I Believe the Children Are the Future…

21 Jun

Are children the future of bicycling? According to Rutgers professor John Pucher, the anwer is yes.

Professor John Pucher has authored another installment of his bi-weekly chat with European Cyclists’ Foundation for his upcoming book,City Cycling. The book devotes a whole chapter to kids, and laments the fact that bicycling rates have fallen dramatically for kids in most countries.

According to Pucher, the downward trend can be explained by increased car ownership among parents, longer distances between home and school, increasing traffic danger, and parental fears about the personal safety of their children. “City Cycling” examines ways to reverse the downward trend in child cycling based on successful policies in some countries and cities.

In a recent interview with Velo City, Pucher notes that improving cycling safety, particularly on the trip to school, can help reverse this trend. Co-Editor of City Cycling, Ralph Buehler, noted that the Dutch are doing everything right when it comes to kids and cycling. The secrets to their success include:

  • The requirement that all Dutch children take in-class on-the-road lessons in safe cycling (and walking) by the 3rd or 4th grade
  • Proper infrastructure. “An extraordinarily well-designed, integrated, comprehensive network of cycling facilities separated from motor vehicles in the Netherlands provides safe routes for children to school as well as safe, convenient, and comfortable cycling for everyone,” said Buehler.
  • Driver training and licensing is rigorous and expensive, with a specific and explicit focus on the legal requirement to avoid endangering cyclists and pedestrians, especially children. In any crash involving child cyclists, motorists are virtually always found to be at fault and legally responsible for all damages. This creates cautious and considerate driving.

“City Cycling”appears in print in September but can already be ordered at a pre-publication discount ($18) at Amazon and Barnes and Noble

SAFE ROUTES TO SCHOOL: Part of the Solution

New Jersey’s Safe Routes to School (SRTS) is part of a nationwide effort to help solve these problems in the United States, and to make walking and bicycling to school safe and appealing. Greater Mercer TMA is working with schools and communities to help implement SRTS programs to examine conditions around schools and create activities to improve safety and accessibility, reduce traffic and air pollution around schools, and make bicycling and walking to school safer and more appealing, thus encouraging a healthy active lifestyle for kids.

SRTS programs bring a wide range of benefits to students and the community, including:

  • increasing the health, mobility, and independence of school-age children,
  • reducing congestion, air pollution and traffic conflicts around schools,
  • helping students arrive at school ready to learn, and
  • teaching safe pedestrian and bicyclist skills

GMTMA is the New Jersey Department of Transportation’s designated SRTS coordinator for Mercer and Ocean counties. At no cost, GMTMA can help your school and community implement a SRTS program by helping you with the following SRTS elements:

Travel Plans

  • Document existing conditions
  • Identify assets, barriers, goals and actions
  • Outline responsibilities and funding sources

Bike/Walk Events & Education Assistance

  • Walking School Buses
  • Bike Rodeos
  • Assemblies
  • Safety education and “How To” teaching materials

Evaluation and Monitoring

  • Establish baseline of existing conditions
  • Student arrival/departure counts
  • Parent/Caregiver surveys
  • Measure progress and adjust program as needed

SRTS Infrastructure Program

NJDOT offers local governments and schools a grant program for the planning and implementation of pe­destrian and bicycle infrastructure projects near schools. This is a highly competitive program and communities who participate in non-infrastructure programs and activities, such as SRTS Travel Plans, School Wellness programs and school walk/bike activities may receive extra points on their grant applications.

Want to learn more? Contact GMTMA’s Safe Routes to School Coordinator Rebecca Hersh at rhersh@gmtma.org.

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