Dorg Van Dango launches Kilkenny’s Safe School Zone campaign

Mary Cody

Reporter:

Mary Cody

Email:

mary.cody@kilkennypeople.ie

Dorg Van Dango launches Kilkenny’s Safe School Zone campaign

Dorg Van Dango

One of Cartoon Saloon’s newest characters, Dorg Van Dango, is an avid cyclist and has come on board with Kilkenny County Council and local schools to launch Kilkenny’s Safe School Zone campaign. 

Cartoon Saloon may be best known for its animated feature films The Secret of Kells, Song of the Sea, and The Breadwinner but in Kilkenny you are more likely to see their talented crew cycling through the city on their day to day business, rather than highlighting their four Academy Award nominations. 

Cartoon Saloon has been a big supporter of Kilkenny LEADER Partnership’s Cycling in the City initiative and Dorg Van Dango and friends are going to be popping up in the local schools to help create Safe School Zones.

In surveys carried out by local schools and by Kilkenny County Council before the summer break, students expressed their fears over walking to school due to the volume of traffic and drop offs at school gates.  

School management highlighted the impacts of driver behaviour at the school gate on congestion and increasingly on air quality.  The green schools programme has monitored the air quality at the school gates and there are simple steps that can help maintain or improve air quality.  Engines idling create worse emissions than driving. When a car is driving, the engine heats up faster and the catalytic converter becomes more efficient at reducing emissions.  Idling vehicles emit higher levels of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and hydrocarbons. These pollutants contribute to global warming and worsen air quality.  Young people are at greater risk of the health impacts of air pollution because their lungs are still developing, and respiratory illnesses are increasing in Ireland.

Using park and stride locations, or parking further away from the school with due consideration to residents can make a large difference to air quality at the school gate. 

Caitríona Corr a PhD researcher based at Kilkenny County Council said,

“The first step to encouraging more students to walk and cycle to school is to remove the traffic from the school gates.  This traffic can be dramatically reduced by more students walking, cycling or scooting to school. If you live further away, consider Park and Stride at a nearby location for younger children or dropping well outside the school zone if your child is old enough to walk independently.  It is up to every parent to make the school gate a safer place.  During the pandemic, young people have really enjoyed getting back on their bikes and now have the confidence and impetus to use cycling and walking as the new normal way, the most fun and healthy way, to get to school happy and ready to learn.  As parents, we should try and give them the opportunity”.

There are lots of additional benefits to walking to school or walking the last kilometre.

Seán Ó h-Árgáin principal at Gaelscoil Osraí in Kilkenny city said:

“As a school principal I cannot emphasise enough the benefits to children and the wider community of walking and cycling to school. The children arrive alert and ready to learn. There is less congestion and air pollution around the school. We look forward to supporting our own school community in finding safe routes back to school.”

Children and adolescents in Ireland are struggling to meet the physical activity guidelines of at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity daily.  Only 13% of school children meet these guidelines (17% primary school pupils and 10% post primary school pupils) and the time spend on screens or sedentary has increased greatly.  At the age of 17/18, one quarter of Irish adolescents are overweight or obese.  This age group often cite study and exams as a reason for giving up activities.  Walking or cycling to school can become a daily habit that incorporates activity into everyday life and it is easy, enjoyable and sociable!

Kilkenny had one of the highest levels of students cycling to school in Irish towns in the 1990s.  Over 40% of secondary school children cycled.  In the last 20 years, there has been a dramatic reduction in the percentages of those cycling for transport in Kilkenny and these journeys have been replaced with cars. 

Now, more than ever, it is important to ensure that children get every opportunity to be outdoors.  Dorg van Dango and his friends will be appearing at school gates to remind parents how important it is to create safe zones outside schools and therefore allow children to walk and cycle to school.

To help children who would like to try to cycle to school, Kilkenny Walking and Cycling Campaign Group are offering the support of experienced cyclists, to assist families in practicing their routes to school.  Contact cyclekilkenny@gmail.com to arrange support.