Transport Minister Rita Saffioti has launched a new campaign to get children walking and riding to school, despite conceding Cleo Smith’s abduction may have sparked safety concerns for parents
Ms Saffioti said she had commissioned The Declining Rate of Walking and Cycling to School in Perth report, which revealed there had been a drop from 75 per cent to 25 per cent of children pedalling and travelling to school on foot over the past 40 years.
Ms Saffioti said it was normal for parents and carers to have fears about their children’s safety, but encouraged them to get their kids to walk in groups and educate them on road safety rules
She said Cleo’s abduction would scare parents, but called the incident rare.
“As a parent, what happened, no one would think that would happen — a young child was taken from the tent, so I think that has scared a lot of us, but that was something that we have not seen before,” Ms Saffioti said.
“All these things, of course they scare you, but also you then go back to wanting to make sure your children get to school in the safest way possible.”
Along with safety concerns, factors contributing to the decline in walking and riding to school included poor pedestrian paths, traffic around schools, distance between home and school, increased car affordability, and parents’ time constraints.
Ms Saffioti said children who walked to school were better placed later in life when they went for their driving tests because they were educated on the road rules.
She said $125,000 worth of grants had been snapped up by schools to encourage children to walk to school.
The amount will increase to $200,000 next year because of the popularity.
“We all have a part to play in encouraging our kids to be more active,” Ms Saffioti said.
Children are also becoming increasingly concerned with the effects driving has on the environment, which has pushed them to find alternatives.