It has been observed internationally that cyclists are safer in communities where more people ride bikes (e.g. Copenhagen), because motorists are used to seeing to cyclists and treat them as legitimate road users. So the attitudes of our motorists toward cyclists do have a real impact on the safety of our cyclists. Hence I wouldn’t be so quick to criticise the views expressed at a Gold Coast conference regarding the long-term impact on road safety of driving children to school in SUVs, as reported on www.news.com.au today:
A WORLD expert on transport has blamed four-wheel-drive mums for the war between cyclists and Gold Coast motorists.
Werner Broeg said if more parents allowed their children to ride bikes to school, instead of ferrying them around in cars, they would grow up to become drivers with a greater respect for cyclists, the Gold Coast Bulletin reports.
Mr Broeg, the keynote speaker at the Asia Pacific Cycle Congress being held at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre, said only 2 per cent of Australians rode a bike daily.
He also said fewer women rode bikes, with too many opting for large 4WDs to do the school run, which contributed to congestion outside of peak-hour times.
“When you see women driving their SUVs during the school pick-up, it is little wonder they don’t want their children out on the road because they want to protect them from the type of driver they are.”
Of course, you can hardly blame mums and dads for wanting to see their children get to school safely. While, from the perspective of population health, it makes sense to get children riding or walking to school (because of the synergistic benefits of having more people out riding and improving the attitude of motorists), given current traffic conditions many children are much safer getting driven to school than they would be walking or riding. It is essential that we improve the quality and connectedness of bike paths so that riding to school is a genuine and safe alternative to being driven.