Flemish people are afraid to let their children hit the road alone

20/03/2018 – Only one out of three Flemish think that their children can independently hit the road safely. This fear is bigger outside than in the city.

Can children travel safely and independently in traffic within your municipality. One out of three Flemish says ‘yes’, but four out of ten answers resolutely ‘no’. This appeared from the ‘Municipality Monitor’, for which the Flemish government questions a representative number of residents of the 308 cities and municipalities in 2017. Remarkable: the concern is the biggest, not in crowded city centres, but in the more rural municipalities. When 39 percent of the respondents in the cities says that children can travel safely and independently, then only 32 percent of the respondents in rural municipalities say the same. Among others, in Knesselare, Meerhout, Zottegem and Boutersem less than one out of five inhabitants are reassured when their children hit the road alone.

“Over the past few years, cities have been investing heavily in bicycle infrastructure and the creation of zones 30, but in the more rural municipalities, you still find countless roads without any facilities for vulnerable road users”, says professor in road safety Tom Brijs (Hasselt University). “It is especially about the long roads that connect villages, where cars can drive 70 km/hour and cyclists need to share the road with them. In short: you cannot let your children use these roads to go to school without being worried.”

Brijs sees his statement confirmed in the establishing that the Coast, Northeast Limburg and several municipalities in the Antwerp Kempen distinguish themselves in a positive way. “They invested heavily in separate cycling paths.”

In 2014, the thirteen central cities were gauging if children could participate in traffic in a safe and independent way. Since then, anxiety has increased everywhere. The strongest increase can be found in Sint-Niklaas. When four years ago, 34 percent of the residents considered traffic to be unsafe for children, it was 45 percent last year. In Antwerp, it went from 36 percent to 41 percent. In Gent from 40 to 42 percent.

Less victims

The increase of an unsafe feeling is not in line with road safety. Because, there were 120 road casualties in Sint-Niklaas in 2000, and in 2016 there were only 36 – a low record. Furthermore, in Antwerp, the number of deaths and heavily injured has been declining for years, just like in other central cities. “Since 2014, the number of deaths among cyclists has decreased with 36 percent”, says Minister of Mobility Ben Weyts (N-VA). “Only that decline does not always translate into more willingness of parents to let their children go to school by bike.”

According to the children’s rights commissioner Bruno Vanobbergen, it is important to start from the experience of children and young people themselves when dealing with road safety. “To examine the school routes with them and to determine together how these routes can be made safer and more pleasant.”

De Standaard // article: Jef Poppelmonde