Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Putting One Foot in Front of the Other 

The discovery that very few children walk to school anymore was front page news today: The State | 09/02/2003 | Few children are arriving at school on foot.

I can't say that this report surprises me. Whenever the school year rolls around I see articles in the paper about "car lines" and proper parking lot etiquette for parents picking up and dropping off children at school. Driving your kids to school has become the norm. The above article says that our local school districts don't provide bus service to areas less than 1 1/2 miles away from the school. Theoretically, kids should be able to walk or bike that distance. However, with so few safe places to walk and bike in Columbia, I'm not surprised that parents are unwilling to let their kids traipse through 45mph traffic to get to school.

This is really part of a larger problem: the problem of Americans forgetting that their legs can be used as a means of transportation. A few days ago, the Philadelphia Inquirer printed this article about how American suburbs are making us fat because they are designed for cars, not people. People can't walk to the store, to school, to lunch, to anywhere, so they drive and lose out on valuable exercise. Walking has become a form of recreation instead of a means of transportation.

When looking for a house a year ago, I insisted on a neighborhood with sidewalks. I wanted to be able to get places on my own power without having to depend on a car to get me across the street. Unfortunately, only the pricey neighborhoods had sidewalks, so I settled for an in-town neighborhood with a lot of stuff within walking distance. I am disappointed that our street has no sidewalks, but am encouraged by the pedestrians I see every day braving the traffic whizzing by their shoulders to get to the grocery store, bus stop, mall, or restaurant. With walking being front page news, perhaps city planners will listen to those of us who want improvements to the pedestrian transportation structure.


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