“Only Bad Parents Make Their Kids WALK to School”

Hi Folks! I read this over at RixaRixa and asked if the blogger was game to let me reprint the whole thing. Yes! So here it is, in all its infuriating bureaucrat-brained fullness!

We’ve been walking Zari to and from kindergarten. It seemed the most logical of our three options (walk, ride the bus, or drive) since we only live 1 km away. If Zari rode the bus, she’d have to leave the house almost an hour earlier, and she’d get home 1 to 1 1/2 hours later. That adds up to over 2 hours on the bus per day. Driving was out of the question; why drive when our legs are perfectly capable of getting us there?
So far we’ve enjoyed our twice daily walks. Eric and I switch off walking duty depending on who is teaching that day. We get time with Zari and we get extra exercise. Sounds like the perfect scenario, right?

Yes, except that we have to cross a Death Trap road on the way. It’s a state highway that runs through town, and there are no stop signs or stoplights in probably a mile either direction. There’s a flashing light that goes on during school hours. This means that cars are supposed to slow down to 25 mph, but no one does. Every time we cross the street, it’s like we’re inside a giant game of Frogger (this totally dates me!).

I first contacted the school transportation department to inquire about crossing guards. After all, the road where we’re crossing is the main entrance into the elementary school and to the county fairgrounds. The reply? They used to supply a crossing guard at that intersection, but not any more. They told me to talk to the police department.

So I met with the chief of police and explained my concerns–that the school no longer provided a crossing guard and that I was having real troubles getting us safely across the street, especially during the morning rush. He sympathized with my situation and said he’d send some patrol cars out in the morning, but otherwise he coudln’t do much else. He suggested talking to someone in the state transportation department, since traffic signs on that road are regulated by the state, not by the city.

This morning I spoke to a woman at the state transportation department. I explained our difficulties crossing the road and asked if they would consider doing a traffic survey to put in either stop signs or a stop light. I told her I’d already met with the school transportation coordinator and the police chief, and they both told me they couldn’t do much else to help me. Her response:

“You really should have your daughter ride the bus.”

I explained that this option made no sense in our situation. We live close to the school, and riding the bus would take an extra 2+ hours out of my daughter’s day. Her reply:

“Well, you’re the one who’s choosing to put your daughter in danger. You’re choosing your convenience over her safety. She has a safe option, and that’s to ride the bus.” 

Excuse me?! When did walking your child to school mean that you’re a bad, selfish parent? I abandoned any niceties and dropped my polite tone. I said that it was not just a choice between convenience and safety. After all, we’re facing major obesity and pollution crises in this country. I feel very strongly that it’s an irresponsible choice to put my child on a bus for 2 hours a day, or to drive her to school (as many parents at this school do), when we’re perfectly capable of walking. The solution isn’t just to put my daughter on a bus; it’s to help us find a way to safely cross the street.

Her reply:

“In my town, I have several friends who live across the street from an elementary school, and they all have their children ride the bus because it’s safer than crossing the street.”

The then told me that she likely couldn’t do anything to help me, and to talk to the school and the police again.

Can anyone else see what’s wrong with this picture? Is there anything else I can do? (I do have something really subversive up my sleeve…more on that later!)

Lenore here: I like the sound of ‘something subversive.’ Please keep us looped in! – L

151 Responses

  1. Thanks for the repost Lenore! I wanted to add that there are no other families currently walking their kids to our school, except a few who live in the small neighborhood immediately surrounding the school. This means we’re the only family crossing that street–no big surprise, given the lack of support for walking in our town. Finding other families with our same situation has proven to be a challenge. When you’re practically the only one walking in the entire elementary school, you’re definitely seen as an oddball.

  2. Ooooh, I can’t wait to hear what the subversive plan is! Keep us posted!

  3. Last year we walked the 1/3 of mile to my daughter’s school to pick her up. It was the best part of our day. We could chat about school & it got the two younger sisters out of the house. We were one of two people who wentby foot. The bike rack was at the entrance with the locked door. I was the first person to find this odd. Community Development Block Grants have Safe routes to schools programs that might help…

  4. The problem, of course, is that there are no other parents who will stand up with you. It’s the parents your must win over to the walking option before you’ll get any real traction. Unless, of course, you can get the state Governor’s ear.

  5. I would think that there’s a LOT that the Chief of Police can do. For starters, make that street a priority for his patrol officers during the rush hour, and ticket those who are speeding or driving recklessly. Or just have the officer park on the roadway; sometimes all it takes to slow traffic down is a parked squad car. Give an officer crossing guard duty during the walk-to-and-from-school hours.

    And that’s just off the top of my head with about 2 seconds of thought.

  6. sounds like the perfect time to start up a “walking school bus”, after purchasing an orange vest and hand held stop sign…why not become a temporary crossing guard?

  7. Beth, those are all great ideas, and I discussed all of them with the police chief earlier today. Unfortunately he can’t do any of them! In our town, the police get into trouble for pulling over people speeding in a school zone unless they can prove they *actually saw a child at the intersection at the time they pulled the car over.* Yes, it’s true. The police chief said that, since my child is the only one crossing at that intersection, he essentially can’t enforce the speed limit there because he can’t guarantee he’ll be pulling someone over when my daughter is crossing. How’s that for crazy? I said to him, “So basically you have no way of enforcing the school speed limit.” He said, “Yes, that’s absolutely right.”

    He also said he’d love to send an officer out every day to get her to/from school at that crossing…but with all the state budget cuts, he has no money to do so.

    Of all the people I talked with, he was the most sympathetic. We’re still trying to think of any ideas. I just can’t believe how everyone’s hands are so tied by bureaucracy–and my daughter’s safety gets thrown out the window.

  8. Get her an orange crossing guard vest and a stop sign.
    And find a friend with a vehicle that looks similar to a police vehicle and sit at the intersection pointing a hair dryer at passing cars.

    Seriously, I’d take up the offer from the police chief. Strict enforcement of the school zone speed limit would get everyone to slow down. Or try to coordinate between the school transport and police departments to see 1) why they used to have one but no longer 2) could they find a volunteer crossing guard?

  9. Here in Ontario, where there is no stop signs, or traffic lights and no crossing guards, some municipalities put up a crossing sign directly over the crosswalk. You push a button and the sign lights up. Traffic is then supposed to stop.

    If you cannot get them to do that, then buy a reflective vest, and a hand held stop sign to use when you are doing the school commute. If questioned by authority, explain the steps you took, and that you had no other option.

    The lady that insulted the mom in this story……………..FIRE HER!

  10. The principal at our school this year made every parent sit through an “orientation” of sorts during the registration process. The school literally has NO sidewalks leading up to it. Every parent is expected to drive or bus their child. The neighborhood that is located right across the street isn’t even supposed to let their children walk. The principal made a huge deal about how dangerous it is!! Walking to school is practically forbidden.

  11. Spike strips work really well. Just kidding.

  12. This is a bigger problem than just free range kids. There are huge areas in America where it probably is more dangerous to walk/bike to school despite short physical distance. Getting things changed is a long process, that is often futile. Your best bet is to think about where you will live, and vote with your feet. Just because a neighborhood is supposed to be kid friendly doesn’t mean that it is. It might be “safe” but at what cost?

  13. Sounds like she needs to get the community involved in making the whole town more pedestrian friendly.

    That said, I wish we could walk our son to school. We live close enough distance-wise, but there are 2 busy roads, including a state highway, both with no signals, to cross. And no sidewalks along the state highway, which we’d have to walk along for some distance. Luckily the bus ride from our neighborhood is less than 10 minutes since we are the last stop in the morning and the first in the afternoon.

    Our town actually has a good reputation for pedestrian access, but we’re toward the edge and sidewalks just reached our neighborhood a few years ago (right before the economy tanked). I’m hopeful that more sidewalks will be put in as things improve, but that state highway is in the planning stages to be widened, which will make it harder to cross. And no improvements like sidewalks will happen until that happens since they’d just get torn up anyway.

  14. I must be a really awful parent then. My fifth and second graders walk to and from school on their own. The street isn’t so busy as the one in this post, but it can be pretty bad, as it’s a charter school and we’re one of the few families who live within walking distance. Parents driving their kids to school can be really careless.

