As the road toll unexpectedly increases this year it is to be expected that some hoary old ideas about road safety will gain circulation once again.
So it is in 2019, with a Queensland academic encouraging parents to kit out themselves and their children in hi-vis vests to improve pedestrian safety.
Could there be anything more depressing than a bunch of healthy children being marched to school in a uniform of fluorescent yellow?
Could there one anything more backwards than having kids in hi-vis while the cars whizz by in the latest shade of intimidating black?
Not according to Dr Bridie Scott-Parker of the University of the Sunshine Coast who told the media that “a hi-vis vest for the walk or the ride to school is a really simple step that mums and dads can take to keep them and their children even safer on the road.”
The problem here is that active travel is being portrayed as abnormal. 'Oh look! There is a bunch of strange people who are actually walking to school. How weird.'
And studies show that kids travelling to school are at highest risk in the car, not out of it.
A well-known barrier to getting people back into walking and cycling, and becoming healthy, is that active travel has been de-normalised, and is seen as something that only strange people do.
A core activity of Bicycle Network over decades has been to reverse that notion and lead the community to the realisation that, yes, riding a bike is the natural way to travel, and it is the sedentary travellers in cars that are the damned.
We know that the more bike riding is normalised, the more people we get on bikes.
And the more people we get on bikes, the more safe the roads are for everybody.
But some road safety experts have convinced themselves otherwise. By urging bike riders and walkers to dress up in outlandish gear, they exaggerate the dangers, discourage people from riding and walking, and with less riders and walkers, the roads become more risky.
Creating barriers for active travel – like fluorescent uniforms – does not help promote a healthy lifestyle. It does the opposite.
Thankfully, Dr Scott-Parker did have some sensible road safety tips for pedestrians:
- Be sure the vehicle stops before you step onto a crossing, even if you have right of way or the green ‘walkʼ sign is displayed.
- Make eye contact with the driver to make sure theyʼve seen you before you cross the road.
- Always assume that drivers havenʼt seen you before stepping on to the road.
- Put your phone down and keep your head up before you cross the road, no matter how old you are.