Remember when you got your first bike, how you could not wait to try it out. In recent years we see few children cycle to school or for leisure with their parents or grandparents. One parent said to me that her children preferred to use their scooters to go to school, because then they are allowed to be on the footpath. Ann Chapman’s editorial in Otaki Mail of 26th June writes about the initiative of Leeds City Council in England to make the city child friendly and asks: “Can we start a similar movement here and have the safety of our kids at the centre of all our decisions?” Yes, we can.
It isn’t just safety I am concerned about, I am sad about the children missing the enjoyment of the motion, the speed, the showing off, the independence.
I have taken small children under six cycling on Otaki, shared pathways, footpaths and through the village. We are met with patience and smiles from pedestrians. Older children may not be tolerated in quite the same way. It is not the young people’s fault, it is ours. Our demand for parking space in front of shops means lack of space for a separate pathway.
Let’s look at the facts though, is it really that dangerous to cycle for leisure or to school in Otaki? Children from the beach cycle on an off-road shared pathway; through the village the speed limit is 30, and after the roundabout on Mill Road towards College there is a well-marked cycle lane. The railway bridge has a wide shared pathway and an underpass to get to Waitohu School. It has taken years to convince Kapiti Coast District Council to put in these measures.
What is missing now is parent or grandparent time; time, to take the little ones and older children in the family on rides to show them how to be safe when you cross the street, how to signal with your hand, how to pass parked cars. Most children love to learn, we need to find time to teach them. Schools can access the “Pedal Ready” courses. We have an instructor right here in Otaki.
Here is one simple thing drivers can begin to do right now to protect children and adults who are cycling: Use your left hand to open the car door. They do that in Holland. Try it.