How coronavirus has given us a once-in-a-generation opportunity to curb the school drop-off chaos
Author: VicHealth, a Victorian Government Agency that works with experts, evidence and research in health promotion.
Any coronavirus information mentioned is accurate at the time this article was first published (30 June 2020). For the most up-to-date information about coronavirus restrictions, please visit the source: www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au
Our new research report highlights the new opportunity coronavirus has created for us to reclaim our streets.
Before restrictions, only 39 per cent of families who live within 2km of their school would walk or cycle there. Yet data on the use of bike trails during coronavirus restrictions show that given the right conditions, people will walk and cycle around their local neighbourhoods.
So what changed at the start of coronavirus restrictions to make walking and cycling a good option for families?
- There was less traffic on the road.
- There were more parents working from home, and without a commute, there was more time in the day to walk and cycle with their kids.
- Kids had more opportunity to build confidence walking and cycling in their neighbourhoods.
Coronavirus taught us what makes all the difference. So rather than going back to banked-up school traffic, let’s use this moment to make it safer and easier for families to walk or cycle to school.
Click here to see our tips for both parents and schools who want to get kids walking, cycling or scooting to school.
Three changes that would help families walk and cycle to school
1. Create shared streets
Our research suggests creating zones where people can safely walk and cycle to school. This could start by trialling temporary ‘woonerfs’ close to schools. ‘Woonerfs’ are living streets, originally developed in the Netherlands and introduced elsewhere. These streets are a shared space for cars, pedestrians and cyclists, and traffic is calmed and slowed to a walking pace.
2. Improve infrastructure
Researchers recommend the following infrastructure to make cycling and walking a better option:
- wider footpaths, curb extensions and road signs to prompt cars to slow down
- safer pedestrian crossings
- bike lanes with safety barriers
3. Join the dots
If you can’t safely walk or cycle to where a safe path begins, it’s not going to be a good option. Researchers suggest more families will be able to access bike trails and walking paths by creating a better connected and integrated bike network.
These changes could create the conditions for more families to walk and cycle to school, all while reducing congestion, supporting the environment, and helping both parents and kids get the exercise they need to feel good and stay healthy.
More about the research behind these suggestions
The research paper on Reclaiming the streets is part of our new five-part series Life and Health Re-imagined.
Starting in June, we're exploring how we can all create a healthier, more sustainable, and more equitable community – for everyone. We’re bringing leading experts together for five weeks of ideas and discussions with the potential to change the shape of communities across Victoria.
Each week will include:
- A new, thought-provoking article and creative imagery published every Monday morning.
- A live, interactive online event featuring local and international guests, and host Virginia Trioli for the first few sessions and Shelley Ware for the others.
- Week-long coverage and in-depth discussion of the ideas on croakey.org
- Ongoing conversation on our social media channels.
Coming soon: an artist will be live-capturing the themes from the expert discussion. To watch the ideas unfold before your eyes, visit the Life and Health Re-Imagined series webpage here.
Have a coronavirus question?
For all coronavirus questions visit www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au or call the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) hotline on 1800 020 080.