    The one plus is that the parking lot is small enough that lots of parents park off campus in our neighborhood, so my kids are rarely crossing alone. I wish the school had crossing guards, but they use the budget excuse.

  15. I would get my own reflective vest and stop sign and be my own crossing guard. Be sure to take along a black hair dryer to point at the cars. They think it’s a radar gun. This is great fun, and I have done it in my front yard to slow down speeding teenagers. :)

  16. Did your shopping for you –

    Stop signs – http://preview.tinyurl.com/9f8fsnn

    Vest – http://preview.tinyurl.com/8b2m545
    :-)

  17. I may have to stop reading this blog for the sake of my blood pressure. And to think that I walked to kindergarten — 1 km, through rain and snow, though it wasn’t uphill both ways — BY MYSELF. (Well, I did have a friend most days, but no adults.) In fact, I made the trip four times a day, since we went home for lunch.

    But the world has changed a lot since then, and as others have said, it’s not only the schools and the police that need an attitude change. No developer should be allowed to put in a subdivision without sidewalks. No town/state/whatever should be allowed to put in a road without sidewalks. And certainly no school board should be allowed to put a school in a place where it’s not safe for children to walk. But we, the people, have to make it happen by speaking up. Right now, the pedestrian- and bike-friendly voices aren’t being heard.

  18. Reminds me of the joke: Guy is planning a weeks-long backpacking trip. Needs something, so he DRIVES to the store to get it.

  19. http://www.saferoutesinfo.org/

    As someone said above, this is an epidemic in many cities. I strongly encourage you to work with your school/city officials to advocate for a safe routes to school grant that may allow you to make an improvement that would make it safer to walk to school.

  20. We had great results when we got the state transportation department involved in our walking/biking routes to school.

    Our school district (which previously forbid kids from biking to school stating it was too dangerous) cut bus transportation and fully expected parents to drive their kids. The parking lots at pick up resemble Frogger! The state said that the district had to make improvements to make it safe for kids to walk and bike (sidewalks installed and bike paths) which I’m sure cost our school district hundreds of thousands of dollars. We nickname the new route the Taj Mahal, and it is quite nice!

    Most of the kids in our neighborhood now bike or walk the 1-2 miles each way. It’s actually easier and faster vs. driving and dealing with traffic. The kids are in charge of their commute and they love the independence. This year, I will be biking a new “flock” of 6 year-olds with questionable biking ability (8 in total). We have already requested two crosswalks to be painted (the kids biked to the township building with their letter and signatures) and they are now in the process of doing some practice runs to school. The older kids will be in leadership roles to help the little guys and they are excited to have such responsibility.

    My advise to this mom is to enlist other parents who are in your neighborhood. The squeaky wheel does get the grease. But more than one squeaky wheel will only help your cause. It is a great one. Our kids CAN walk and bike short distances to reduce the impact on the environment. It’s the stupid adults that keep messing things up for them.

  21. Did you hear the joke about the public servant? …

    We are run by idiots.

  22. What is the speed limit on that road during non-school hours?

  23. At this point I would suggest going to your local city council members or on to your state legislative members. If you can do a little research to see if any are focused on child health issues, obesity, or on green energy, they might be more receptive. At the very least, if a state legislative person were to call the local police chief, the school principal, or even the state transportation office, they might be more responsive.

  24. What about the AAA? In Canada the CAA has training courses for crossing guards, has stop signs and vests etc. Maybe the AAA does too?

    —- break for google searching —-

    It seems they do. I’d contact your local AAA and see what they can do:

    http://midatlantic.aaa.com/Foundation/SchoolPrograms/AdultCrossingGuard

  25. Complain to your state legislator, especially about the lady at the state transportation department. If an adult is having trouble being able to cross the street, there’s definitely a problem here, and something needs to be done.

  26. Talk to that lady’s boss. If nothing happens still, write to your newspaper or news station. I’m not sure how it works in the States but here in Canada I made traffic changes to our street by talking to our city councillor and then going through my neighbourhood getting neighbours to sign a petition. I was pleasantly surprised by how many neighbours shared my complaint. All the best in your fight, don’t give up, you are doing the right thing. Oh, and I agree with Helynna Brooke above, take the green or the child health approach.

  27. SecondofSeven has a good point, it doesn’t have to be ‘parents’ who object. Any citizen can… how about grandparents who remember their kids walking to school?

  28. The time for niceties has passed. Go straight for subversion.

  29. I have to laugh that she thought walking your child to school was “convenient”… seems a whole lot more “convenient” to just walk her to the bus stop and let her sit on the bus for an hour while you have an extra hour to yourself to drink a cup of coffee. Instead, you are having some quality time with your daughter and getting some exercise too. I’m not sure “convenient” is the right word! Good luck with the situation. There’s no excuse for the way this has been handled at any of those levels.

  30. It’s thanks to our car culture that a simple thing like walking has been turned into such an obstacle course.

    When I rode the school bus to junior high in the early 90s, there was a minimum distance of a mile or so we had to live from the school in order to qualify for bus service. Has that requirement been done away with, or maybe it was just peculiar to my state?

  31. I agree with many previous posters. Get yourself a stop sign and an orange vest with reflectors and leave 10 minutes earlier. (Sure beats an hour!) Be the change.

  32. The DOT should get rid of that idiot and then design a safe cross walk near the school.

  33. In our state, elementary students only get a bus if they live more than 1.5 miles from the school by the shortest driven route. That means that my kids lost their bus this year because a new road was built between our house and the school that puts us within 1 mile of the school. The problem is that the kids can’t walk that route. It crosses two major highways with no crossing guards (I have contacted the police and the cities about crossing guards, to no avail) and there are no sidewalks on that route which passes through a big construction zone. The route they want the kids to walk is the old route that goes up and around that neighborhood and makes their walk nearly two miles and they STILL have to cross two major highways. I’d take a bus over our situation any day. I’d like to let my kids ride their bikes on the through-road, but they really need a crossing guard at the two major intersections. So what I do is drive them halfway and then they walk the rest of the way where there is a sidewalk and a crossing guard.

  34. Be the change until you’re arrested for unlawfully obstructing the flow of traffic.

  35. What about heading up the ladder to the Mayor? Or about the next Town Hall meeting? That really sucks. Our street is well regulated and our bike racks are full. Once my son is old enough, he’s hoofing it! Right now he’s almost 6 and in Kinder. Once the heat index goes below 104F here, I’ll be walking him.

  36. Maybe it’s time to start a pedestrian advocacy group in your area? Here is an example of one here in Boston:

    http://www.walkboston.org/

  37. Just noticed they have a “toolkit” for “Safe Routes to School” here: http://www.walkboston.org/resources/publications/safe-routes-school-toolkit-communities

  38. Rixa-so, he willfully refuses to do the duty to which he was duly elected? Get in trouble by whom? He’s the fricken chief of police.

  39. this sounds exactly like my neighborhood elementary school, where one bus does TWO routes in the morning and after school. One for the kids that all live within walking distance and then back around to the school for a longer route… huh? that sounds WAY more expensive than a crossing guard and sidewalks to me… just saying!

  40. You can call your state representative! The people in his/her office can probably make the transportation department do a study to put in a stop sign or light!

  41. To me it’s scary to think that adults have abandoned critical thinking to the point where taking a bus to the school across the street doesn’t even raise an eyebrow.

    On a related note, I was pleased to see that there are crossing guards in front of my kids’ school (a non-public school, even). My kids don’t need to cross the street there, but it was nice to see that those who did need to could still do so. I also notice a lot of kids still walking to/from school and waiting “unsupervised” after school for rides.

    I’m just ecstatic that I don’t have to sign my kids in with my fingerprints any more. Whoda thunk “only” driving my kids to the door would feel so freeing.

  42. I would definitely “Dear Editor” this one with your local paper and holy cow, yes, name names!!

  43. And you know what else – drop Michelle Obama a note. I mean it’s right up her alley….what the hell, you got nothing to lose….

