11 August 2009

Car Free Zones Around Schools

The children of Denmark started back at school yesterday. My main man, Felix, started in first grade. It's normal at this time of year that political parties clear their throats and preen themselves after the summer holidays and recommence the battle for headlines.

This week has seen a flurry of proposals regarding traffic around schools. It has never been safer to cycle in Denmark as it is right now but the blossoming Culture of Fear in this country, spurred on by all-manner of scare campaigns, has created a sense of insecurity among parents.

Surprisingly, many of the political ideas and comments this week are quite positive and unusually clever. Mainly because the focus FINALLY is shifting towards tackling the problem. Automobile traffic.

10 August 2009
The Socialist People's Party [SF], the third largest party in the country, have a bold proposal. A so-called 'Safety Package' featuring a series of ideas. In Denmark we have a system where various traffic violations, apart from fines, cost you a clip off your driving licence. If you get three clips off your driving licence, you lose it.

The ideas:
- Separated bicycle lanes on all main roads approaching schools.
- A car-free zone, where possible, in a radius of roughly 200 metres around all schools. Where this isn't possible, a no-stopping zone around the schools during school hours. Violation of these laws results in a clip off your driving licence.
- A 20 km/h zone in a radius of 500 metres around all schools in Denmark. Break the speed limit at you get a clip off your driving licence.

It's all so simple. At the moment school zones have a speed limit of 40 km/h. Knocking 20 off of that would be brilliant. Parking 200 metres away from the school and walking the last stretch is hardly time-consuming.

As SF's MP Pia Olsen Dyhr says: "When parents start driving their kids to school, it causes the next wave of parents to do the same because it becomes dangerous for children to cycle or walk to school. It's a vicious circle that needs to be broken."

Getting support from the other parties in parliament is another story but the proposal is bold and welcome. Conservative MP Henriette Kjær doesn't fancy the idea much and thinks that children should be allowed to be dropped off in a car. Apparently she thinks 200 metres is a loooong way.

Social Democrat MP Magnus Heunicke fears the consquences of barriers for car traffic around schools.

"It'll make the daily lives of the many Danes who live close to schools chaotic", he says. He must still be on holiday in his brain. If you live CLOSE to schools you don't NEED to drive. Silly rabbit.

Global Warming Preventive Measures
11 August 2009
The Social Democrats want Fart Control around all schools. (Sorry. I couldn't resist. 'Fart kontrol' in Danish means 'speed enforcement'). Their proposal to put up speed cameras around schools, in order to force parents to slow down, doesn't look like it'll get much backing in parliament.

Ah, so that's why didn't they dissed SF's proposal the day before! They have their own little baby. But it's not realistic. It's a costly solution, paying for installing thousands of speed cameras.

The Conservative MP Henriette Kjær also thinks it's an expensive proposal. She thinks that counties and cities should improve bike lane infrastructure to schools instead.

Hang on, wasn't that what SF said yesterday? Don't you have ideas of your own, Henriette?

Magnus Heunicke from the Social Democrats says that parents driving their kids to school risk running their childrens' friends over. Yes, but he didn't like the lower speed limit and car-free zone proposals yesterday, which is much cheaper to implement than speed cameras.

Ah, politicians. Anyway, at the end of the day it's refreshing to see some positive ideas brought to the table. At our school we have trouble finding bike parking but there are many other schools where cars are a problem. Actually, the number of children dropped off at school in cars has increased by 200% since 1990 so there it is a pressing issue.

To wrap up, there was a rather sharp headline elsewhere yesterday, this time from the Road Safety Council.

"Parents are a threat to schoolchildren."
"Parent motorists don't often take care enough when driving to school", says the Road Safety Council. "They just worry about dropping off their own child safely. You don't learn much about traffic sitting on the back seat of a car."

Anyway, that's a little round-up of traffic proposals in Denmark. As we've written about before, most kindergartens in Japan don't allow children to be dropped off by car, which encourages cycling.

As ever, let's be inspired by the Dutch and see how they get to school, via David Hembrow:

Via: DR.


awesomesaurus rex said...

FART KONTROL. My new Kraftwerk-inpired futurebike band.

anna said...

"Parents are a threat to schoolchildren."

I agree. Every day in Vienna I see parents that drop their kids off and pick them up by car. To that end, they illegally park on bike lanes and sidewalks. Sometimes I report them to the police (if there are a few), but I don't have the time to do that on a regular basis. Some people just don't get it otherwise. Talking to them doesn't help. Safety for kids is one issue, obesity and social contacts among pupils on their way home other ones.

SteveL said...

This is pretty profound. Not only are the parents endangering everyone walking or cycling to school, they get the kids used to a commute by car, and the parent carries on to work the same way.

In France we've seen some attempts to

block off the pavement to cars
and the road itself
but you still have to deal with the rest of the city's parking "issues".

Anonymous said...

I agree with you on pretty much everything when it comes to promoting cycling and reducing car traffic but I think you have misunderstood what Magnus Heunicke means. It is not about driving kids to school - he means that the daily life of those living close to schools gets more difficult as they can´t drive their cars to their homes when they have shopping, visiting relatives or whatever.

The best solution would be, of course, to get rid of the car and cycle instead! :D

kimharding said...

A Conservative Party that has no new ideas of its own and steals ideas from other parties? That sounds very similar to politics in the UK.

Do you also have politicians who like to make a big thing of riding a bike but have a car following behind to carry their briefcase and shoes?

Unfortunately parents in the UK consider 200m far to far for their children to walk to school and insist on driving the little darlings as close to the school gates as they can. Then wonder why it is that children in the UK are the fattest in Europe.

Adam said...

My partner is a teacher at a school in the UK. She is hearing more reports now of how children are having to be taught how to navigate roads safely now as they become so used to being transported around in the early ears in cars that they don't know how to get across roads without endangering themselves as they get older. She also recently took a class of young (4 and 5 yr olds) children out to learn about using a zebra crossing (where cars must stop to let pedestrians cross). They had real trouble teaching the children how to use it as no cars would stop. This is a pedestrian crossing next to a school too.

Expat On Denmark said...

Typical populistic rubbish from the Socialist People's Party! The infrastructure is crappy enough, without the added chaos of closing off traffic around schools. Yes, more cycling to school, but you know, because of the loony high taxes in Denmark, both parents have to work AND drop their kids off and pick them up, not only from schools but from kindergartens and nurseries. Just to make the time go round - I am sure that they would love to have the possibility of cycling if there only was the time!

Erik Sandblom said...

Expat, maybe people wouldn't need to work so much if they didn't spend so much money on cars, parking and gasoline. You only live once :)

Swedish Green Party wants carfree zones around schools
Anyway the Swedish Green Party has copied SF:s suggestion regarding carfree zones around schools. Here's a link to their page about it. Get ready for the helmet and hi-viz vest! (And all along I thought the idea was to increase safety...)

Mp: Klimat och cykling - minskad klimatpåverkan och friskare människor

Ecoprofile: Mp: Inför bilfri zon runt alla skolor!

Daily Mail: How children lost the right to roam in four generations

Science Daily: Children Now Enjoy More Freedom At Home, But Are More Restricted Outside The Home