As responsible adults, it is our responsibility to create a forgiving environment for children , an environment in which normal child behaviour does not cause harm.
By Kevin Love
Published July 03, 2017
Last week, I was shocked to find a very dangerous fence being erected on the south side of the Escarpment Rail Trail between the Wentworth Street South crossing and the Claremont Access overpass. Although it poses a particular danger to children, even adults are threatened by this dangerous fence. This route is heavily used by children travelling to Queen Victoria Elementary School.
New fence along the south side of the Escarpment Rail Trail
Closeup of the fence built right to the edge of the path
1. As clearly seen in the photographs above, this steel fence was erected right up against the edge of the cycle path pavement. If someone is riding with their tire at the edge of the cycle path, then their right elbow and handlebars will project up to half a metre further out. This will result in a collision with the fence, and a crash.
Due to their level of immaturity and poorer judgment, this poses a particularly serious danger to children. It is now unsafe to use the south 1/2 metre of the cycle path due to the threat posed by this fence.
But it gets worse:
2. Last week, before this fence was built, if someone inadvertently rode off the pavement, it was not a big deal. They just stopped off the path, or in the worst case, fell into the soft undergrowth. Now, anyone who does this will crash into the fence and be thrown back onto the hard pavement. Also, when they are thrown back onto the cycle path, they may crash into someone else travelling there.
If that "someone else" is a child, and the person thrown onto the child is a big guy like me, I predict that the child may experience very serious injuries.
It gets even worse:
3. Last week, before this fence was built, whenever I encountered children going to school, I would slow way down and be prepared to go off the pavement if a child were to run in front of me. Now, this option is no longer available.
By definition, children are immature and lack adult judgement. Children run around unpredictably. That is just part of being a perfectly normal child. It is to be expected that a child will unexpectedly run in front of myself or any other adult using this trail. And as responsible adults, we are prepared to avoid them and go off the pavement if a child runs in front of us. Now that option is no longer available.
This fence violates the SWOV Sustainable Safety [PDF] principle of "Forgivingness." This is the fourth of five Sustainable Safety principles and is defined in the above link as "Injury limitation through a forgiving road environment and anticipation of road user behaviour."
In other words, all people make mistakes. That is a universal part of the human condition. Innocent children, due to their lack of adult maturity and judgment, are particularly prone to mistakes.
As responsible adults, it is our responsibility to create a forgiving environment for children travelling to Queen Victoria Elementary School. An environment in which normal child behaviour does not cause harm. Normal child behaviour such as riding off a cycle path or unexpectedly running around.
For the sake of child safety, this fence should be removed. As an absolute minimum, the fence must be moved a minimum of two metres from the edge of the cycle path in order to comply with safety standards.
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