  44. When I was in elementary school, we had STUDENT VOLUNTEERS as crossing guards, or “safety patrollers,” as we called them (actually, that got abbreviated to just “patrollers” by most people). Anyway, it was pretty straightforward. Students in grade six through eight would sign up to be patrollers, and wear reflective yellow belts that looked like diagonal seat belts (belt plus shoulder strap), while they helped younger students cross the street safely. At the end of the year, they’d be rewarded with a pizza party or a trip to an amusement park, or something of that nature. I doubt it cost the schools that much (I went to two different elementary schools, one for K-4, and another for grades 5-8), and it was an important lesson in responsibility for the students. I was never a patroller, because I hated the idea of waking up so early for morning patrol duty, but a lot of people I knew did it, and enjoyed it.

  45. Talk to the City transportation engineer. If that doesn’t work, take it up the line, to the Public Works directory, City Engineer, City Manager, etc.

    Then talk to the School district. Buses are expensive and if they can reduce them then they might be interested.

    Finally , as someone else suggested, safer ways to school is good. Talk to the local bicycle clubs, running clubs, etc. They’re all interested in the same thing.

  46. For those suggesting that “someone just build a crosswalk” keep in mind it’s horrendously expensive and requires significant investment in engineering and design to make sure it actually works. I know, I’m an engineer. It’s easy to put in a crossing that is unsafe; it’s much harder to do it right.

    Also, getting out there in a vest and stop sign probably will get you arrested, fined, and possibly killed. Let’s be reasonable folks. Yes, there are boneheaded people out there, but “if stupicity got us into this mess, why can’t stupidity get us out” is not a working hypothesis.

  47. The police response baffles me because every school zone in our city, whether they have a crossing guard or not, is pretty much a guaranteed ticket if you’re going 27 MPH instead of 25. Saying that they couldn’t (or are unwilling) to enforce a school zone speed limit is absurd.

  48. This is the true meaning of insanity.

  49. Selby, on August 30, 2012 at 10:50 said:
    And you know what else – drop Michelle Obama a note. I mean it’s right up her alley….what the hell, you got nothing to lose….

    ================

    Brilliant idea!!

  50. *Shaking head in disbelief*
    First of all, in our town (in Australia) it would be unheard of to not have a school crossing across a busy road near a school. That is just gambling with kids’ lives. The nerve to then blame endangering kids’ lives on the parent is just too ridiculous for words! Surely if a child gets hit by traffic in this situation, the council would have to accept some liability?

    Secondly, calling walking a child to school convenient is one of the silliest things I’ve ever heard. But even if it was done purely for convenience, what the heck is wrong with that?! Martyr culture much?

    And thirdly, if I were spoken to by a public servant like that, I would lodge an official complaint against her. (And I did once when one spoke to me like I was a dole bludging parasite because I asked a question about a child care subsidy I received from the government. I received a letter with an apology from their supervisor and the assurance that the staff member had been counselled.)

    And finally, I agree with the calls to contact your local council member about this and go higher up if you need to. I think it should be everyone’s right to be able to walk safely in their own neighbourhood. And there are plenty of good arguments for this.

    I have been walking my daughter to school every morning for the past 3 years and I can totally relate to the joy such a ritual can bring. I am considering moving my daughter to a different school next year when we move to another area mainly so we can continue our walking.

  51. Just one quick note: there are apparently two different Andy on this site. The previous one in this discussion was not me.

    Other then that, the semaphore with button sounds like a good solution. Although, I do not know how much it costs. Traffic is unaffected unless someone pushes the button. If you push it, you can cross safely. That sounds optimal in places with only few pedestrians.

    Plus, if the safe passage would motivate multiple people to walk, they can be reprogrammed to be scheduled.

  52. I live in Germany and have a seven year old daughter who walks or bikes to school every morning. The new schoolyear started a few weeks ago and in the first week we got a letter from the principal in which he urged the parents NOT to drive the kids, because this jeopardizes the kids who walk or bike. In September the school will have a week of action called “Walk to school”.
    My daughter has to cross a main road to get to school and to protect the children there is such a semaphore with button – even the maximum speed on this road is 30 km an hour this is absolutely necessary.

  53. This may sound like a stupid question, but is there any stoplight/crosswalk at all within convenient walking distance of this person’s house? Even if it’s not on the way to the school? I mean, is there any way she could walk her daughter in the OPPOSITE direction from the school for a little ways, find a place to cross safely, and then continue the walk to school, without it being too much of a hassle?

  54. Not having read the 53 extant comments yet, I don’t know if this was asked- where is this? I’m only asking becasue the mother referred to distance in km.

  55. Katrin – we lived in Frankfurt for two years about two years ago. Not only were our kids encouraged to walk or use public transport, there was a whole unit during second and/or third grade where kids learned how to read the u-bahn maps (subway) and the maps for the trams and bus routes, how to purchase tickets from the machines and the drivers, and how to safely ride a bike on public streets and bike routes. They took lots of short field trips practicing their new skills. It was great, the kids felt so empowered.

  56. I agree with the posts above regarding involving local politicians. I would also try getting to higher levels in the DOT or whichever agency regulates that road. The squeaky wheel (or sneaker in this case) gets fixed.

    The first step is to figure out what YOU want the solution to be. Should there be a button to make it a red light when you want to cross? Should there be enforcement of the 25 MPH zone in the morning? Pick a logical position so that it is easy for a politician or government official to advocate on your behalf. Do not get angry at the lower level officials who have rejected your request so far. They are doing a job and could be a impediment to solving this problem. Calmly explain the problem and solution so that it is easy for a politician to help you.

    I would work on state level politicians and maybe even your Congress-person’s office. They often can help you navigate these changes. The DOT or other agencies may have regional hearings or q&a sessions where you can voice your opinion. If County police are a solution you could advocate to the Sheriff or another elected County level official who might help.

    Figure out a solution and then help them to help you. This should be solvable.

  57. Thinking on this a bit more…. Find out who owns the road. In the US, it could be the City, County, State, or Federal. Arguing with the City is pointless if they have no jurisdiction….. No idea how it works in Canada…. :-(

    Once you know the ownership, take it up with the appropriate agency and the elected representative for that jurisdiction.

  58. This is one of those stories that makes you realize the ability to parody silliness is gone. If I were to right a story mocking bureaucratic nonsense, it wouldn’t be this stupid. The parents are “selfishly endangering” their kid because they take turns walking her to school instead of making her ride the bus? They are “selfishly” spending time with their child, showing her the importance of good time management, regular exercise, and resource management (not wasting gas for a short walk)? Really? REALLY?! Oy vey me.

  59. This makes me miss Davis, CA where we lived when my daughter was in first grade. She rode her bike to school, alone and it was a mile away! It was perfectly safe to do so! The only busy road she had to cross had a bike bridge. There was a 300sf bike parking lot next to the school filled with little bikes. There were no school buses provided for anyone.
    The next year, back on the east coast, I was reluctant to let her walk 1.5 blocks alone, let alone do it on bike. So nice to have at least experienced an enlightened place.

  60. Every time I read a post like this I am SO grateful for how the school district I live in handles things. My husband and I don’t have kids yet, but we do have one on the way, so it’s something I’ve been thinking about. Both the elementary and middle schools are about a mile from our house, only about a 15-20 minute walk. There are no school buses in our neighborhood but there ARE crossing guards at every major intersection, and the majority of kids walk to and from school. I sincerely hope that this will continue to be the case when our little one starts school, but I’m sure part of that will hinge on parents continuing to encourage/require their kids to walk to school, since to a certain extent it seems to be a supply/demand issue.

  61. Yes, find out who has jurisdiction over the road — but even if it’s the state rather than the city, I think going to a city council meeting (preferably with a group of other people who’d like to be able to cross the street on foot) is a great idea. The city council may be able to pressure the police department to patrol the road better and may even be able to work with the state to get a light installed.

    I’d also suggest going to a school board meeting to see if you can get the crossing guard reinstated. And a letter to your state representative may also be in order.

    Your report of your conversation with the state transportation department was certainly depressing. But keep in mind that she’s probably a functionary whose primary goal was to get you off the phone. It’s your elected officials who have a vested interest in working with you. Given that the bureaucracy has shown itself to be unresponsive, I suggest that a little citizen democracy is in order.

    Good luck! What a lot of work just to be able to cross a street. :-p

  62. WAIT A MINUTE!

    If you are walking your child then there is a very simple solution. You be the crossing guard.

    Your government is in the process of raising Free Range Citizens.

