Three in 10 Dutch children travel to school by car despite a series of campaigns encouraging them and their parents to take the bike, according to new research.
Research agency SOAB found that the number has increased in recent years from 26% even though schools and safety organisations such as Veilig Verkeer Nederland have urged parents to escort younger children by bike.
The trend has been partly attributed to the increase in the number of families where both parents work, leaving them with no option but to drop their children off by car on their way to the office, De Telegraaf reported.
As well as the health implications, the increased car usage leads to congestion and parking problems at the school gates.
Ellen van der Ligt, head teacher at ‘t Praathuis primary school in Culemborg, said: ‘Last week we had the children handing out flyers to motorists. From next week the police will be out enforcing the rules. People who breach the parking regulations will be fined.’
Although some parents have valid reasons for using the car, in many cases it becomes the convenient option, said traffic psychologist Gerard Tertoolen. ‘It’s the idea that we’re so horrendously busy. We want to use every minute productively and see cycling or walking to school as dead time.’
As well as enforcement measures, some schools have introduced incentives to reward children who go by bike. The cycling4school scheme enables children to earn points by walking or cycling which they can then spend on activities for the class.
Ineke Spape, of SOAB, said Breda had cut car use by 10% simply by encouraging children to take the initiative. ‘They would rather cycle than sit on the back seat of the car and have been urging their parents to leave the car behind,’ she said.
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