I live in rural Ireland in between a small rural village and a larger town. My children attend school in the local village, which is approximate 2.5 km away from our home. It takes about 7 min to drive to the school, I would imagine it would take about 20 min to walk there, however I don’t know for sure because I have actually never tried.
The road down to the school is a picturesque winding spectacle offering incredible views of the surrounding landscape while passing farms, cows and sheep in their fields. This is the road that my children’s dad used to walk or cycle to school – and his parents before him.
Our reliance on cars has changed in recent years and everyone now drive on this narrow, winding road, like on so many other rural roads in Ireland, at a speed of up to 80 km/hour. That makes this journey incredibly dangerous. The school run feels like a rollercoaster ride of zigzagging in and out of the muddy edge every time another car is passing on the road which in most places only really is wide enough for one car.
Dublin has taken steps towards making the city more pedestrian and cycle friendly, however in rural Ireland, there are very few initiatives for making roads more pedestrian and cycle friendly. How incredible it would be if rural kids could walk or cycle safely to school, what an amazingly beautiful journey they would have, how great it would be for them to get this kind of fresh air and exercise every day - or at least when the weather allows it.
This would not be difficult to achieve, speed limits on these types of rural roads should be lowered to 50km/h (possibly 30km/h during school commuting times), and some roads should be made one-way for cars, allowing parts of the road to be permanently designated for bikes/pedestrian paths.
Provision for bikes and pedestrians would change the way we live. It would improve our children’s and our own health, kicking the lifestyle diseases which are so imminent to the curb and saving billions on the health budgets.