    Step up and stop the damn traffic. I assume that it is a crosswalk situation and you have the right of way.

    Take a step in a break in the traffic. Face the traffic with your hand up in the air in the classic stop position and STOP THE TRAFFIC. It can be done. Use as much eye-contact as you can get. Stand up straight and full. Hold your commanding arm out straight and firmly with palm out and up. Don’t stand in front of the cars but don’t stand too far back either. You need to be assertive. If need be watch a professional traffic guard and learn their body language. Get a bright vest and a even a sign if need be. The law is on your side here.

    A crosswalk situation may not actually be marked but merely assumed. If that is the case then get the state to paint the walk.

    If you can get drivers to complain to the government then you will start to see some action in your favor.

  63. Could it be that other families in your neighborhood would like to walk their child to school but don’t because of the traffic situation? Maybe you could get a group together to cross all at once. I ditto the suggestion to buy yourself an orange vest & stop sign, or see if the school would give you one.

    And the lady with the state? You should have immediately asked to get bumped up the line to her supervisor. I’d contact the head of the department she works for and explain how I was stonewalled at a low level with a legitimate concern.

  64. After reading the comments I see that the vest and sign have been suggested and even contested:

    “Also, getting out there in a vest and stop sign probably will get you arrested, fined, and possibly killed. Let’s be reasonable folks. Yes, there are boneheaded people out there, but “if stupicity got us into this mess, why can’t stupidity get us out” is not a working hypothesis.”

    It the cars are going 35mph or 40mph then it is quite true that it’s a much more challenging thing to do to get them to stop especially if there is no painted crosswalk.

    But the fact that there used to be a crossing guard there suggests that there is some physical indication that this is a crosswalk. It appears that drivers have gotten out of the habit of needing to watch and be ready. If you are there at the same time every day then many of the drivers will begin to notice and get the idea especially if they actually have to stop. That should begin to calm the traffic.

    When I do this on my own I pick a reasonable gap in the traffic and begin looking right at the driver from as far away as is needed. They need to see you looking at them. Sometimes I will even point specifically at a driver and then do the raised palm stop signal. I watch for any hesitation on the drivers part. That means that they see you and are starting to feel guilty, even if unconsciously. When you see any initial hesitation on the driver’s part then make another assertive move to indicate that you are now expecting them to stop. Say a quarter step forward while raising the hand or turning the palm. You still must stay safe and not commit to stepping in front of them. After your second assertive move you should see the car commit to stopping. When that happens you can commit to placing yourself in a slightly dangerous position where if they do not actually stop then you must get back or get hurt. You still are not committed to crossing in front of them but you are not in an actual safe place.

    Once they are stopped you can consider stopping the traffic coming from the other direction. Before doing that give a glance back to make sure that any driver behind the stopped car is stopping as well.

    Then repeat the process for the cars coming from the other direction.

    When both lanes are stopped you can signal your child to cross. I assume that they are old enough to not need a hand-hold. I assume also that we are talking only one lane in each direction. Otherwise we have a much more complicated situation.

    I am speaking from experience here as a militant pedestrian. I have stopped traffic many times using these techniques. I also have limited experience as a professional traffic flagger when in my twenties I worked highway construction. Eye contact and body language were the keys I learned.

    Good Luck.

  65. As Jeff said, check out to see what is needed for you to be a volunteer crossing guard. Yes, your daughter may be the only one, but if you provide your own vest and stop sign, why would they complain? I would notify the police that you were doing this so that they wouldn’t stop you for hindering traffic.

    If you do this, also talk to the newspaper so that people know they have to slow down and stop for you. Also give a contact email or such so other parents can contact you if they want their kids to walk too, so that you can all be there at the same time. If there are enough kids who end up doing this over the next couple of years, they may pay for a crossing guard. I would contact the paper every year, at the beginning of the year to remind drivers.

  66. WOW. And I thought my neighbourhood had problems. Seriously, a city where the police don’t enforce the speed limit in school zones?!

    I am the worst parent ever, by that standard. Not only did I walk (and city-bus — she goes to the school in the next catchment area over, so the walk is 2 km) DD to school every day for 4 years, but last year she started walking (and busing) BY HERSELF, which she will continue to do this coming school year. Lots of other kids do the same thing.

    Mind you, we do have a crosswalk with a stop sign. And the street the school is on isn’t that busy … except right before and right after school starts, when it fills up with parents driving their kids to/from one of the 8+ schools (public, Catholic, and private) on or along this 4-km street.

    I think lobbying for a crosswalk with pedestrian-activated flashing lights is a great idea. As someone else said, it doesn’t affect traffic except when someone is actually crossing, so it’s much less disruptive than a full-on traffic light, but it’s harder to ignore than a stop sign.

  67. It’s really bizarre that you are the only one walking to school. All the schools around me have lots of kids walking and crossing guards at all the major street crossings.

    I walk my son to school every morning and my wife walks him home in the afternoons. After the hectic rush of getting ready in the morning it’s nice to enjoy some quiet time with him.

    I like the idea of being your own crossing guard. If you’re the only one walking to school why make the school or police to pay someone to do it. Get a reflective vest, stop sign, and whistle and stop the traffic yourself.

  68. I am astounded that the police can’t enforce the speed limit in a school zone. Perhaps my understanding of the role of police in a civilized society is less enlightened than I thought? What that city worker said to her is even more astounding, a true shining example of what happens in a society that doesn’t encourage critical thinking.

    I hope things get better. As other commenters have said, it will take a significant buy-in from other parents in the area to change anything. That will be a tough task.

  69. I’m not surprised by the woman’s attitude. It’s not common that people readily change their minds without a preponderance of evidence. If you want a global change, it will take lots of data and footwork, as well as the help of friends.

    Some thoughts:

    1- accidents occur much more common than getting hit while walking-data supports this and is readily found. You can give them this. Also, you can write the paper, talk to your elected officials, start a group.

    Idea #2: Consider fundraising for an elevated pedestrian/bike bridge. Websites like kickstarter can help (this website can potentially be an advertising area). Post on other like-minded blogs. This would be really awesome.

    Idea 3-mischevious and likely illegal: put in some speed bumps.

  70. Another option would be the construction of a pedestrian overpass. This would be very expensive of course, but if many people could benefit from it at any time of day, rather than just a few at school time, then it could be an option.

  71. I would be wary of trying the orange vest/whistle/being my own crossing guard thing. Honestly, it is a good idea but I’m just a bit skittish about what side of the law you would be on doing this. Unless it in some kind of municipally sanctioned capacity, I wonder if you would have any rights a private citizen to direct traffic? We had an incident on our street where one of the residents bought an orange road cone marker from a hardware store. She put it out almost in the middle of the road to “slow traffic down coming around the corner”. Many residents in cars complained that this was in the way of their driving but she wanted it there so her kids could run back and forth across the street to their friends house and not have to worry about the cars coming too fast around the corner. I got quite perturbed at her and asked her if she had municipal permission to direct traffic? She stood there looking at me so I phoned the police and they had a little visit with her and made her take the orange cone out of the middle of the road as she had no legal right to re-direct traffic. This is what I’m wondering with the vest and whistle. It’s a fine line…. traffic is supposed to slow down but I guess even still you must cross at your own risk. Good luck and keep your little one walking to school !!!!!

  72. As a kid who grew up in the country, I have no concern about the time spent on the bus in the morning and afternoon. There is nothing wrong with it unless you’re really depending on your kid to be home by a certain time of day for something specific. However, these folks live close enough and have the availability in their schedule to walk with their child to school. Time with your child is important, especially after school when problems and excitement is still fresh on the brain! I don’t think this family is going to get much support from the places they really need it BUT if the speed limit during school hours is not being enforced, than something really must be done.

  73. Last time I spoke with the police chief, he said that I would be free to buy a crossing guard vest & stop sign. He can’t supply them to me for liability reasons, but he said I could definitely buy & use them on my own. That’s looking like the best short-term solution.

