Council and Gardai unite to encourage active travel
There is an onus on parents to allow their children more independence to walk or cycle to school, according to Mayor of Drogheda Michelle Hall.
Cllr Hall, who is a keen cyclist, said there seems to be a reluctance to allow children to walk even short distances to school, as is evident by the traffic around schools at peak times, and cars parked in cycle lanes.
“I feel there is a certain amount of over-protectiveness amongst parents for their children, not even letting them walk a couple of hundred yards to school, and won’t even let them cross one particular road or roads, even though there are school wardens and other safe measures,” said Cllr Hall. “You look at other countries where children are going to school on trains from six years of age, and here we should be encouraging them; there is a certain amount of risk you do have to take in life.
"When I was growing up, I walked everywhere, and never once got a lift to school, ever!”
She acknowledged there can be issues around children walking or cycling, but the council should be getting the message across to parents to walk and cycle, not just for traffic and fitness, but for independence.
"I noticed a lot of negative comments and kick-back after the Drogheda Cycle Group released their active travel plan,” she added. “And I think it is something as a council we should talk about in a positive manner, as it will be an important but difficult transition.”
The issue of school traffic was also raised at the March JPC (Joint Policing Committee) meeting, when Cllr Pio Smith asked local garda representatives whether it was possible for their community section to visit schools and encourage active travel.
"The amount of traffic on the roads when schools are open, as opposed to the actual decrease in traffic volumes when they are closed are significant. The council is running a number of initiatives in schools to promote different ways of travelling to schools safely,” said Cllr Smith. “I'm wondering if we could have a combined effort in terms of the Gardai meeting with school principals to create a concrete policy reduce school traffic on the road, and stopping cars from blocking driveways, footpaths and cycle lanes.”
Chief Supt Alan McGovern agreed that there were ‘pinch points’ in the town – the bus station and Lourdes Hospital in particular – and JPC chair Cllr James Byrne agreed that a co-ordinated effort is needed.
The Mayor also said at the JPC meeting that there should be ‘zero tolerance’ for cars parked in cycle lanes or parked illegally near schools.