While I was walking to a site meeting this week, I noticed something quite disturbing. A group of twelve little kids (nursery school I assume) were going for a walk.
That is not a bad thing of course, but they were in two groups of six with each group attached in pairs by a harness to a central rope which ended in a handle which was being held by a carer. Each child was also kitted out in a hi-viz waistcoat and as the group walked by I had to do a double take. What the hell have we become - having little kids walking around chain-gang style while they take a constitutional.
I've done a little research and this get up is available in all different combinations and the company which sells them is "award winning". I'm not going to link the company's website and I'm not going to criticise them too much, although they are playing on people's fears.
This contrivance exists because of people's dual fears of a child getting into the road or becoming separated from a group. The thing that disturbs me is that we have reached the position where someone has come up with such an idea and there are people willing to invest in it. The company's website implies that their product makes life easy for people to walk with children - aimed at nurseries and schools no doubt and who can blame them for not wanting to be responsible for what could happen should child slip away from the group.
It's a sad indictment of how we design and arrange our streets that we get both "safety" products like this and the paranoia which goes with them. We have systematically designed our streets to stuff traffic along them, or by our inaction and indifference we have allowed them to be taken over by traffic. We have cars stored on the streets and on our footways; we have succumbed to their convenience and the downsides and dangers are quietly accepted. People who don't own cars are ignored or called cranks and we never ask children what they want (but they don't vote or pay tax).
Of course, I wonder how many of the children I saw walk on a daily basis away from nursery? Perhaps being dragged along like a human centipede is the most these poor little souls can expect; and at least they are outside taking exercise. Judging by the nurseries out here in suburbia, the most exercise they otherwise get is being dragged in and out of 4-wheel drives. Those same cars which make it so dangerous they have to be shackled together for their own good.