    More long-term ideas:

    1) survey school parents about who would have their child walk/bike if there were a safe way to cross the busy street (crossing guard, stop sign, stop light, etc). Also see if there’s interest in a walking school bus or similar group endeavor

    2) keep petitioning the state to put in some sort of traffic signal at that intersection. This is unlikely to happen, according to the rude woman at the agency I spoke with, and even if it does it’s a lengthy process that can take years

    3) have my state representative put pressure on relevant officials to actually do something about this situation

  74. We are now living in a world that is a result of “futuristic” thinking! We are all supposed to be the Jetson’s by now: http://southgeek.blogspot.com/2012/07/virtualactuality-attheir-core-i-believe.html

  75. When you are all talking about having no sidewalks, do you mean that there is no ashphalt or concrete path specifically dedicated to pedestrians, or do you literally mean that there is no edge to the road, that it pretty much butts up to the buildings, fences or whatever that align it? It’s just that if there is a grass verge there, as is common in New Zealand and Australia in areas where there is no actual footpath, people can obviously make their own footpaths by treading down the grass. A pain in winter, as it gets muddy, but then kids can just wear gumboots and change into slippers at school.

    Not being sarcastic, honestly, just wondering why ‘real’ footpaths are needed for walking on….Might not be helpful in this case anyway, as the issue is crossing the road, but why are sidewalks/footpaths necessary for walking?

    (I should add that we are very fortunate here in that footpaths exist in almost every town over a dozen houses, and that I have never seen a development go in without footpaths – the only places without dedicated footpaths on both sides of the road in our particular area would be down the sides of steep hills.)

  76. Perhaps just posting one of these on ither side of the road during school hours?

    http://www.onestepahead.com/pwr/product-reviews/4815/Driveway-Fun/Step-2-Corporation/p/08024-Kid-Alert.html

  77. @Rita Freeze-
    I would also suggest requesting a traffic study by your state DOT.
    Usually, townships have to follow the recommendations for improvements.

    I was pleasantly surprised today to see two freshly painted crosswalks in my neighborhood. My son wrote a letter to our township requesting them before school started. My daughter took pictures and printed them on the computer of the intersections they wanted painted. She drew in the crosswalks with white crayon. They collected signatures of other kids who were biking to school. The kids biked up to the the township building and presented their letter in person. Within a week they got crosswalks.
    Change is possible, you just have to get the right person to listen. Don’t give up!

  78. In what state or province is this happening??

  79. Hineata-Often our 2 lane roads end at the white line and then there is a steep ditch along side the road-an immediate drop off. At least that’s the case here in the southeast, where it’s very dangerous to walk or bike on the roads.

  80. My kids walk to and from school daily. At least once a week, I will have a parent say that they stopped and offered my kids a ride. I’ve asked these parents if they know how close we live (less than 1/4 mile) and they’ve always said yes. Often, they stop because they think it might rain, or something along those lines. My kids are 13 and 11. More than capable of getting themselves the short distance, in any type of weather. However, it’s obviously abnormal for kids to been seen unaccompanied by an adult whether capable or not. For the record, my kids have never accepted the offer of rides. Not because they’re afraid of getting in the car with someone, but because they realize walking to school is no big deal.

  81. If it’s a state highway you could talk to the state police about the speeding problem. I’d then go to the city council or the media. I think there should be one of those lights that only changes if someone presses the button to cross. But that costs money.

    My kids used to walk to school when we lived in Chicago. Rain or shine, heat or cold. They walked. Because it was like 3 1/2 blocks and it took longer to get everyone in the car and it started (especially in the winter) than it took to just walk. At first I walked with them every day (they started there in kindergarten and 2nd grade). After a couple years I felt they were ready to walk alone. At least TO school. I had to pick them up because the school refused to allow them to leave without an adult.

    I was told I was an awful mother for making my kids walk in the winter. It was actually my neighbor (and long time family friend) that said it. We were chatting while shoveling snow about how cold it had been and I mentioned how crappy it was to have to get out at 7:30 in the morning when it was 20 below zero.

    Then she made a comment about how horrible I was for making them walk when I had a perfectly good car sitting outside our house. How could I be so heartless as to make them walk? Never mind I was walking with them so suffering too. I knew exactly how cold it felt and that 3 1/2 blocks was not too far to walk in those temps when we were bundled up. It’s Chicago… that’s just the way things are. Her daughter used to go to that school and walked to and from every single day no matter the weather.

    But I guess kids to day are too fragile and precious to have to suffer a little inconvenience.

  82. I’m having a hard time believing that the police are not allowed to enforce the school zone limit during school hours. Is there a posted sign that has the hours on it? If so then the speed limit stands whether children are crossing the street or not. The reason school zones below the regular limit is that there are ALWAYS children out and about near the school. And wasn’t there just a story about someone jumping a curb during drop off at some school and plowing into a bunch of people?

  83. No offense but there is no way that the school, county, state or whatever government agency is in charge is going to pay for a crossing guard or crosswalk for ONE child. Nor would I support it if it was my town. Money is way too short these days to spend on something that appears that only one family wants.

    So you have to walk before you can run. You need to convince your neighbors that they would like to walk to school and that something needs to be done about the road. Then you and your neighbors need to convince the school that it is a problem. Unless you can do that, nothing is going to change, nor should it (well, people’s attitude about walking to school should change but a crossing guard should not be installed for one child unless you want to pay for it yourself).

    We live on the opposite side of a major road from my daughter’s school in the states. We have several crossing guards. Those crossing guards were not there a few years ago, but a few years ago very few of the kids from the neighborhoods surrounding the school went to that school. It took a desire on the part of the school to lure families from the adjacent neighborhoods to their local public school and a desire by many of them to walk if they came. Most kids in those neighborhoods do now attend the local public school and walk/ride bikes, as do some kids from my neighborhood who have a bus available but are still close enough to walk. But it took many people who wanted this to happen for various reasons to make this happen and not just one family.

  84. Bad parents make their kids walk to school? I disagree. Bad parents bubble wrap their kids and prevent them from learning how to be self reliant.

    Whether you walk or drive your toddler is irrelevant. However as they get older, a parent afraid to cut the apron strings is SERIOUSLY stunting their child’s growth.

  85. @padrooga – yes, that does sound dangerous! Can see why it would make walking, and particularly biking, difficult…

    @Donna, what is A.Samoa like for walking? Can you just let your daughter go along with the other kids, or is it a bit too urban for that? I believe from friends that Western Samoa you can pretty much let your kids walk anywhere local – certainly Tahiti was great like that when I was there, though that was a long time ago :-).

  86. Great re-post It seems this happens in so many places and unless people in the community speak out it will never change…

  87. Yes.

    Of course.

    It is perfectly reasonable for ONE family with ONE child who makes TWO trips to and from school daily to demand that there are crossing guards (who will need paying) or whatever the heck else. Which will, y’know, impede and inconvenience all of the motorists who are ALSO trying to get to their jobs and schools and whatever during the “morning rush” you’re describing. On a highway. (Does “highway” mean something different in the US? Over here it refers to a MAJOR, multilane road that is intended for traffic to travel long distances at high speeds. When it passes through a town or city then it will be a simple, straightforward journey through that town or city.)

    A few points here:

    – Crossing guards and crosswalks on a major, heavily used road are NOT the answer for pedestrians, especially when the pedestrians are more likely during rush hours (i.e. going to and from school/work). What you want in that situation is an under- or over-pass so that you don’t have to stop all the traffic and can cross any time you want. This especially makes sense if the place you’re trying to make more accessible is actually likely to have lots of people wanting to cross that road to it. Of course, such an expensive undertaking only makes sense if it’s likely a lot of people will use it.

    – Trying to get anything done when you are ONE family demanding that the local officials go to time, inconvenience and expense for your [i]personal preference[/i] – and it IS a personal preference considering that both driving and busing are available options – is ridiculously selfish and is not going to get you anywhere. You need to find like-minded individuals and actually lobby as a group for something that more than one family will make use of.

    – You are seriously both staggeringly insane and stunningly irresponsible in regards to the fact that you’re actually crossing that road on a daily basis when you know that the traffic and crossing conditions are going to be extremely dangerous. Seriously. You KNOW that you are going to walk straight into a situation that you describe as “like a giant game of frogger” and a “death trap”, except that the cars are real speeding cars and the frog is you and your daughter. And you still do it. [b]Twice daily. Jaywalk into several lanes of speeding cars. With your daughter. Because you don’t want to drive. Rush hour. Speeding cars. Your life. Her life. Your partner’s life. Placing responsibility on all of those motorists trying to get to work to not hit you.[/b] Because you are jaywalking across a highway. At rush hour.

