04 October 2006

School Xing

My best friend lived across the street from me in a brick ranch house, with vines curling up the façade. A path of circular cobblestones punctuated the grass and led up to the house. I hopped from slab to slab, squeezed by an overgrown shrub to reach the patio and waited for her dog to hurl itself against the door, announcing my presence.

This scene repeated itself myriad times from ages 5-14 because we walked to school every day.

That's why it seems absurd to me that October is National Walk-to-School Month. Logically, one would think it's a given that kids walk to school—unless they live too far away or are not served adequately by sidewalks. But, just through anecdotal observation, I've realized that's not the case.

The stats back me up. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 31 percent of children who live within a mile of their school walked or biked. (Compared to the late 1960s, in which 90 percent of those children did.)

The automobile has been cited as an isolating "innovation" and this is another effect. Frankly, people are lazy, hyper-reliant on cars and too permissive with their children. So, don't wonder why your kids are fat. Or spoiled.

Fear-mongering also factors into a lack of kids out walking to school. I can't begrudge a parent's concern for his/her child's safety. But, as a story in Salon notes, "Child-abduction terrors...reinforce a logical fallacy—'I won't let my kids walk because it's not safe; it's not safe because there aren't enough people walking.'"

Parents may fear their children will get hit by a car on their walk to school. Ironically, Salon writes, "Fifty percent of the children hit by cars near schools are hit by vehicles driven by parents of other students, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration."

So there's no programs like Safe Routes, which organizes the International Walk to School Month, to take back the crosswalks. And I guess that's good because, obviously, awareness has to be increased about the benefits of walking to school. On that note, I find it depressing that there's a need to do so at all and that walking to school has to become an activist issue.

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