Amelia Wade is a court reporter for the New Zealand Herald

All aboard the walking bus

Dressing-up one of the tricks school uses to encourage more families to take part.
Kerry Sorensen-Tyrer with Toby Sorensen-Tyrer, Elijah McMillan, Dashiell McMillan, Sophie Strang, Hannah Strang, Olivia Strang, and Xavier McMillan, with his mum, Melinda McMillan. Photo / Greg Bowker
Kerry Sorensen-Tyrer with Toby Sorensen-Tyrer, Elijah McMillan, Dashiell McMillan, Sophie Strang, Hannah Strang, Olivia Strang, and Xavier McMillan, with his mum, Melinda McMillan. Photo / Greg Bowker

To entice kids on to her walking school bus, Kerry Sorensen-Tyrer sometimes dresses up as a pukeko.

The mother started giving up her mornings for the Glendowie School walking bus four years ago and last year took over as co-ordinator. She has noticed more parents are working and don't have time to walk their child to school or commit to one day a week supervising the walking bus.

The primary school has three walking routes, the longest 1.8km, but only one walking bus operates every day because of the lack of parents willing to commit to running it.

At the end of term 4 last year only 25-30 children participated out of 650 on the school roll.

"That's not so say there aren't others walking because some of the parents walk their kids to school and others are old enough to walk themselves," Mrs Sorensen-Tyrer said.

Last year, the walking bus tried a few incentives, including lunchtimes in the school pool and dress-ups.

The kids particularly like the pukeko suit Auckland Transport lends Mrs Sorensen-Tyrer through its Walking School Bus programme, and in the lead-up to Christmas, some volunteers wore elf ears.

"It's fun and it's healthy but what we try to say to the kids is that it's social as well.

"It also gets cars off the road rather than having all that traffic around school, which drives me mad," Mrs Sorensen-Tyrer said.

Auckland Transport's community and road safety manager, Karen Hay, said that through the Travel Wise programme, it provided improved infrastructure for walking and cycling, education support and road safety campaigns by engaging with the wider community.

The Back to School awareness campaign, supported by the police, is run at the start of each term to promote safe driving near schools.

There are more than 350 active walking school buses in Auckland, with over 4000 children and more than 1000 volunteer drivers.

A Ministry of Transport report released in November, "25 years of New Zealand Travel: New Zealand Household Travel 1989-2014", found that since the late 1980s the walking rate had fallen from 42 per cent to 29 per cent in 2010-2014, and more than half of primary school children's journeys were as car passengers (57 per cent).

Cycling to school saw a similar drop for secondary students - from 19 per cent to 3 per cent of journeys.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf03 at 26 Feb 2017 03:29:28 Processing Time: 669ms