Time for a change in our attitudes?

Proposals for creating bicycle tracks on North Tyneside’s A-roads seem to have focused attention on what may need to change if we are to get safer streets.

Most people understand that it’s become quite difficult for young people to move around independently and agree something should be done to address this.

Getting the safe streets we want can be as much about changing attitudes as it is about making changes to the built environment.

Is it really OK to drive like a ‘workie ticket’?

If you break the speed limit others around you are more likely to do the same. If you park your car across a junction you’ll come back in an hour and find three others have followed your lead. One person parks on double yellows outside a school, scout hut, church ... others will do the same. The blame for the poor behaviour that puts our kids at risk sits with us.

We are supposed to treat other road users with caution and courtesy, slow down, let people cross the road once they’ve started, not overtake through a junction. So why aren’t we doing this?

Is it really OK to teach our kids that the only way to ride a bike is on the footway?

Even though getting around by bike is pretty safe, parents see motor traffic as the biggest threat in their neighbourhood.

On quiet 20mph roads children are safer cycling on the road than on the footway.

Collisions happen at junctions, bikes move quickly, on streets like these the footway is just about the worst place to be.

Kids can be pretty big, heavier than some adults, if they hit a pedestrian both will get hurt.

Local councillors receive a steady stream of complaints about ‘young men’ riding bikes on footways, these are our sons and grandsons.

On bus routes it’s a different story, here we need engineering to fix the street layout, this is why Sustrans is helping to fund well designed cycle tracks that keep people in the right place at junctions but separated from motor traffic.

Sustrans work in schools all over the north east and the condition that kids’ bikes arrive in is truly shocking.

If you can’t fix them yourself, getting bikes serviced is easy locally.

Good quality bike lights can cost a bit, but stop off at Poundland or hit eBay for cheap ones and a few packs of batteries.

Three-quarters of children riding our streets don’t have parents who give any thought to this, despite dark evenings and the fog. Telling them to ride on the pavement because we can’t be bothered to fit lights does not keep them safe.

If there is a road safety problem, why aren’t we doing something about it?

Try getting out of your car at least once a week and show your kids how to walk or bike around your neighbourhood safely, why not support your local shops at the same time?

If there’s a problem ask for it to be fixed. Most councillors have got themselves elected because they want to help people.

If more people ask for safer streets that’s what our politicians will work for. Street design has moved on since the 1970s, just because it’s ‘always been that way’ doesn’t mean it can’t be improved.

Sustrans believe every child has the right to walk, cycle or scoot to school. Often the biggest barrier is our attitudes as parents and neighbours. Let’s work together to fix this.

Sustrans makes smarter travel choices possible, desirable and inevitable. We are a leading UK charity enabling people to travel by foot, bike or public transport for more of the journeys we make every day.

It’s time we all began making smarter travel choices.

Tom Bailey

Network Manager

Sustrans (North East)