In 2015, hard looks were being taken at the realities of everyday life, with the intention of inducing more motion in children — preferably in ways that fit in with customary life. In many locales, transportation to and from school became a hot topic.
In Mother Earth News, F. Kaid Benfield noted that…
As recently as 1973, some 60 percent of school-age children walked or biked to school. I’m told that, today, the portion is about 13 percent. All this while we have a serious problem with childhood obesity, which has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years, according to the National Centers for Disease Control.
A case in idyllic Saratoga Springs, NY, drew media attention. A 12-year-old boy rode his bike to school,
a) along a dedicated bike trail
b) accompanied by his mother on her bike
c) on National Bike to Work Day.
On arrival, they were greeted by the security detail and the school administrators and told in no uncertain terms that students were not allowed to ride bikes to and from school.
The journalist asked questions, and the plot thickened. This particular family was fortunate to live adjacent to a designated bike trail, but students lived all over the district, so it definitely would not be safe for them to bike to school even if they were willing to. If a student was hurt, the school might face legal liability. Everyone must be subject to the same rules, so, therefore, the only acceptable modes of transport were parental car and school bus.
The problem is the school’s location, completely isolated from its community instead of placed within the community where walking and bicycling would be a much more convenient and common choice.
There are a lot of cities in the United States, and far too many of them suffer from schools being built in the wrong locales. On top of a toxic waste pit is not the only bad place for a school. Maybe schools should be where students can get to them under their own steam. Certain factions want to see this taken more extensively into consideration before future plans are made.
Insisting on car or bus transport is based on safety of course, but Benfield adds that in any given year, about a quarter of a million children were hurt in motor vehicle accidents, and for kids from two to 14 years of age, the leading cause of death was MVAs,
Just in case any reader is in a position to influence such matters, the writer also goes into a great amount of detail about the 11 things to keep in mind when a new school is being planned.
In the same time frame, Odense, Denmark’s third-largest city, was the exact opposite. Cars were forbidden in school zones, and the very large majority of children walked or rode skateboards back and forth. Even five-year-olds rode their bikes. By the time they reached Grade 3 or 4, class groups would go on field trips by bike. Odense had well over 300 miles of bike paths, an incalculable benefit for the residents and also a tourist attraction.
The school principal gave journalist Matt McFarland answers that might surprise some. Lars Christian Eriksen said that biking affects the child’s character, and seemed more impressed by brain stimulation than by the difference this vigorous exercise made on the muscles and bones.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “Getting to School Shouldn’t Be So Hard,” Mother Earth News, February 2015
Source: “This Danish City Is So Bike-Friendly Even Kindergartners Ride To School,” NDTV.com, 02/24/16
Image by DieselDemon/CC BY 2.0