    Walking to places, including children walking to school, is great. This sort of initiative, theoretically, has a lot of merit. Unfortunately, the person taking this initiative is going about it in a very selfish and entitled way for the attempted benefit of only themselves – and until their selfish personal demands are met, continue to put the safety and livelihood of their family and the motorists on that highway at risk.

    By jaywalking across a highway at rush hour.

  88. Lots of false assumption going on here…the road is technically a highway (and thus under state rather than city jurisdiction), but by most appearances it looks like a normal city road (1 lane each direction, plus a center turning lane). There’s a painted crosswalk where we cross, plus flashing lights to indicate a slower speed limit during school hours. It does get a lot of traffic in the morning, but it’s not like we’re crossing an interstate highway! We’re certainly not jaywalking–we’re using the crosswalk that was made for people just like us trying to go to school.

    I don’t think it’s unreasonable at all to provide at least one safe place to cross the street for children going to school. That intersection is basically the only entrance to the elementary school that serves our entire town of 15,000 people. Adding a stop sign or stop light would make it safer for all the car and bus drivers who have to turn left at that intersection. Win-win in my eyes.

  89. @Sera. Just wow. I don’t know where you live, but where I live – which by the way is known for its car culture – it is regarded as a right to be able to walk safely through town as a pedestrian. Are you suggesting and condoning that all car drivers are really that selfish that they would find it a major inconvenience to stop for that ONE family crossing the road twice a day? How many cars would have to stop for less than 1 minute?

    I live in Australia and highways through town are very common here in rural areas. And you know what? The speed limit drops to 50kph when you go through a residential area and is enforced. 40kph if it’s near a school. And there are pedestrian crossings where necessary. If you cannot cope with that as a car driver, you probably are unfit to drive a car. If you want uninterrupted speed without the hassle of having to stop for annoying kids walking through their own neighbourhood, YOU should lobby for a bypass around town.

    And I am pretty sure the laws around jaywalking are similar in the US than here. It is only jaywalking and therefor an offense if there is an alternate safe place to cross within a reasonable distance. I believe here it is about 50 metres. Definitely not 1 mile.

    I am just shaking my head (again, I’ll get a headache if I continue) at you daring to call this person selfish instead of the motorists who cannot leave 2 minutes earlier to take into account that they may have to stop once or twice to let pedestrians cross the road.

  90. hineata – I was talking about our school back in the US. And, sadly, there all the kids were walked by their parents and I’m not even sure it is possible for kids to be released to walk home alone. It was too far for a kindergartener to walk alone when we left so I never really tried but it does appear that they all have to be checked out by a parent.

    Life in A. Samoa is definitely not too urban to walk and there are always packs of Samoan kids walking to and fro school, sometimes with adults and sometimes just kids. Since most live on communal family land, they usually travel in groups mixed with older and younger kids.

    The biggest risk to walking is the dogs, many of which are loosely owned and poorly cared for. They form packs and can be vicious. You are generally safe in an area where the dogs know you or a commercial area. Otherwise, it is always best to have sticks or rocks handy. So young children are generally accompanied by older kids or adults if walking more than a short distance. It didn’t seem like there was as a big a dog problem in W. Samoa when I was there.

    Like good US citizens, the palagi (white) kids rarely walk anywhere by themselves. There is very little mixing between the non-Samoan kids and the Samoan kids. The palagi kids all go to private schools and few live within walking distance of the schools … or anything else, except maybe a beach. Most palagi kids do run fairly freely in their immediate area but can’t venture outside their local dog territory so that is generally only a small distance.

    A couple weeks ago, while I was in the car with my daughter and her friend, my daughter saw a large group of Samoan kids her age walking home from school. She commented to her friend about them walking alone and then decided that the older kids following the pack of younger ones must be watching the younger kids. Probably true, but sad that my 6 year old very much believes that 6 year olds cannot walk alone, even having been raised free range.

  91. Ah. In that case, sorry. “Highway” and “Frogger” conjured up a mental image of something with a lot more lanes than two plus one for turning. Suddenly, the situation sounds a lot less dangerous for pedestrians, and you a lot less crazy. Plus, the fact that you’ve now mentioned that there IS a crosswalk already there.

    You still need to rally support, though. You’re still only one family, and crossing guards are not going to be hired for one family making two trips per day. Nobody can just walk into a local department and say “I want to do X, now use council funds to facilitate it.” You need multiple (ideally MANY) people in order for that to be viable and reasonable, as opposed to selfish. If you can’t do that, you’ll have to fit your life around that of the town you live in, not the other way around.

  92. @Lin – it is regarded as a right to walk safely through town, yes. It is generally NOT regarded as a right to walk across major motorways at anywhere other than a designated crossing – which, at the point of me making that post, the OP had not mentioned.

    Yes, it is selfish – and I will stick to that – for ANYBODY to walk out into fast, heavy traffic and have to expect the cars to brake for them if they fail to dodge the traffic. I’m not saying that it’s selfish or crazy to cross a road at all, even a major one, but it needs to be done at the right places, i.e. where there are traffic lights or stop signs or somesuch.

    This is not about “annoying kids walking through their own neighbourhood”, this is about safety and common sense. One does not walk out into fast and heavy traffic where the traffic is not expecting to have to stop. One certainly does not do that with a young child in tow.

    The status quo is bad. The status quo needs to be changed BEFORE behaving as if it has, much in the same way that if you think a law is bad or wrong, you fix the situation by getting the law changed, NOT by repeatedly breaking it.

    I am having difficulty with why I am having to explain to you why I think it’s wrong for someone to do something that they themselves describe as a “death trap” and like being in a real-life “frogger”. It could have dire consequences for themselves, their child, and the motorists involved.

  93. What has really happened is the Dictatorship of Road Builders.

  94. I’ve spent a lot of time on foot and I can tell you that if the turning lane is in the center of the two travel lanes than that is the most dangerous place in the crossing. Distracted drivers will whip into that lane without noticing you because they are blind to anything smaller than another car. This is a problem motorcycles have also. People stop looking for people on foot when they don’t expect to see any. Getting more people to walk to school will make it safer because drivers will expect to see people near the school.

    In our community they started putting in safe-haven areas halfway across the street with railings and other obvious stuff at problem crossings. When you push a button lights on poles start flashing, lights embedded in the pavement flash, people stop.

  95. “I don’t think it’s unreasonable at all to provide at least one safe place to cross the street for children going to school.”

    But, as you said yourself, you are not talking about CHILDREN. You are talking about a single CHILD. Nobody else is crossing the street. Nobody else is expressing an interest in crossing the street. The town is not aware of a single other child who wants to walk across the street to go to school.

    It is not unreasonable to expect the police to enforce the speed limit in the area during school hours. I can’t understand their argument at all. Under their theory, we could only get failure to stop at a stop sign tickets if we get into a wreck since it is otherwise safe not to stop.

    However, it is completely unreasonable to expect a government to hire a crossing guard for a single child to cross a street. The town is not going to pay $23,500 a year (average salary for a crossing guard in the US) for your benefit alone. It is not going to pay it with some Field of Dreams hope of “if we hire him, they will come.” If you can show a demand for the crossing guard in enough numbers to make paying a $23,500 salary rational, they might agree.

  96. Tell everyone about your experience. Find out who that woman’s boss is and tell the boss about her dismissive attitude. Tell the media. I’m dead serious — most media outlets have readily available contact information, and want to hear from people, that’s how many, many stories come into the public eye. If you know other parents at the school, talk with them. Go to a community meeting and share this story during public comments (check the policy first, though — some make you sign up in advance if you want to speak). Good luck. The way you were treated is an outrage, and people need to know what their tax dollars are being wasted on.

  97. Omigod Sera, right?? Those poor motorists having to stop for a mo, right? They have places to go people! Jobs to get to! Asking them to slow down or even stop! (can you imagine??!!) is just so wrong.

    The fact that their need to get somewhere outweighs that of pedestrians is SO obvious, it needs no mention. People thinking they sould have the right to walk in a place where CARS are. What’s that all about? Hello?? — The cars got there first! Discussion over.

