Saturday, 23 January 2016

Let's Go For A Walk

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.

17 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. We don't inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. Some borrowing our car crazy culture has that we steal not borrow from our children. Stealing their lives in car crashes that could have been prevented by design, stealing the environment and healthy cities from them, sticking them with the huge task of cleaning up after previous generations of unsustainability. Stealing their health from them by making them being transported around in cars, creating a sedentary lifestyle. Stealing livability from them. Stealing their intellect by creating so much pollution that brains have been poisoned, first by leaded gasoline and second by ordinary pollution. And stealing their homes for building the massive motorways and huge roads through the city centres. The original quote came from an Australian aborigine I believe, but I don't know which one.

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    1. You can use my comparison for your own works if you want.

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  3. I see this on a regular basis in and around Kings Cross/St Pancras/Euston, where admittedly road dangers are high and provision for pedestrians is poor.

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    1. I'm not blaming those using the product or really it's designers; the real blame lies with us, politicians and professionals for allowing these conditions to prevail.

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  4. Not `traffic'; `motor traffic (at the expense of all other traffic)'. This is a common misnomer in your writing, implying that it doesn't count as traffic if it is not mechanically propelled. At least it wasn't `vehicle' instead of `motor vehicle' :-).

    The mindset evident in your walking example is reminiscent of at least one local branch of LCC who are apparently terrified of going on group rides without special insurance. Such cover cannot be obtained, of course, until some [seemingly excessive] number of delegates have been sent on a reassuringly expensive ride `leader' course which would take several months to arrange. Quite why they cannot share the classes with other branches is probably best left unasked... Yes, it is one of those branches which does (did?) campaign against `going Dutch' on the absurd grounds that their highways are already `perfect' for cycling!

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    1. See, my education does pop out from time to time. I probably need to talk about people driving, people walking and people cycling; but traffic is a shorthand which people revert to and I would say, often means "cars" and not even any other motor vehicle classes!

      We didn't have group insurance or training for the London Cycle Safaris before Christmas ;)

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    2. Sigh. Not `people'; `that specific subset of people who wish to marginalise and demonise the non-motorised', as correctly identified in your following post. Consider the use of `person' in the USA constitution. It does not augur well to adopt the `shorthand' of extremist loonies---and to that end, I shall endeavour to refer only to `motor traffic lights' in future. Also, do not forget people horsing and motoring: driving being something entirely different!

      It's heartening that the safaris weren't seeking to emulate that [anti-cycling] branch of LCC. I myself went to see for the first time the `finished' bits of the A3211 cycleway in February---albeit substantially obstructed by A-frames bearing `CYCLE TRACK CLOSED' (another variant of `SLOW WET TAR'?) signs with such an enormous x-height that I'm practically certain that cyclists weren't the intended audience... If anything, I was probably a bit over-insured ;-).

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  5. I'm using a slide of this device in action as part of my presentations on "road safety" ideology - it gets gasps from (some of) the audience.

    The lady who invented it has got the MBE for doing so.

    R. Davis, Chair RDRF

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    1. I can't really blame the inventor; the product is a symptom of the system, but I get your drift.

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  6. I'm late to the party, but I have a counter-example to the chain-gang of children. In Japan kids have a lot more freedom (and responsibility) from a very young age. So much so that there's a TV show called "My First Errand" which features pre-schoolers being sent to the shops by their mothers. Here's one explanation https://hiraganamama.wordpress.com/2013/09/05/%E3%81%AF%E3%81%98%E3%82%81%E3%81%A6%E3%81%AE%E3%81%8A%E3%81%A4%E3%81%8B%E3%81%84-my-first-errand/
    Japan has social expectations and urban infrastructure that make it normal and safe for primary school pupils to take trains and buses on their own. Another world is possible.

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    1. Wow, we'd get locked up for that in the UK!

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    2. Which offenses would you be arrested for? And when might the police not stop you if you look young (when are youth allowed to ride on their own?)?

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  7. Contrast St John Ambulance - 'Safety Suit' ad campaign !
    https://youtu.be/t9KlAvqWAJk

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    1. I think the nursery got the wrong message. St John's Ambulance didn't mean that you should literally give your kid a bubble suit.

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