Parental fears stunt school holiday walking and cycling freedom
With school holidays starting this week, a new AA Streetwatch study reveals that 94% of AA members think that children should walk more but only 56% believe their neighbourhood is safe enough to do so.
More than 22,000 AA Streetwatch volunteers have been surveyed* to give their views on roads in their neighbourhood.
Encouraging kids to cycle more is supported by 76% of the Streetwatchers. But, once again, only 31% feel their local streets offer a secure enough environment.
Although the responses are broadly similar among men and women, across the age ranges and from region to region, the view from different social backgrounds is markedly different.
Between 92% and 95% of AA Streetwatchers across all socio-economic groups agree that children should be encouraged to walk more. However, while up to 59% of those in better-off neighbourhoods consider their local roads safe enough for their children to play and explore on foot, confidence in less well-off neighbourhoods drops as low as 45%.
For example, Luton came out as the least safe place for children to walk locally, whilst the more affluent St Albans, 12 miles down the road, was in the top five safest areas.
Survey respondents from lower socio-economic groups were slightly less keen for children to take to their bikes, but the 71% of them who favoured encouraging kids on to bikes still compared well with 78% in the top ‘professional, higher managerial’ band.
Even so, in terms of the perceived safety of young cyclists on local roads, the gap between the richer (35%) and poorer neighbourhoods (27%) wasn’t as big as for children being allowed to roam around as pedestrians.
The findings from our AA Streetwatch volunteers backs up previous research that shows children in inner-city areas are at much greater risk
Edmund King, AA president
Edmund King, AA president, said: “The findings from our AA Streetwatch volunteers backs up previous research that shows children in inner-city areas are at much greater risk. They make more journeys on foot and spend more time playing in the street because there are fewer playing areas. There are also more cars parked in the street, reducing visibility and making crossing the road more hazardous. They also tend to live on busier roads rather than in the leafy suburbs.
“It is a shame when safety fears constrain freedoms and the social and physical development of young people. Many communities have organised themselves to provide activities and supervision to reduce the chances of a mishap.
The AA has campaigned for road safety and cycle proficiency (Bikeability) to be included in the national curriculum for all primary school children.
Beyond that parents can help by establishing some boundaries and rules at the start of the school holidays. And, with many children having their own mobile phone, the chance to check first with mum or dad before doing something or going somewhere out of the norm is a good discipline.
Targeted 20mph limits and junction and cycle infrastructure improvements will help encourage parents to let their youngsters venture out on two wheels.
76% say kids should cycle more
This latest AA Streetwatch study explored attitudes towards the safety of children when walking or cycling locally.
Question. To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements?
Unsurprisingly, almost all respondents (94%) believe that children should be encouraged to walk more (agreeing or strongly agreeing with the statement).
When it comes to cycling, 76% of respondents agree or agree strongly that children should be encouraged to cycle more. This view is more likely to be held by younger age groups – 85% of those under 25 agree or agree strongly that children should cycle more compared with 72% of the over 60s.
Nationally only 19% believe that it is not safe for children to be out walking in their local area.
Concern for children’s safety increases when it comes to cycling - overall, 39% agree or agree strongly that it is not safe for children to be out cycling in their local area.
Generally only a small proportion (7%) of respondents agreed with the statement that it is better to take children everywhere by car no matter how short the journey.
At the regional level variation in attitudes towards child safety when walking and cycling was low.
Responses to ‘children should be encouraged to walk more’ ranged from Wales (93% agree) to the Islands (98%).
The percentage agreeing that it is not safe for children to be out walking locally ranged between a low of 18% in East Anglia and a high of 23% in the Islands.
The lowest proportion of respondents agreeing that children should be encouraged to cycle more was in London (71%). The highest was in the Islands (91%)
The region where there was least concern about children’s safety when cycling locally was East Anglia (34% agree that it’s not safe). Respondents in London were most concerned about children’s safety when cycling locally with 47% agreeing that it is not safe.
The safest postcode areas when it comes to children walking locally were:
And the least safe:
The safest postcode areas when it comes to children cycling locally were:
And the least safe are:
It is interesting to note that some of the newer towns such as Peterborough, Milton Keynes and Stevenage where cycle paths were incorporated into some of the early infrastructure designs are deemed to be safer for child cyclists.
(17 July 2013)
*22,194 respondents of an AA Populus panel between 23 and 28 May
"There has been an explosion of interest in cycling, and we must do all we can to continue to fuel it". Read AA president Edmund King's views on cycling in the AA Magazine.