    Freakin’ walkers. Making motorists feel guilty that they should use caution around schools. Making them feel responsible for not hitting anyone. Maybe they just want to relax on their way to work behind the wheel. Want to enjoy their bagel and coffee. Maybe field a few calls, even text a little, daydream a little, who knows? They should NOT have to be paying attention ALL the time! Just because YOU the WALKER must be constantly on YOUR guard does not mean the motorist should be! Words fail. Just (and I quote Sera here) “Because you don’t want to drive” So selfish. So unfair. So cruel.

    And let me add that I totally agree with you Sera (and others here have also said as much) that you should never ever ever be the only one to point out that something is wrong. You should wait until there is mob of outraged citizens (preferably with pitchforks). Reminds me of that one boy, that boy in that story, the only one who said out loud that the emperor was buck-naked . . . omigod he SO should have shut up!

  98. “The town is not going to pay $23,500 a year (average salary for a crossing guard in the US) for your benefit alone. ”

    If that’s the average salary, then some of them are WAY overpaid.

    In my city, the job is done by retired people who receive a small stipend to show up at their designated crossing for an hour or so twice a day. There’s no need for it to be that expensive. I expect that those who are dragging the average up that high are in big cities where the crossing guards are actually a branch of the PD.

    Still, I agree that if there is only interest in one family, it’s not practical to expect this to happen.

    It makes absolutely no sense that the police chief is claiming that he’s “not allowed” to pull people over for violating a posted school zone. In this state, the school speed limit is 15 and you get significant fines for violating it, kids or no kids. Maybe Rita should find out who is supposedly behind this “not allowed” nonsense and raise a stink about it on that level. The advantage to this approach is that it’s universal — every school has a posted zone, and the law is in place — it doesn’t matter how many kids do or don’t want to take advantage of it, it’s still the law, and so should be appropriately enforced.

  99. “First of all, in our town (in Australia) it would be unheard of to not have a school crossing across a busy road near a school. ”

    I wouldn’t make this a U.S. vs. Australia thing — until 10 minutes ago I would have said it was unheard of in the U.S., too, and certainly in my city — not known for great prosperity or huge attention to things like walkability, but school road safety is pretty close to sacred. Not saying you’re trying to do that, it’s just that this is a pretty bizarre situation, not something I would have expected to be the case here, either.

  100. In Toronto, Ontario, and some surrounding areas they have installed walking bridges over major highways, some 8 lanes wide, and some busy streets. This could be an option. Probably would only cost one years salary for a crossing guard.

  101. I don’t think this is a bizarre situation at all considering the fearfulness of many parents at the idea of letting their children walk to school in the US. Like everything else, crossing guards are a matter of supply and demand. If kids aren’t walking to school, there is no reason to continue to have crossing guards.

  102. Small town highways are nothing compared to main thoroughfares in the city. I’ve lived in several small towns and when I a highway hits the town limits there is always a speed decrease. We’ve been on some that have a 65-70mph speed limit in the rural areas and then drop to 30mph when you come to a town. And the road has lights and crosswalks because it’s just another street, usually the main street, through town. I crossed one regularly when I was in college to get to the wal-mart. And that was at a busy spot where the highway turns back to 4 lanes plus turn lanes. You had to run to make it before the lights changed again.

    I grew up in Chicago where the main roads (often they are also state highways) are 4-6 lanes wide with parking on the sides and turn lanes in the middle. There is a certain way you learn to cross the street. I can always tell the people that grew up in the city and those that are visiting because the visitors have no idea how to cross a city street and always have this panicked look on their face (and it’s legal to cross at any intersection in Chicago even if they aren’t marked so it’s not jaywalking, and the pedestrians are supposed to have the right of way).

  103. Sara, you are the kind of horrifying, deeply entitled kind of idiot who is creating, feeding and sustaining this issue. Shame on you.

  104. I don’t understand. You already have a MARKED crosswalk there and flashing lights? Isn’t that enough? Pedestrians have the right of way in the U.S. Step in that crosswalk, and cars are legally required to stop for you. But you said km, not mile…so do you live in a country where pedestrians don’t have the legal right of way?

  105. Kids across the street from a school ride the bus?!?! What an absolute waste of money and resources. You’re not actually allowed to do that in my district because… well, it’s an amazing waste of money and resources. You must live at least 1 miles away.

  106. I believe in the right to have the FRK option. In this case, the infrastructure won’t allow you the option. The city is saying that we can’t afford to give you that right but is hiding behind someones opinion that only bad parents make their kids walk to school.

    I strongly believe that raising a bubble wrapped kid also has safety issues around it. It is dangerous raise a child into adulthood that doesn’t know how to cope with the stress of adulthood.

    However, that trend is quite rampant. No wonder why anxiety and depression is an epidemic.

  107. As Brook pointed out;
    Kids across the street from a school ride the bus?!?! What an absolute waste of money and resources.

    Society has formed around the bubble wrapped kid idea. That’s why police are arresting parents that allow their 10 year old kids to play unsupervised.

    If the city is making kids that live across the street to ride the bus, no wonder why they can’t afford the infrastructure to allow kids to walk across the street

  108. Call your local TV station about this. They *love* to dig up local bureaucratic scandal. A ten o’clock news segment about how children are put at risk when crossing this dangerous road ought to light a bonfire under the powers that be!

  109. “, he essentially can’t enforce the speed limit there ” in other words there is no legal speed limit…
    If there is, it can be enforced. And enforcement can be automated with radar traps and cameras, which these days are digital and can transmit their take wirelessly to a police station.

    IOW either there is no speed limit, meaning the signs are there illegally (now that would be a blast, try sueing the city over illegal roadsigns) or they’re unwilling (rather than incapable) of enforcing the law, in which case they’re derilict in their duties and can probably be made to pay the consequences of that.

    As to just jumping in the road and playing crossing guard, I wouldn’t. You’d be taking a serious risk of being arrested for endangering traffic (and children).

  110. We have the same situation. We live 3 blocks from my son’s jr. high, but because the most direct walking route crosses a very large, dangerous intersection, we are offered the bus. I wouldn’t even want to try crossing this intersection myself! As a solution, we just figured out an alternate walking route to avoid this intersection. It’s a couple of blocks longer, but it’s better than sticking him on a bus for an additional 1.5 hours a day.

  111. I am against this person. It looks like she is the only one who walks her daughter to school in this school. She choose to walk her daughter to school, she will have to pay the consequences for being alone. I have a feeling that the plan up her sleeve is to gather a group of people who are on her side and rebel. Why doesn’t she try to become a state official and add a highway? People are forgetting that school is about education, not being rebellious.

  112. Can the police department put up a temporary (or permanent) radar speed limit sign? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radar_speed_sign) You might even be able to get a grant to pay for it if the police department doesn’t have any. Heck, they might even help you write the grant application, since they could reuse a temporary one near other schools.

  113. I am so glad to live in the UK where people generally only go by car or bus if they live further away from the school or being dropped off by parents on their way to work. At my kids schools around 3/4 of the parents WALK their kids and we only have patrol people near the schools. A fair amount of children over 9 walk alone to school. Our area which is 16sqm has a general speed limit of 20mph. keeps our pedestrians safe so we can walk.

  114. “I don’t think this is a bizarre situation at all considering the fearfulness of many parents at the idea of letting their children walk to school in the US. Like everything else, crossing guards are a matter of supply and demand. If kids aren’t walking to school, there is no reason to continue to have crossing guards.”

    The bizarre situation is having a busy street running past a school, with nowhere to cross safely at all. Don’t school employees or visiting parents or anyone else have to park somewhere and walk in? Don’t pedestrians other than children need to cross the road sometimes?

    At least, that’s odd, if not bizarre. If you add in the idea that you have a POSTED school zone where the police chief is claiming he’s “not allowed” to have his officers stop speeders unless there’s a particular immediately endangered child IN the street, it adds up to bizarre.

  115. In Yahoo Answers:

    “I’m almost 4 months pregnant and I’ve been buying Parents Magazines, and in a recent issue they addressed this topic.

    Statistics show that 1 in every 5 girls is sexually abused, and 1 in every 10 boys is sexually abused before they reach 18.

    This, bare in mind, is the kids who actually admit to it.”

