Streets safe for children

Sustrans have launched a new strategy, Free Range Kids. They write

As the clocks go back and children make their winter journeys to and from school in darker conditions, the need for safer roads is more urgent. Miranda Krestovnikoff, Ambassador for Sustrans’ Free Range Kids Campaign, says; ‘Britain’s approach to road safety is deeply flawed. Dressing our children in high-visibility clothes from head to toe does not tackle the source of the danger. What we need is to reduce traffic speeds in residential and urban areas to 20mph, and invest far more in creating safe walking and cycling routes, to school and beyond. If we don’t then our children will be denied the freedom we so enjoyed when we were kids, and miss out on so much that makes childhood special.’

Sustrans – and their ambassador Miranda Krestovnikoff – have it absolutely right. We should address the source of the danger on our streets, and not apply sticking-plaster solutions to the people who are exposed to that danger. Simply mitigating against inattentive driving is an incredibly short-sighted way of going about achieving ‘safety’, especially when you consider the consequences for the well-being of children

Keeping children from walking and cycling is having a detrimental effect on their health and wellbeing. Thirty years ago 80 per cent of seven to eight year olds walked or cycled to school on their own. That figure has since been reversed, with 80 per cent of children of a similar age accompanied by an adult – increasingly in a car. As a result, children are less independent and less physically active.

Here are some children I spotted being escorted home from school in Brighton, a couple of weeks ago –

I think it’s desperately sad that, increasingly, British children can no longer be thought to be safe walking about on our streets without being plastered in reflective hi-visibility garments.

We need to make our streets safe for children.

This entry was posted in 20 mph limits, Road safety, Transport policy. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Streets safe for children

  1. Quite agree, this is one of the saddest things about current UK society. We are punishing our children because of our addiction to motor cars. Don’t get me started on the neglect of children caused by the CRB-checking nonsense! Studies have shown that UK children are pretty sad creatures: well, if you weren’t allowed outside without a chaperone, and if all the fun activities you used to enjoy had stopped, you’d be pretty sad.

    We don’t need increases in SAFETY: children can walk quite safely. They do fall over sometimes, but usually suffer minor grazes to knees and hands, and as they get older this problem disappears. Cycling is also an intrinsically safe activity, it doesn’t involve anything heavier than a human, and speeds are also within those that a human has evolved to cope with.

    We do need a reduction in DANGER. Our roads are very dangerous places to be, and are effectively imprisoning our children, preventing them from travelling to see friends, and removing many freedoms that children had only a generation or two ago. Cycling on these dangerous roads is not, statistically, particularly risky. But it certainly feels pretty scary, perhaps on a level with rock climbing or bungy-jumping for most people. That’s why most people don’t.

    Will the UK ever manage to get rehabilitation from the motor-car addiction we suffer from as a society?

  2. Simon E says:

    In the photo above the lights are on red. There is absolutely NO reason for any car driver to move while those children cross the road, making the hi-viz superfluous.

    Once again, it is about ‘blaming the victim’. I have no problem with campaigns asking cyclists to use lights at night but how often do you see campaigners implore: “Drivers: watch out for pedestrians and cyclists this Autumn”? I’m sure there will be Police ‘crackdowns’ on unlit cyclists while texting drivers flout the law (

  3. Frits B says:

    It’s not just the UK. Children’s TV in Belgium has a daily quiz for children with regard to traffic rules, mostly for children on bikes. The children invariably wear hi-viz jackets and helmets, even on narrow country lanes hardly wider than a Dutch cycle path where speeds are low anyway. This imprints them with the notion that such outfits make them safe.

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