Auckland parents and some schools actively discourage children from walking and cycling to school due to a lack of safety infrastructure, AA surveys have found.
The findings – from surveys of AA Members and working directly with some central Auckland schools over the past two years – highlight the desperate need for Auckland Transport (AT) to invest in simple safety infrastructure like road signs around schools. With new funding earmarked from the Regional Land Transport Plan (RLTP), this will hopefully change.
“Parents want to be in a position to let their kids walk or cycle to school – they don’t want to be negotiating tricky parking spaces, or experiencing the high-tension pick-up environment occurring at schools across the region,” says Vanessa Wills, Senior Advisor – Infrastructure.
“What parents and communities want to know is that road safety investment is being made so our most vulnerable road users can navigate their own way to and from school – safely. This doesn’t need to be complex; we mean things like variable speed signs, more pedestrian crossings, or a bit of red carpet treatment where we know cars need to slow down.”
“More kids walking and cycling to school means less drop-offs, and that means less congestion – which benefits everyone.”
The AA’s surveys have indicated there is a theme running across Auckland schools: they often feel disconnected from AT, lack a direct point of contact, and are struggling to get investment for simple safety infrastructure nearby which would keep kids safer, says Ms Wills.
What the AA doesn’t want to see is ad hoc investment where it isn’t needed.
“We’re looking for robust decision-making processes that will keep our kids safe, but every school is different and presents its own set of safety challenges. The on-the-ground knowledge from schools should be taken on board by AT and not ignored because it doesn’t tick all the boxes,” Ms Wills says.
Ms Wills notes there’s been a game-changer thrown into the mix with the recently announced increased funding to safety programmes from the RLTP to $900 million over the next 10 years.
“The RLTP earmarked funding means AT’s budget for road safety has tripled. We want to see a decent chunk of that investment go into schools across Auckland that need it.”
An essential part of the bigger picture is communication. AT needs to ensure that schools across Auckland engage with their AT Travelwise liaison regularly, and that those liaisons are in a position to effect real change. We can’t have situations where requests for infrastructure – like safe pedestrian crossings – go unanswered.
“We know of local schools desperate to see some investment into road safety on the surrounding streets and until then they’re left wondering if it’s going to take a death to see any action here, and that shouldn’t be the case” Ms Wills says.
“With the new-found ability to fund more road safety projects for schools, we believe AT can establish higher-quality communication with their key stakeholders – their schools – and invest wisely in infrastructure that will ensure parents and communities feel comfortable letting children walk and cycle to school.”