Grew up in a beautiful lakeside town where getting dropped off at school wasn’t an option.
Rain or shine, we’d walk. Occasionally, if there were no punctures, we’d bike. I can’t remember at what age I started making the 30-minute trek from home but I do recall being quite young.
Mumkept an eye on my progress and used to phone a friend who lived on the other side of a frequently used walkway to make sure I’d got through safely. Mummost likely had a sleeping baby or two at home so I, as the ‘‘big kid’’ of the family, paved the way for the rest of us.
One day I didn’t make it through as usual with my companion and Mum’s friend doubled back to find us paralysed from the perceived danger of having to walk past a weta.
But such dramas were rare and I’d merrily collect friends along the way, chat to neighbours, eat my lunch well before time and eventually make it to my school before the bell.
It was part of growing up in the mid 1980’s. It sounds idyllic I know, but Stranger Danger was well drummed into us. Perhaps even more so than now. Napier 14-year-old Kirsa Jensen went missing in 1983 and 6-year-old Teresa Cormack was kidnapped off a Napier street and murdered in 1987, so our parents and school were vigilant about our safety.
When I think about it now, that 30-minute walk probably helped me gear up for school after a busy family of five breakfast in the morning, and compartmentalise the day in my head on the way home.
So when my daughter was approaching school age mid last year, I was intent on recreating that walking experience for her, albeit in a big busy city, far removed geographically and light years away from the life of 1980s small town New Zealand.
Today’s parents are busier in different ways and it’s not always possible to walk to school or indeed live within a safe walking distance. Which is why a walking school bus is such a great option.
It’s an organised route managed by the schools and volunteers with support from local authorities. Parents and caregivers take turns ‘‘driving’’ the bus each day of the week.
On our route we get to know the other kids, and parents, teach the children road rules and safety and, I reckon, hear a bit more about their days on the way home as we walk and talk than if we