It’s Walk to School Day. So Why Are We Scaring Kids and Parents Off the Roads?

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CC BY 2.0. Kids in hi viz/ Lloyd Alter

Every day should be a walk to school day, yet fewer and fewer kids do it. There are many reasons, including terrible urban planning at densities too low to support a local school and the trend to larger schools, further apart.

There is the design of the roads themselves, too wide and too fast, so that it’s not safe for kids to cross them.

crash site

Note: It's a crosswalk. With multiple "yield to pedestrian" signs./Video screen capture

Or the drivers are in such a hurry that they go almost twice the speed limit in a marked school district. In that particular case, the victim was blamed for using an iPhone.

And now there is is yet another reason: the campaigns in North America and the UK to scare pedestrians off the streets. That it is no longer safe to even to let your kids go outside unless they are wearing hi-viz clothing. In the UK, the RAC (a private insurance spin-off from the Royal Automobile Club) is giving every Scout and Cub in the country a vest.

One campaign Horace is particularly keen to promote is Be bright, be seen, which we focus on when the clocks go back in the autumn. As the nights are darker and the sun rises later so it is all the more important to make sure you are visible to motorists when walking to school, scooting to Cubs or cycling on the road.

Because no child is safe outside unless they are dressed up like this. And of course, if you have not dressed your kid up like this then you are a bad parent and share responsibility if the kid gets hit by a car.

I always get complaints in comments when I write about this stuff. Of course, kids should be visible, not as this tweeter noted, going out like goths. But where does it end? And how soon will reflective vests become like bike helmets, where it is your own fault if something happens to you if you are not wearing it?

If these campaigns keep going, your kid will be going out dressed like this and if he isn’t, who’s fault will it be? Because when your safety becomes a shared responsibility then not wearing a helmet or vest or looking at a phone or listening to music or even wearing a hoodie is a way of shifting responsibility. That’s why everyone focused on Kelly Williams’ phone instead of the drivers speed. That’s why an insurance company is giving out vests.

Instead, we have to really look at the design of our roads to make them safer for walkers instead of faster for cars. It’s why we have to get more people walking because there is safety in numbers, instead of scaring people off the road.

This is not the first time we have seen people in hi-viz in Abbey Road. But that one was done with a knife and paste.