Today is Australia’s National day for Ride2School 2017.
This is a national active school transportation initiative (celebrated elsewhere overseas as well), whereby schools register that their parents, student and teachers will use active school transportation on the day. Active transportation can be by bike, walk, scooter, skateboard or other unmotorised means. The aim is to get more new people involved in active school transport, while equally recognizing the few who do it regularly.
In the 1970s, 8 out of 10 kids rode or walked to school, but today the average is 2 out 10.
Seeing as though it is St Patricks’ Day as well, there were many ‘Green Themed’ school bikes getting around.
A Ride2School success
Bourke Street Public School is a wonderful exemplar case study for this annual event. This Sydney school already has one of the highest rates of student active transportation with 80% of its students using active transportation to get to and from school. It is an excellent role model for other schools for how to promoting and maintain safe and healthy walking, cycling, skateboarding and scootering school travel. Today they had a massive festival and parade to show off their decorated bikes – awesome! Great to see school administration really getting behind the event.
QLD – Parents fined for allowing their kids ride/walk to school
As those of you who are old friends of the blog will know, it was a massive (cycling) culture shock for me going from progressive bicycle-loving Melbourne to archaic police-state Queensland. Queensland authority’s aversion to implementing, supporting and engaging with a range of enterprising cycling initiatives. Examples such as inaction around the National Super Sunday bike track users count or the World Naked Bike Ride to name just two, are indicative of the pervasive negative mindset towards cycling and biking.
A case in point.
Today is national Bike2School and many schools in Queensland joined in. I am sure the Queensland parents, teacher and students involved had a lovely day, as did thousands of other schools nationwide.
However, I can’t help but think that Queensland is hypocritical considering it previously fined a single mum for encouraging her kids to use active transportation to school – as well as publicly threatening other parents through a school newsletter no less with similar or more severe punitive measures – including jail.
How quickly we forget!
The story of how this mum was fined made serious headlines just over six months ago – and is quite interesting in light of today’s national celebration.
Essentially, this mum (from Miles, QLD) was charged under section 364A of the Queensland Criminal Code, which says: “A person who, having the lawful care or charge of a child under 12 years, leaves the child for an unreasonable time without making reasonable provision for the supervision and care of the child during that time commits a misdemeanour. Maximum Penalty — 3 years’ imprisonment.”
This was done under the guise of keeping ‘kids safe’.
So what is an ‘unreasonable time’ to travel to school? Sounds very subjective and arbitrary to me, something that a police officer would be able to ‘interpret’ depending on the given situation.
CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE NEWS REPORT OF THIS INCIDENT (sorry, cannot embed it).
Queensland……penalising parents for allowing their kids to travel independently to school.
Based on past evidence of Queensland’s stringent autocratic surveillance and control of community (and specifically biking) practices and behaviours and my own experiences of how Queensland authorities’ moderate community regulations and behaviour, I am not surprised that such a contradiction occurred.
There could well have been other mitigating circumstances, but the dismissive lack of regard for justifying and explaining the situation is as equally disturbing as the original fine.
I think it is disgraceful to fearmonger and penalise parents who chose to raise active, healthy, socially-adjusted, independent, responsible kids.
So what is the issue here?
What a pity Queensland police cannot see the bigger picture that parents like the poor Miles mum and Ride@School Day contribute, considering increasing community concerns about the health of today’s youths, or the fact that they are overly “cosseted and chauffeured”, or that the ABC reports alarming children obesity rates, or that there are valid and serious questions being debated about the individual and community impacts of having fewer children riding to school.
I don’t have kids myself, but I am not the only person who found this situation very ‘odd’.
An interesting case for Bike2School Day 2017
Today certainly provided some useful material for reflection and discussions with friends, locals and school community members.
It is a wonderful opportunity to uncover the wider implications and more nuanced quandaries of the jovial national celebrations underway regarding active school transportation, kids and community participation and mobility – especially within the Queensland context.
Ride on kids!