Walk to school, ride to school, be driven to school... the prevalence of fat kids and how we designed in obesity

It's silly season so yours truly is madly dashing from mince pie laden appointment to Egg Nog drenched party.  If I so much as look at another Christmas cake I'll be sick, but in between all the festive madness I've just enough time to share the following fantastic graphic with you from the always interesting Jan Gehl Architects blog...






We could have a whole new generation of fit, healthy and happy kids walking and cycling to school if only the roads weren't so dangerous.  Of course the perception of why they are dangerous in the first place is because they are full of cars.  And the cars?  Full of kids being driven to school 'cos the roads are perceived to be too dangerous (or too far away) in order for those kids to walk or cycle in the first place.  Talk about self-fulfilling prophecy...


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9 comments:

ndru said...

How do you break a vicious circle like this... Most people here will probably agree that the bicycle and safe infrastructure is the answer to all this (plus healthy eating) but do the politicians see it this way? Would we come across as smug and holier-than-thou if we suggested a solution.

ibikelondon said...

I think. Ndru, we aren't yet at the stage where we can be putting forward the solution. Many parents aren't even aware that there is a problem or indeed that they are the cause / a part of it.... A bit like that phrase 'You aren't stuck in traffic, you are traffic", many parents think that there is an issue surrounding the school run but don't realise that a change to their own behaviour can help fix it. So maybe we need to shout as loudly about the problem and it's causes as we do about it's solution...

But yes, absolutely, I think we all know here what can be done to help fix this problem. I also think the prevalence of this problem in the first place helps to point out where cycle campaigning has had it's priorities all wrong in the past...

GL said...

Please, please, please use statistics properly with proper caveats and notices.

These statisics are US based, not UK based. I dont think we should use statistics from the US wihtout clearly stating they are not UK based statistics so people glancing at them don't go away a propogate falsities to the masses. As cyclists we battle misconceptions. Lets not be hypocrits.

ibikelondon said...

Sorry GL - what I thought was more impressive here was the visualisation of the graphic as oppose to any kind of statistical analaysis - I think most people would take it as a given that things are just as bad here in the UK, but if anyone wants to look at the (equally depressing) decline in kids riding to school between 1975 and 2005 you can find them on the CTC's Bike Club website here:

http://bikeclub.org.uk/2010/08/06/national-travel-survey-shows-falling-levels-of-youth-peoples-cycling/

ibikelondon said...

(in the UK, that is)

The Woollen Typist said...

I work at a school and was left gob-smacked last week when one of the parents proclaimed she'd driven to pick her child up.
These people live off one of the side roads across from where the school is...LESS than half a mile away (much less)!

Don't even get me started on the number of cars I pass (in traffic) with just one or two children in the back. They could at least share and then we'd have slightly less cars during the school run.

Adam said...

Myself and a few other parents that walk or cycle our kids to school often talk about our frustrations with the roads around the school being full of cars endangering all the children. often at loggerheads with each other down small roads jammed in, when they do get free of the jams they drive very fast letting out their frustrations.

Yesterday a child was nearly hit crossing the road outside the school.

This morning outside the school I had someone suddenly try to reverse out of a jam (bumper to bumper with someone coming the other way down a narrow road and both refusing to move for each other) as I was crossing the road behind them with both my children. No warning. Just a sudden erratic move born out of frustration, they slammed the car in reverse and floored it. Luckily we leapt out of the way just in time. Things like this are a regular everyday occurrence and danger if you choose to walk to school without the protection of a metal box.

What can be done though? The school seems powerless. there is no money or motivation for change from the council. And the self perpetuating actions of the majority of parents seems to be getting worse.

What can we do to make a encourage a real change?

And it's not just obesity that is an issue here. Many children are growing up not knowing how to navigate roads on foot. My partner is a teacher where they have to deal with this very real problem on a regular basis, educating kids how to get about on foot as they've never had to. I also hear of kids who don't have a warm jacket as they never need it as they get taken everywhere in the car especially if it's cold outside.

Paul M said...

The problem is far more fundamental than simply the vicious spiral logic of drive to school because roads are dangerous. Once upon a time we all went to the local school - I even remember walking home (alone) about a mile at the age of seven and no-one thinking that strange.

Now we must have "choice" - in London's dysfunctional education system kids get driven from, say Islington to Hammersmith while others get driven from Hammersmith to Islington. We can "choose" so many things these days, but what chouce is it and who in reality makes the choice? (In the case of schools, it is the school, or the allied church, not the parent or child).

Until the scales finally fall from our eyes we will probably continue down this path. We can make a small difference leading by example,or activism as parents/governors, or lobbying the local authority, and that is still worthwhile, but a fundamental change in culture, that requires something closer to revolution.

With young people waking up to the fact that my generation has been robbing them blind all these years, perhaps that is not as unlikely as it sounds?

Toby Field said...

It's not always simple.

I always walked or rode to school as a kid. From the age of 10 I put on weight quickly and was obese until I seriously dieted at the age of 15. It didn't stay off for long and I was super morbidly obese until earlier this year.

It's not just about being active, it also about calorie intake and genetics.