’s well evidenced that a lack of physical activity in childhood can bring about long-term health problems.
Last week, to mark the UN’s Global Road Safety Week, which focused on the theme of pedestrian safety, Brake and Hampson Hughes Solicitors released a survey of 500 primary schools gauging their views on road safety in their area. Although we know that schools are switched on to the importance of road safety, we were surprised that more than three in four (77%) are actively campaigning on the issue. Schools are also well aware of the importance of slowing traffic to protect kids: eight in 10 (81%) say they want a 20mph limit in their area; only 12% say they already have one.
To launch the findings, we teamed up with London Fields Primary
School in Hackney, and Hackney Council, in an area that is reaping the rewards of ‘GOing 20’, and safer streets for kids and adults. In recent years they have seen a range of road safety improvements, including a 20mph limit, crossings and cycle paths. Plus the Borough has made the switch to 20mph limits as the norm across most of its streets – so, critically, it’s not just a limited area immediately around the school that’s been improved. As I walked from the station to the school on the morning of the launch event, it was immediately apparent this is a place where people come first: it looked and felt pedestrian and cyclist friendly. And the school are clear about the great results it’s had: more kids walking and cycling.
We need more councils to follow the lead of Hackney and the many others around the country that are deciding to ‘GO 20′ across whole towns, boroughs, cities and villages, to help create safe havens for walking and cycling. We hope more will listen to the kids and schools marching for road safety next month in our Giant Walking Bus. It’s good for road safety, public health, the environment, and local economies. But perhaps most importantly it’s good for kids and the rest of us – enabling us to live active, happy lives.
Brake and Hampson Hughes’ survey of schools and launch event
Evidence on the impact of switching to 20mph limits
About Brake’s Giant Walking Bus for primary schools
Support the GO 20 campaign