High Fuel Costs may Encourage more Walking or Cycling to School
We all grumble these days as we're filling our petrol tanks, with fuel prices rising to an all time high. When fuel prices go up, people often think twice about getting in their cars, especially for short trips. Cycling or walking to work or to run errands saves time and money, adds exercise into your daily routine, and helps reduce pollution. With the high cost of the school runs, more and more parents are thinking it's time to pump up those bike tires and buy that new pair of walking shoes to get their children to school. AA Ireland estimates that the average cost of running a small family car with an engine size of 1251-1500cc is now €11,817 annually and back to school costs are estimated by parents at €487 for primary school children and €620 for those attending secondary school.
Getting to school by walking, cycling or public transport is a real healthy and cheaper alternative for loads of us. Many parents will remember walking or cycling to school when they were kids.
The latest research shows that over half of schoolchildren live no more than a 20-30 minute walk (2 km) from school and almost 80% live within 5 km, again a reasonably short cycle for older schoolchildren. But less than 40% of schoolchildren now walk or cycle.
We all want our children to arrive safely at school and that's the reason many parents give for taking their kids to school in a car. But car school runs are making the roads more unsafe, which in turn makes even more parents think about taking a car on the school run. Can we break this vicious circle?
The journey to school is an ideal way for children to take part in regular physical activity, to interact with their peers, and to develop the road sense that children need as pedestrians and cyclists. Alternative modes of transport also improve children's alertness, with 90% of teachers surveyed across England & Wales saying that walking, cycling or using public transport increased pupils' concentration levels in class.
Schools will lessen their overall impact on the environment through reducing emissions and pollution, while promoting sustainable transport modes (walking, cycling, car pooling or public transport) will also improve pupils' safety, health and fitness.
Children and young people need at least 60 minutes of moderate physical activity. It is clear from the SLÁN and HBSC studies that most Irish adults and children are not active enough to be healthy. Which is another reason the Walk/ Cycle To School initiatives are so important.
Obesity is a major public health concern in Ireland (Department of Health and Children, 2005). The less active you are, the more you are at risk of being overweight. The 2007 SLÁN report showed that 38% of Irish people were overweight and another 23% were obese. One in five Irish children and teenagers is overweight or obese (Irish Universities Nutrition Alliance, 2008).
The benefits of walking or cycling to school:
Going to school by foot or bicycle is good for both you and your child because:
- the added exercise will improve their health, stamina and energy and reduce the risk of health problems
- it teaches them to travel independently
- more people walking and cycling means fewer cars on the road and therefore less pollution
- it can free you up to do other things (if you don't walk with them)
Noel Gibbons Road Safety Officer said "We are delighted to see more people taking to the road by foot or bike and we are appealing to them to make sure you are highly visible by wearing a reflective belt and bright clothes and if your cycling always wear a helmet on all journeys and obey the rules of the road.''
Back to School Safety Message
SEPTEMBER is back to school month which means that roads will be much more populated by young children travelling to and from school. With all the excitement and eagerness to be back in class, persons should remember that roads can be a dangerous place.
Motorists are being urged to take extra care when driving near schools around the county. Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council Cllr Cyril Burke is leading a road safety campaign, which seeks to remind all motorists to put child safety first when driving during the school morning and afternoon rush hour, and remind people road safety is everyone's responsibility.
"The first week of school is always a very busy time on our roads and I encourage all road users to be mindful that children will again be back making this daily journey," Cllr Burke said. "Children will be walking, cycling, on buses and being dropped off and picked up in cars, so motorists need to be alert to their safety and exercise the utmost caution."
"We also need to be mindful that there will be large numbers of little children attending school for the first time," he added. "Let's ensure this is a positive experience for them by slowing down and taking extra care whenever we are travelling near or past a school."
Mayo County Council's road safety officer Noel Gibbons also supports the campaign. He reiterated the Cathaoirleach's comments and added: "Slowing down around schools is vitally important no matter how much of a rush you may be in. All road users must obey speed limits, be patient, and make sure they park safely and legally when dropping off and collecting their children, and motorists are also asked to be extra careful when overtaking parked school transport vehicles."
Parents and guardians are being asked to make a real effort to demonstrate good road safety behaviour at all times as your child learns from your example. If your child walks or cycles to school, you are advised to take him on the route in advance and make sure he knows where he is going. If he travels by car or bus, make sure he knows how important it is to keep his seatbelt on at all times and remain seated until the vehicle is parked safely at the drop off point.
Cllr Burke also asked schools and teachers to help make road safety a priority this year by making road safety a key part of their lesson plans: "We would ask teachers to consider including a road safety lesson from the RSA's road safety resources in their classes. There's ‘Be Safe' for primary level, which includes the ‘Safe Cross Code' as well as ‘Seatbelt Sheriff' for first class and ‘Hi-Glo Silver' for second class. At secondary level there is a junior cycle resource called ‘Streetwise' and there is also a programme for transition year called ‘Your Road to Safety'."
Copies of the resources can be obtained by contacting the Road Safety Authority directly or Mayo County Council's road safety officer.