Walk or ride safely and reduce traffic - planner
ROBYN BLACKBURN, MDC ROAD SAFETY CO-ORDINATOR, AND BEV DOOLE
Susie Witehira is used to pulling off big projects - she masterminded Marlborough's successful role in the Rugby World Cup campaign - but her next task needed all her powers of persuasion.
Her job was to get more Marlborough teenagers cycling and walking to school, and also convince their parents that it's a good idea.
“I started as travel planner [at the Marlborough District Council] eight months ago and no-one knew what it was - they thought I was organising the mayor's flights,” said Susie.
In fact she was working out what the barriers were to students walking and cycling to college and finding ways to make it easier.
“My main funding came from the Ministry of Health to promote healthy and active lifestyles, basically get students out of cars and walking or biking to school.
“The benefits for everyone flows on from that - if more students walk or bike then fewer cars are dropping them off. That eases congestion on the roads which makes it safer for cyclists and pedestrians, and the exercise is good for them.”
Susie surveyed students to find out how they got to school and what route they used.
“At least 25 per cent of students came to school by car, they didn't bike because of the time and distance involved. But about 70 per cent of students live within 3km of school, which isn't far to walk or bike.
“A lot of the students admitted they were lazy, which was quite surprising.
"Others said they didn't want their bikes to get tampered with or stolen. Only about 10 per cent felt it was unsafe on the road but parents are more protective and can see the risks.
“We need to come up with ways to encourage the students and reassure their parents,” said Susie.
From the survey results and studying the streets around the colleges Susie came up with recommendations.
For the Boys College the first step is to provide a locked area for bike stands. At the moment the bikes are kept in an open area near the street and boys and parents are sick of having their bikes stolen or tampered with.
A pedestrian refuge on Scott St would help boys cross more safely, but congestion here and along Weld St is an issue, with commuters and St Mary's pupils also on the streets.
There are similar issues for the Girls' College with Bohally next door, and the amount of traffic on SH6 along Nelson St.
“It is hugely busy and because it is a State Highway freight road [Marlborough Roads] don't want to put in a pedestrian crossing as they can be more dangerous with people stepping straight out."
Susie would like to see yellow "School" signs on Nelson St and flashing light signs at peak hours to alert drivers to cyclists and pedestrians.
“The Nelson travel planner has brought in a 30kmh speed zone around all schools. I would love to do that for Marlborough but it is long term.”
And time has run out for Susie.
Her contract with the Ministry of Health has come to an end.
GETTING TO SCHOOL
Nationwide, 50 per cent of children are driven to school, up from 31 per cent in 1990.
25 per cent of Boys College students use a car to travel to school compared with 32 per cent of Girls College students.
70 per cent of Boys College and Girls College students live within 3 kilometres of school.
Cycling and walking is a good option for them if they have safe routes.
Had a near-miss on your bike? Ring the cycle hotline 0800 292 532 to report it. This information helps policy-makers decide on road safety priorities and funding.
- The Marlborough Express