Mindset needs to change
The accident involving three children and a car was that – an accident and most likely a freak one at that. I feel for both the parents of the children hit AND the driver of the car who was well below the 50km/h speed limit and all eyes out watching the road space.
But for the police to make a stupid comment about children and supervision in relation to the accident was just that – stupid.
My old Geography lecturer (well one of a few I had) from the University of Auckland outlines a few things:
Robin Kearns: Child-friendly city would let us ease up on cotton wool5:00 AM Tuesday Feb 17, 2015
Last week a driver – a parent herself – sadly missed seeing three children step out to cross the road. Their subsequent injuries were unquestionably tragic. I feel for them, their families and the driver.
But an additional sadness is revealed by the comment by one of the police officers responding to the crash. They said it was “unacceptable” for young children to be walking to school without adult supervision.
My question is: unacceptable to whom? Was this a personal opinion or that of the police? Regardless, this view adds to an informal policing of parents at large; an urging to chaperone children at all times.
But whose city is this? Does Auckland belong only to adults and motorists? Perhaps we all need to slow down and reconsider our priorities.
A more child-friendly city is a slower city that promotes walking and public transport. A child-friendly city benefits everyone. In our research, children persistently say they want a city with less traffic. Children are natural walkers until it is driven out of them by parental paranoia. Being chauffeured may alleviate parental anxieties and prevent relatively rare and tragic accidents. But persistent chauffeuring interferes with children’s environmental learning, reduces physical activity and robs them of independence.
Children may not yet be taxpayers but they are citizens. It is time to listen to their views before deeming their independent travel “unacceptable”.
Robin Kearns is professor of geography at the University of Auckland.
Being taxied round to and from school actually adds to the danger everyone else faces including pedestrians young and old.
The larger point being is that our planning has been far too long focused on the elites driving four-wheeled metal boxes and treat is “right” rather than privilege.
The difference being “Right” treats the environment as ME and damn everyone else while “Privilege” treats the environment as sharing with everyone else equally – on the road space.
Planning needs to get back to a pro people city where all people are treated equally while getting around whether by car, walking, cycle or public transport. It does not mean you access to the car nor travelling by car is going to be taken away. But it does mean car users do not have sole unfettered right nor use of our road corridors either.
Just remember that….