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Safe Routes to School

I grew up in a one-car family; my dad drove it to work each day. That left us 6 kids with our bikes to get around. When summer ended, my daily trip to school included a 1-mile bike ride to the bus stop. I’ll bet you have a similar story. It was a simpler time.

When we first moved to CdM we’d walk the kids to Harbor View School. The route would take us over the Goldenrod bridge. My younger son memorized the details of the bridge’s construction from the attached plaque; he’d often quiz me as we crossed. In later years, as he learned how much I enjoyed that daily ritual, the more he preferred being driven to school by his mother; kids can be like that.

I would tell him that he was doing his teachers a favor by walking that mile; he’d arrive refreshed and alert, less fidgety and ready for his lessons, but the car prevailed.

Maybe because arriving at school by car was such a scene; there was a greeter and someone to wave the parents away from the curb once Johnny was safely deposited. Other kids gathered on the sidewalk and the steady stream of kids and backpacks moving to assembly; it was an exciting way to arrive. The kids who walked came in through a gate in the back fence with no fanfare. I would’ve wanted to be driven, too, I suppose, but at what cost?

When you and I were of that age, most of us did walk or ride our bikes to school. Today that number has shrunk to only 15%. Instead parents chauffeur in big SUVs and rationalize: “it’s not safe to walk or ride, there are too many cars!” Yet this has become a perverse self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts – there are too many SUVs on the roads because so many parents are driving their kids to school. As much as 35% of traffic is related to driving kids to school. Wow!

My kids aren’t little any more, but one still gets driven to CdM every day. He counts the days till he gets his license. And just a year ago CdM HS received a little windfall, so they decided to expand their parking lot. Guess what? It has attracted more cars, and didn’t we all know the answer to that even as I formed the question? Didn’t we learn something from Carmageddon? Increasing roadway capacity only brings out more cars, so too with high school parking lots.

Going in the wrong direction: CdM High School expanded their parking lot so more kids can drive

And where’s that study I saw just last month? It stated that now every state in the nation has an obesity factor of 20%, or greater. Kids are at risk for obesity in ever growing numbers, diabetes, too. It seems we love our cars too much, but certainly not more than our children.

So some people are out to break the mold. Check out the National Center for Safe Routes to School program; it has oodles of information on how to encourage more kids to walk and bike to school. Sign up for their newsletter and bring the information to the PTA.

A Safe Routes to School program in your neighborhood will benefit the teachers, reduce traffic congestion around our schools, and most of all, our kids, they’ll arrive energized and ready to learn.

—Follow the comments at coronadelmartoday.

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  1. My wife WAS the chauffeur for the kids until I had to drive my eldest son to school one morning (1.2miles). A left turn was required for the final 1/4 mile approach and we waited for 4 [FOUR] signals before we could turn. It took close to 18 minutes to drive 1.2 miles to drop him off at school and then I had to fight the congestion back through the maze of drivers for the return trip home. It was over 30 minutes WASTED. Since then he’s been riding his bike and our younger child has also been riding the 2 miles to middle school.

    At first it was a battle, [I had to battle everyone – my wife included] to start the routine. Now EVERYONE feels liberated. The mornings are more relaxed; the kids have a better sense of the time they have to get ready, eat, brush their teeth, pack their bags and get out the door in time to ride to school with enough margin to allow for the time it takes to lock their bikes. The kids are making more decisions for themselves than ever. And isn’t that a part of our responsibility as parents; give our children the tools to make decisions? We’re raising a generation of wimpy kids. Convenience is killing us.

    Regardless of the congestion on the roads, there are safe alternatives, including riding on the sidewalk when there is no alternative to riding in the street. After a while, if enough kids force their way onto the sidewalks when streets are not safe, cities will be forced to consider safe-routes and everything else that’s required to make it safe and convenient for both kids and adults to ride their bikes as an alternative to driving.

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