I love that headline above chosen by Lance Wiggs in promoting a sensible, yes, sensible, proposal by the Greens to encourage children to walk and cycle to school instead of being dropped off by their mummies. Stop mummies taking a round trip twice a day, then our roads are that much less congested (ever noticed how much easier it is to drive around when schools are on holiday?) and everyone else’s trip becomes that much quicker.
How did children end up being bubble-wrapped like this by their mummies?
When I went to school over 30 years ago [says Lance] the norm was to walk, cycle or take public transport. Similarly a colleague I spoke to yesterday said that when he went to school in Tauranga 20 years that there were hundreds of bike racks at his school and it was hard to find a place to park his bike. And I talked last night to someone from Hawkes Bay, and when she went to primary school a little over 10 years ago cycling was the norm as well.
But there has been a dramatic shift to little children being dropped off by their mummies (that’s how we would have cruelly described it at school) over the last 20 years. And the result of the critical mass shifting is that it’s now deemed too dangerous for kids to cycle or walk to school. But a lot of that perceived or real danger is the very traffic caused by those car driving mummies.
Exemplified maybe by whole fleets of lunching ladies manoeuvring around outside schools in large cocooned SUVs (and they’re driving these cocoons for their kids’ “safety”) at the very time when the roads and foot paths outside schools are filled with little people who can’t be easily seen from behind the wheel of a large SUV.
It’s a vicious circle [says Lance], exemplified by another conversation yesterday with someone who firstly talked about how she used to cycle in Auckland, then about how cycling in Auckland became too dangerous because of the cars and poor infrastructure, and then about how cyclists in Auckland are painful and dangerous when she drives her car. I struggled to get her to understand the causes and effects.
We need to break this circle of despair, and get people back onto the streets, walking and cycling. We are seeing this start in some cities, Wellington especially, and successes in Auckland with multi-use areas like Fort Lane and Elliot Street. The end game is that New Zealand has vibrant walkable, liveable cities, with incredible people-filled street life and places to live that attract and retain the best talent.
So it’s great to see the Greens today launched a cycling to school policy. It’s a clever start.
It might be (though for the life of me I can’t see why it should cost taxpayers $50 million.)
When CATO Institute meets the Greens. Always a good moment.