Heavy traffic congestion around schools at drop off and pick up times is a frustrating reality for many families but a new plan by Waverley Council aims to address that headache – and improve health for children. The Safer Walking Routes to School program will make getting to school without the car safer and easier, and encourage parents and children to choose walking, scootering or riding to school.
It’s the brainchild of Waverley Mayor Paula Masselos and will mean installing crossings and improving footpaths, lighting and other infrastructure and safety upgrades within a 1km radius of each local school.
Mayor Masselos said rates of active travel to school among primary school children in Australia are among the lowest in OECD countries, with 22% of trips on foot and 2-3% on bicycles.
“Waverley is one of the most densely populated areas in Australia and the feedback I’ve received from students is that they don’t like walking to school because they don’t feel safe crossing busy main roads,” Mayor Masselos said.
“We’re particularly interested in input from the young people themselves so that they have ownership of the routes and are enthusiastic about using them.”
Initial consultation has taken place with Galilee Catholic Primary School, Bondi Public School, Bondi Beach Public School, Bronte Public School and Waverley College. Mayor Masselos said physical inactivity in children and youth is a national epidemic with one in four children aged 5-14 in Australia considered obese.
“With statistics like this, it’s really clear that we need to provide more opportunities for children to exercise,” Mayor Masselos said. “The research has also found that exercise helps increase concentration and school performance. So, walking or riding to school is a fantastic way to do that and that’s what this program aims to support – in a safe way.”
Waverley Council’s next steps will be consulting with parents and student councils in addition to wider community consultation before identifying the routes and determining improvements that can be made to streetscapes to encourage walking and cycling to school.