It is every child’s God-given right to ride a cycle to and from school safely.
That’s a horrified Tauranga MP Jan Tinetti’s reaction to a barrage of on-line abuse directed at an enterprising Otumoetai Intermediate schoolgirl and her father who launched a petition for wider bike lanes around Tauranga, amongst other things.
“Ur mother should be proud… NOT,” said James in a Facebook post when the SunLive story about Samirah and Tristan Hancock’s petition went online. “Pandering to cyclists must cease… and roads returned to the motorist,” exclaimed another post, and “buses are free, take one”.
“Show some respect,” says Jan. “Listen to young people because they are the ones on their bikes and on the roads every day. Value their opinions because they absolutely do matter.”
The vitriol spewed on. “Yuh dreaming mate …stupidity reigns”, “total bollocks”, “just someone wanting publicity” and “funny how the minority get to rule over the majority”. There were some positive comments offset by many aggressive and nasty ones.
However Jan Tinetti, a mother who encouraged her kids to cycle to school, the former teacher who encouraged her pupils onto cycles and now MP with an empathy for cyclists, applauds Samirah for shining a light on a very serious problem. And she immediately climbed online to support Samirah.
“It’s crucially important for our kids to be on bikes because it’s environmentally sound and it gives them a sense of independence.” Jan says the reaction to the petition is disappointing and only serves to demonstrate the aggression to young people on the roads.
Young people, like Henry. There’s a sad reason we can’t use his real name. “Because I don’t want to be bullied on-line by adults,” he explained. Thirteen-year-old Henry fully supports Samirah’s campaign. And he cites his own personal experiences cycling to and from school to back his case.
“People in cars just don’t like cyclists. We annoy them yet we are just trying to keep fit and help get cars off the road.” He says they are impatient, intolerant and abusive when they feel someone like a cyclist has made a mistake.
The last time a cycling Henry had a confrontation with a motorist was his worst. “The driver came up beside me and tooted his horn so loudly, I felt disorientated. Then he wound down his window and abused me. It was his fault, he didn’t indicate.”
“Totally unacceptable,” says Jan Tinetti. “It’s part of who we are as a country. We grew up with the right to ride bicycles to school, and now we seem to be saying it doesn’t matter.” She says it’s crucially important our kids ride bikes because its environmentally sound and gives them a sense of independence from an early age.
Henry’s mother doesn’t like him riding to school for good reason. He’s had several close calls and one accident. “I was knocked off my bike outside Mega Mitre 10 by a turning car. And he didn’t even stop.” He suggests grown-ups should listen to young cyclists like Samirah and him because they know what it’s like to compete with cars, buses and trucks. “We probably do more cycling than anyone.”
The Hancocks launched their petition after Samirah witnessed a car hit a young person from her school. She was upset at how dangerous the roads are around her school and wants wider bike to keep kids safer, less carparks and a more comprehensive bus service to keep cars off the road.
Jan Tinetti has a message for adults. “If you don’t like Samirah’s petition, don’t abuse, just don’t sign.
“But as for putting this girl down for having an opinion and a voice, well, she does matter. It is our children and our young people who are going to change this world for the better and we need to look them.”
The MP says if people demonstrate that aggressive attitude on line, what will they be like out on the road? “They may be a minority but they are hurtful. Show some kindness.”