Education

Campaign to get kids cycling is stuck in the mud

By Kimberley Price

ALL WEEK Echuca East Primary School has been encouraging students to get involved in today’s national Ride2School Day.

But parent and Echuca woman Jodi Ujimoto says the uneven nature and lack of footpaths surrounding the school makes it almost impossible for students to safely take part.

She said children were forced to travel through dirt in summer and mud in winter.

‘‘We want to actively promote students transiting to school, whether it’s walking, riding or scooting,’’ Mrs Ujimoto said.

‘‘One of the challenges we have in the east is the lack of footpaths leading to the school.

‘‘About half of the students live within 2km of the school and yet not all of them can safely transit to school.

‘‘We’re trying to work with the council to improve the footpaths in the east to make it easier for as many students as possible to walk, scoot or ride to school.

‘‘Councillor Daniel Mackrell has been very supportive.’’

Campaspe Shire Council’s active transport strategy aims to make it easier for people to walk and cycle.

Through data collected from two drop-in sessions in August 2018 and an interactive, visual mapping tool, CrowdSpot, council gained an idea about what needs to change.

In the drafting process, the strategy will highlight areas in Echuca that can be improved.

‘‘Echuca East and Jodi put up their hands to voice their concerns and now we can work together to see what council can do,’’ Cr Mackrell said.

‘‘We understand we need to make safer ways for children to walk and ride to school.

‘‘We have been looking into the east footpath connectivity but there are policies in place we have to follow.

‘‘This is a great opportunity to work closely with a passionate community group to improve active lifestyles in our community.’’

Council’s regulatory and community services general manager Paul McKenzie said he hoped the strategy would improve areas for active purposes.

‘‘Once the strategy has passed council, we can release it back into the community for their input,’’ Mr McKenzie said.

‘‘We are hoping this can happen within the next six to eight weeks.

‘‘We have funds available for the renewal of existing footpaths and we have a small amount of funds for new footpaths. These funds are allocated based on priority.

‘‘Obviously safe travel to schools is a high priority.’’

Mrs Ujimoto has banded together with other parents from Echuca East to form the Active Transport Echuca East Group (ATEEG).

With the support of principal Lyn Strachan, the group’s aim is to ‘‘increase the number of footpaths, bicycle lanes and safe crossings in Echuca East to help our kids safely get to school by foot, bicycle or scooter’’.

‘‘We need to be able to encourage the students to go from home to school to sporting precincts and to develop their independence,’’ Mrs Strachan said.

‘‘We need our kids to be safe.’’

If you would like to be involved in ATEEG, contact ATEEGroup@gmail.com