Last year, the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) World Road Cycling Championships came to Wollongong, making us the only city in the Southern Hemisphere to have been bestowed the prestigious UCI Bike City Label status!
So why then, do so few children ride (or walk) to school?
According to the 2020 NSW School Safety Survey:
- Cars speed in the school zone
- Footpaths are unsafe, dangerous or don’t exist
- There are not enough safe crossings on the way to school
- Traffic congestion creates an unsafe environment
77% of children do not meet the daily requirements for physical activity – 44% of children in the Keira electorate travel to school by car while only 6% cycle!
In collaboration with partners Safe Streets to School and 30Please.org, we designed and disseminated our own survey (March – June 2021) for Illawarra parents, teachers and community members. A total of 373 responses were collected, and findings were used to inform the SAARTS project, identifying concerns around safety, the physical environment and driver behaviour influence 70% of Illawarra’s parent decisions around active travel for their children.
To address these concerns, we applied the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Slow Down Day toolkit to advocate for slower speeds in school zones and enhance road safety awareness. The Slow Down Day was held on Friday 25th of March to coincide with National Ride2School day. Further signage, including corflutes and banners, were displayed around school neighbourhoods in the week leading up to the 25th to increase community awareness of the event. On the day, parent and teacher volunteers wore hi-vis vests with “SLOW DOWN” messaging and manned surrounding school crossings and roads to urge drivers to slow down to 30km/hr. Traffic measurements were taken at baseline leading up to the Slow Down Day and monitored throughout to determine the campaign’s effectiveness and signage. SAARTS attracted a range of media coverage, including a WIN News story segment, ABC Illawarra radio drive interview, Illawarra Mercury article, i98 radio Street Fleet cross and Microbility report and assisted the campaign to reach a greater audience.
Key outcomes of the Slow Down Day include:
- Reduction in peak school traffic by 3.04%
- Reduction of daily vehicle volume by 9.84%
- 80% of participating streets observed a decrease in average speeds
- Car travel to school reduced from 64% to 55%
- Active travel increased from 35.6% to 44.6%