Wednesday, 17 September 2008

School buses

There are no school buses in this country. There are companies which have a few of the traditional yellow school bus as used in the US, but they hire them out for corporate events, weddings etc. and do not use them to take children to school.

Children here predominantly cycle. We were told by a local secondary school teacher than the cycling rate to his school is 100% in the summer, dropping to around 95% in the winter. Some children cycle daily round trips of up to 40 km ( 25 miles ) in order to get to school. and back home.

Children attending primary school also cycle. This video, which I took a few months back when it was -2 C ( 28 F ) shows a normal school run at a primary school. It could have been taken on any day.

This is the result of having infrastructure and a social environment which feels safe enough that people let their children ride bikes to school.

Amsterdam - child cycling under pressure
But wait, what's this article on the right ?

The headline reads "Amsterdam first years not happy cycling". It discusses how in Amsterdam the cycling rate for children in the first year of secondary school has dropped such that just 53% of children in the first year of secondary education cycle to school every day, vs. 89% of children over the entire country.

The reason most given not to cycle is the heavy traffic and the risks due to it.

The article also goes on to say that of those who cycle daily, 43% have fallen from their bikes at some point - mostly by crashing into other cyclists. The low quality of cycling infrastructure in some parts of Amsterdam is part of the reason why.

Why include this piece ? It's the same story as above. A high degree of subjective safety is vital if you want people to ride bikes. Amsterdam appears to many foreigners to be a paradise for cycling, and it has probably the highest cycling rate of any capital city in the western world. However, while Amsterdam doesn't have the lowest rate of cycling in the Netherlands, it most surely doesn't have the highest either. For all its charm (it's really a marvelous city for many reasons), conditions for cycling in Amsterdam are not so good as in many of the other cities in this country, and that is reflected in a cycling rate which is lower than it otherwise might be.

In the Netherlands, having only just over half of all children in the first year of secondary school cycling each day is something that is recognized as a problem. It's something to work on and improve. Note that it can be expected that by the second year of secondary school, rather a higher percentage of the children will be cycling.

And in the UK ?
Instead of looking over the North Sea and taking note, the UK is as ever looking for advice in the opposite direction - across the Atlantic. There is a move with the Yellow School Bus Commission to introduce American style yellow school buses to the UK. This commission is ignoring the factors which make people continue to feel that their children are unsafe on the streets and if successful it will further reduce the opportunity for British kids to get exercise. It will also, of course, cost a fortune. Instead of spending on infrastructure which enables a truly green form of transport, the government will end up buying diesel to power buses and produce fumes on the streets. Should I be surprised that this commission was established and is sponsored by a bus company ? Is this proposal for the benefit of the children or of bus company shareholders ?

The American school bus photo at the top is a public domain image which can be found here. The article is from the ANWB*Auto paper published on the 11th of September.

1 comment:

amsterdamize said...

You laid it out perfectly, David, and you're absolutely right. I try to highlight that fact (Amsterdam compared to NL) as often as possible. Now I'll also focus more on that important group of cyclists. I mean, young people on bikes :).