Kerre McIvor

Kerre McIvor is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Kerre McIvor: Safe kids without the car

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The walking school bus ensures children get to school safely, so why not create bike convoys? Photo / Martin Sykes
The walking school bus ensures children get to school safely, so why not create bike convoys? Photo / Martin Sykes

I can still remember the freedom that came with being given my first bike. Once I'd mastered the art of staying on the thing, it was pure bliss to be able to go where I wanted, when I wanted - within reason.

My friends and I would disappear for the entire day, a picnic lunch packed in our saddle bags, and our parents would never worry about where we'd gone and where we'd been.

They certainly weren't concerned about us going to school on our own. I lived close enough to my primary and intermediate schools that I could walk every day, but when I moved to Hamilton for secondary school, I lived across the other side of town from Sacred Heart Girls' College. No matter.

My friends and I would meet and cycle across town, talking all the way there and all the way back. It didn't matter about the weather and it didn't matter that most of us came a cropper at least once a year.

But just over a decade later, when I was the mother of a school-age child, there was no way I was going to let my girl go off to school on her own.

Her dad or I would walk her to the gate and collect her on the way home. Later, when she went to intermediate school and college, I'd drop her off and pick her up by car.

I have no idea why there was such a seismic change in the psyche of parents because it wasn't just me. I certainly wasn't the only parent waiting at the school gates.

Perhaps it was the Theresa Cormack abduction and murder that so horrified New Zealanders in 1987 that made us want to keep a closer eye on our kids.

Maybe it was that more of us were two car families. Maybe it was that as working parents, we wanted to spend as much time as we possibly could with our kids. Whatever.

All I know is that it just didn't feel right waving my daughter off to school from the front door and not giving her a second thought until she walked back through the door at the end of the school day.

The Greens would like to make biking and walking to school the norm again and have promised that should they become part of the next government, they will spend $200 million over four years investing in cycling and walking infrastructure around schools.

"Two wheels good; four wheels bad" is the Greens adapted Orwellian mantra and, to be fair, it's not a bad one when it comes to getting to and from schools.

But I'm not sure the Greens need to spend millions creating safe corridors around schools.

The "walking school bus" operates brilliantly in my area where parents of kids at the local schools take it in turns to walk kids to school, picking children up from their homes along the route, ultimately looking like Pied Pipers by the time they reach the school gates.

Surely the same could be done with keen cyclists at local schools - parents at the front and back of a cycling group of students, ensuring safety in numbers as they pedal to school.

Parents aren't averse to the idea of their kids getting to school under their own steam - they just want to do the best they can to keep them safe, be that from sexual predators or careless motorists.

Big Brother's a bit myopic

Those fretful souls who worry about satellite spy networks watching and recording their every move must be resting a lot easier in their beds right now. After all, if the combined resources of just about every nation on the planet, involving satellites, sonar, radar and intelligence-gathering bureaux cannot find a whopping great Boeing 777 with 230 people on board, I don't think any of us need worry that the minutiae of our lives is being monitored at all times.

- Herald on Sunday

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