Saturday 14 September 2013

The school run: Fiat telling the dads to get an SUV

in 1970s, the NL had their "stop the Kindermoord" campaign.

In 2013, what does the UK get? Fiat trying to sell a micro-SUV on the fiat 500 chassis, advocating "city brake control" traction control on their cars "so you can get home safely"

Think about that. The main contribution Fiat thinks can be done for child safety is to make it easier to drive you children to school and back on snowy days.

The main thing Fiat say that you, the father, can do for your children is drive them to school and back in a shiny new car. That your children will be so excited by tinted windows and alloy wheels that they will be pleased to see you. And that your status amongst school parents ('daddy cool' and 'rock up to the gates').

There's a message here: whatever car you are picking the kids up today is boring and unsafe, your children will think you are uncool, and all the other parents will look down on you.

There's another implicit message, one they probably didn't even think of: that you never, ever, walk or cycle your children to school. Instead you "rock up to the gates" -legally or not. That if your old car, without city braking and traction control isn't safe -just think how even less safe it would be if you walked with them to school -or even let them walk on their own.

What the can be done about fighting the millions that get spent in marketing SUVs like this for the school run? Even if papers occasionally write pro-everyday-cycling articles, colour pages are dedicated in every edition saying "drive your kids to school" and "get a new SUV or your own kids will look down on you"

School engagement would be ideal: imposing a walk-zone round the entrance so you cant "rock up to the gates", but instead have to drop the kids off 500 yards away and walk them in.
  1. It eliminates that final stretch of double and illegally parked dropoff cars which make walking and cycling more hazardous.
  2. With a wider parking zone round the school, the parents aren't so likely to park dangerously there either
  3. It cuts back on the whole status game. You aren't showing off your toy to the other parents, just walking in with the kids
  4. It equalises the status game with anyone walking their kids in
  5. It encourages you to walk. With better safety, no status gains and 500m to walk, if you are in the 1-2 mile catchment area, why not walk the whole way.
  6. It rewards cycling because you  can now do the entire journey faster, even at family 8-12 mph speeds
That would be ideal. Unrealistic? Maybe, but it happens sometimes in France. And if some UK schools adopt, then it sets an example for others.

The other tactic: create the social norms that walking and cycling to school is the way to do it. Niceway-style "cycle them to school so your ponies grow up to be healthy horses" isn't going to cut it, but if there a MAMIL group growing up at the school, pull them in: get them to do dropoff by bike before the morning ride, -even if that ride is just the commute. Make it social event with the kids going in with their friends. Maybe persuade the school to do more to reward the kids than give them stickers on a card in walk-to-school week.

Shaping these social norms is going to take some dedication by multiple parents -but it could be the only way to fight back against companies like Fiat selling a lie that a dad needs an urban SUV with traction control to do the school run

1 comment:

  1. Of course, Dutch children still cycle to school even when it snows. Oh, and many schools here ban cars. Quite right too. Schools should be designed for children, not for adults. Children don't drive.