VIEWPOINT: Let’s reclaim children’s freedom

Pictured is Cyclist Matt Turner in the cycle lane at the junction of Pinstone Street and Furnival Gate which he claims is dangerous
Pictured is Cyclist Matt Turner in the cycle lane at the junction of Pinstone Street and Furnival Gate which he claims is dangerous
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It is hard to dispute that children today have less freedom than their parents did when they were young.

Surveys show that parents now fear traffic more than ‘stranger danger’ and say that it is the main reason they are reluctant to let their children play outside.

We do have relatively low road casualty rates in Sheffield but at a great cost - our children have lost their freedom. Children aren’t allowed to play or travel on their streets independently because of road danger.

Respiratory illnesses like asthma are on the rise, obesity levels are increasing and children have fewer opportunities to socialise. Children’s freedom and independence is restricted by their parents’ understandable fear of traffic.

We can’t judge parents for trying to take the best care of their children in the environment we live in, but it doesn’t have to be like this.

We should look to our neighbours in The Netherlands for inspiration.

More than 90 per cent of children ride a bike to secondary school and the average age for independent travel to school on foot or by bike is 8.6 years old!

They have achieved this by tackling the cause of the problem rather than removing the victims.

They called for the streets to be made safe as part of the ‘Stop De Kindermoord’ (Stop child murder) protests.

The result was incredible. Many roads were closed to through traffic and an extensive network of cycle-paths were built.

Their children now have a degree of freedom which children in Sheffield no longer experience. Our streets can be scary places and are definitely not somewhere you’d want your child to cycle if you had a choice.

For those who want to cycle but are unwilling to ride with fast or heavy traffic, normally the only alternative is a longer, much less convenient route on back streets which often don’t take you where you need to go.

The only realistic choice for most parents is to take the car rather than the bike.

The biggest losers from this are our children.

We need to transform Sheffield into a place where people of all ages are free to walk or ride a bike without being fearful, without sacrificing convenience.

We need to make it the obvious choice.