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Green Party launches new plan to make it safe to walk and bike to school

The Green Party today announced a new Safe to School plan, which aims to dramatically increase the number of young people biking and walking to school.

The campaign calls for a 30 km/h speed limit outside all urban schools, and an 80 km/h speed limit around rural New Zealand schools, with the limit dropping to 30km/h during school hours. Our plan would see these changes introduced over three years.

Local authorities, in conjunction with schools, will also be able to draw upon $200 million in ring-fenced funding to develop safe routes for walking and cycling that target the journey to school.

“A couple of generations ago kids walked and biked to school, but these days most kids are travelling to school in the backseat of a car.(1)  Kids need the streets around our schools to be made safer and slower so they can get to school by bike or on foot,” Green Party transport spokesperson Julie Anne Genter said.

“Traffic has doubled on New Zealand roads since the late 1980s,(2)  and over the same period the percentage of kids getting to school under their own steam has dramatically fallen.

“It’s not surprising that safety is now cited by parents as the main reason for not letting their kids walk and bike to school.(3)

“Parents should feel confident that when they wave goodbye to their child in the morning, they're going to be safe riding their bike or walking with their friends to school.

“A 30 km/h speed limit by schools is a no brainer. Cities throughout the world are dropping speed limits in built up areas to reclaim the streets for kids to get about. Evidence shows that if a child gets hit outside their school by a car travelling at 45km/h they have only a 50-50 chance of surviving. But, if that car was going 30 km/h they’d have a 90 percent chance of living.(4)

“Our policy provides for a permanent, safer speed limit around both urban and rural schools. Outside rural schools the limit will only drop to 30 km/h temporarily during school pick-up and drop-off times. The NZ Transport Agency would have the ability to exempt certain stretches of road if a 30km/h speed limit was deemed impractical.

“At the moment communities need to apply to the NZ Transport Agency, and meet certain strict criteria, to reduce the speed limit outside their school. Our policy reverses this burden, and puts the onus on councils and the NZ Transport Agency to make the case before increasing the speed limit above 30 km/h outside our schools.

“We know drivers don't tend to slow down unless a speed limits makes sense for the road they’re on. That's why we’ll give councils three years to make any adjustments to the design of the roads in front of schools, such as traffic calming measures.

“Cities like London, New York, Paris, Barcelona and Stockholm saw this problem and took action years ago. It’s time we caught up with the rest of the world," Ms Genter said.

For more information

(1) In 1989, 12 percent of primary school children biked and 42 percent of them walked to school. Today 2 percent bike and only 29 percent walk to school.  19 percent of secondary school students biked in 1989, and 26 percent walked. Today 3 percent bike and 28 percent walk. Source

(2) Vehicle Kilometres Travelled has doubled since the late 1980, see Fig. 2, page 6 of the Government's Policy Statement on Land Transport.
(3) https://www.nzta.govt.nz/assets/resources/research/reports/420/docs/420.pdf

(4) http://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/publications/road_traffic/world_report/speed_en.pdf