Rising numbers of parents driving children to and from schools are raising safety concerns across the region as congestion is forcing children to navigate risky streets while walking and scooting to school or to parked cars.
“The greater the pressure on streets and school entrances from parked cars, the higher the likelihood of injury to children,” says Porirua City Council’s Road Safety Coordinator, Mike George. “It’s an issue being faced by many schools, where parking issues and congestion around school entrances is common. We need to reduce the school car run both to promote safety and reduce emissions”.
While the problems vary between schools, at Porirua’s Papakowhai School the pinch point was safety at its main entrance in a small cul-de-sac, where intensive parking and visibility issues combined to make it unsafe when children cross.
For Papakowhai School’s Board of Trustees, the need for a solution was becoming increasingly apparent, with the realisation that a collaborative approach for this complex issue would bring the most success.
To address the situation a partnership was developed between the Greater Wellington Travel Choice team, Porirua City Council’s Safety Coordinator Mike George and Enviroschools’ Facilitator Amanda Dobson.
The outcome was a proactive multi-dimensional approach which combined mode shift - safe and active travel to school - with strong student-led signage, spread over two terms. In Term 1 the focus was on creating support for, and participation in, active travel.
An integrated package of activities was developed, directly involving students in active transport options through participating in the Movin’March walking and wheeling programme and holding a Wheels Day on their Bikes in Schools track.
Classroom activities exploring Active Travel Action and the broader context of travel, linking to the Enviroschools programme, also went ahead with the idea of encouraging families to change habits that impact negatively on the environment. It also supported students who are old enough, to independently walk or wheel to school and to understand the wider benefits of these choices.
The collaborative work culminated in a final action, footpath painting. Led by students to create a safer set-down and pick-up environment, the outcome was the use of footpath symbols painted by tamariki to encourage safety and deter students from unsafely crossing the road to get to parked vehicles.
“The safety plan has been a real success,” says Papakowhai Principal Mark Smith. “By participating in Movin’March, the school supported a parent-led walking school bus from nearby Countdown in Aotea to the school. There was a groundswell of support from parents, and Enviroschools Facilitator Amanda Dobson helped lead this initiative throughout Term 1. Some families continued beyond Movin’March because it was so successful. It is hoped the walking school bus will re-start again later in the school year.”