  116. @Jim Stiene How did they defined sexual abuse? That is important, because those studies often use very loose definitions and divide the result into severity groups later. It make sense from their point of view, but the popular articles often ignore new looser definition and report it as if all those kids have been raped.

    The other point is, do not trust what you read in parenting magazines. They do not tend to think twice about underlying science.

  117. I do think it is bizarre that a city “can’t” enforce it’s own speed limit. Since the “kids were not in the cross walk although the speed was clearly posted and the lights clearly flashing” defense doesn’t work anywhere else I know, the Chief was bullshitting her. He is simply refusing to enforce the speed limit for some reason.

    The rest is not odd or bizarre to me. It would be more odd for a school to require visitors and employees to park across the street from the school (I didn’t get the impression that this road ran directly in front of the school at all but I could be wrong). The road has lights in various places so not completely impassable.

    I live in a fairly pedestrian-heavy city and none of the schools in my town have traffic lights at their entrances and most are on very busy roads. Crossing guards are provided at elementary schools where kids cross streets but not if kids don’t cross (I know for certain they are not provided for the high schools but don’t know about the middle schools – all are on extremely busy 4-5 lane roads). That is all that it sounds like happened here. A crossing guard was used instead of a light but no kids crossed so the crossing guard was taken away and money spent elsewhere.

    I’m not saying that the situation isn’t wrong or that a light/crossing guard shouldn’t be installed. I just don’t think it bizarre or unique that there isn’t one. I think it is a reflection of our society that doesn’t walk places in general and believes it to be unsafe for kids to walk to school.

  118. @Donna, replying to something further up, it is a shame that the palagi and Samoan kids don’t get to mix more, as they would probably all learn a lot from each other. Guess it’s the nature of ex-pat living, though – I know the ex-pat community in Johor Bahru had difficulty interacting on a social level at any great depth with locals, for a whole raft of religious and cultural reasons. Even I found it almost impossible to get to know the Malays well, though by dint of having a Chinese husband it was different with the Chinese…..My son, 6 at he time, did make friends with a little Malay boy named Barack, which my husband thought was an odd name for a Muslim until your current president appeared, LOL…. (and BTW I know Barack Obama is not a Muslim, this boy just happened to be….:-) ).

    Back to the topic at hand, it does seem rather odd that the police cannot enforce the speed limit at this particular junction, unless this is a particulrly small police force…?

  119. Sounds like you are trying to cause a lot of trouble because you just feel like walking to school. You want to tie up traffic on a major road, make someone hire a crossing guard, all for your own personal preference. Drive the girl to school, and walk somewhere else. You are being obnoxious.

  120. Drivers have to stop for pedestrians at a crossing. They are not perfect, so you can’t rely on it, but it is the law. If that doesn’t work, have somebody videotape the traffic while you try to cross. If possible with legible license plate numbers. Then show the video to police.

  121. @Donna–I think it’s a reflection on that society for MAKING it unsafe for kids to walk to school, and then turning around and blaming the parents.

  122. Vanyali, polluting the air for your own “personal convenience” is even more obnoxious. She has a right to walk wherever the hell she likes. Believe it or not, the world will not cease to turn if some drivers learn to share the road for a few minutes out of every day.

  123. Agree with Uly. I’m really surprised at all of the anti-pedestrian vitriol here. I’m pleased that in my own region, the tide is turning somewhat. There was a huge outcry at the elimination of crossing guards in one local community last year, and they are looking at reinstating them. Another municipal government adopted a new commercial zoning code that put walkability, pedestrian access, alternative transportation, and sense of place at the forefront. Now they’re working with the county and state to address traffic issues on the heavily-used main road in town (which is a state road that is more than 500 miles long and is the main street in many of the towns it cuts through). And the city is creating bike lanes wherever it can.

    I think that’s as it should be. Oil won’t last forever, and prices continue to rise. It’s wasteful to drive a half a mile when the weather’s good, you’re not transporting anything heavy, awkward or fragile, and there’s no medical reason not to do so. That’s gas that someone else won’t be able to use, and the more people that do it voluntarily, the longer we delay the day when no one has a choice. Walking is awesome. It saves money, it saves oil, it saves wear and tear on a vehicle, it reduces congestion on the roads, it opens up parking at destinations for people who truly need it, it’s healthy for you, you see more interesting things on foot than in a car, and you get to know people.

    I took a new job that’s a mile away from home and I’ve been walking all summer. I love it, for all of those reasons. I found a great vintage clothing store that I never would have noticed in a car and have been enjoying my new purse and dress from there. I’ve saved at least $100 on gas. I’ve enjoyed people’s gardens, watched the city install a new sidewalk, discovered that a nursing home I believed to be abandoned is actually a school now, and found out that there is an 1828 Quaker meeting house on this street I thought I knew so well. Walking places has a lot of advantages, and every municipal government should be encouraging it.

  124. @ Emily – I disagree. We hear from people everyday how unsafe it is for kids to walk to school – or be in public – alone. The majority of kids in the US live in households with a single working parent or two working parents. Most of them don’t have time to walk their kids to and fro school every day and still get to work. So kids take buses or get dropped off on the way to work.

    Suburban Americans LOVE LOVE LOVE their cars. This is a population that drives a mile to the gym to workout on a beautiful day. That is what was intended. Suburbs were designed to be an escape from the walking and public transportation of the cities. Read old ads for suburban housing during its inception. They are all about cars. As a result, the areas tend to be less walking friendly and more car friendly in design and attitude.

    My kid’s school has a large number of walkers because it is downtown and many of the parents are college professors, artists, students or other professionals with flexible schedules and/or very short commutes because not one of those kids walks to school alone. The situation is very different in the suburban areas of town where there are very few walkers – maybe a kid here or there with a stay at home mom on a pretty spring or fall day, but that’s it. Both areas are controlled by the same mayor, board of commissioners, school board and school superintendent with no indication that one school is being denied walkability it wants while others are encouraged to walk. It is simply a reflection of different populations.

    People are not helpless little pawns in the world they inhabit. If everyone had protested against the removal of the crossing guard, the crossing guard would still be there. If people want a crossing guard enough to fight for one now, a crossing guard would be put in place. The suburbs are what they are because that is what people wanted and what people bought. School rules are what they are because a substantial number of people believe that safety is more important than anything and the rest don’t speak out.

  125. I firmly believe that the government should play a part in encouraging healthy lifestyle habits like walking or cycling to school and work. For all sorts of reasons: the physical and mental wellbeing of the population, reducing traffic congestion and the infrastructure costs that brings, reducing environmental impact, etc.

    It may be hard to justify the expense of installing a pedestrian traffic light when hardly anyone seems to walk. But sometimes you need to adopt a “if you build it, they will come” attitude to encourage positive change.

    Those who agree with the rude public servant saying that they should just stop their whingeing and drive have clearly never walked anywhere. It isn’t just some stubborn weird habit. It is a lifestyle choice that greatly impacts on how people experience their quality of life and connect to their environment.

    Keep walking!

  126. Uly et al: No one is stopping her from walking. She is demanding that other people bend to her will, and provide her services so that she can walk more comfortably, That’s ridiculous. No one owes her, or you, anything. Walk if you want to, but stop demanding that everyone else cater to you for it.

  127. Vanyali, expecting cars to respect the sign-posted speed limit is ‘demanding other people bend to her will’??? Even expecting a safe place to cross the road isn’t too much to ask in my view. What if you don’t own a car?

    Pedestrian safety should be a right, not a luxury.

  128. Lin: Demanding that other people change their behavior to accommodate your own whims is exactly what FRK complains about. Other people want to control how parents raise their children, down to every nit-piky detail. As anyone who has experienced this seems to agree, that behavior is obnoxious, onerous and harmful overall. Extrapolate that further, and you can see how this same attitude is behind much of the petty activism that is making life in the U.S. intolerable. For example, I give you California (when even the New York Times starts complaining about it, you know that it has become a real problem): http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/03/us/in-california-banning-bonfires-and-library-napping.html?_r=1 At some point, you have to accept the way things are and let the people around you live their lives. The town that this woman is in has considered and decided against controlling the crossing. It sounds like it’s not cost effective if no one wants a controlled crossing except for her. Despite which side you personally want to identify with, it is undeniable that controlling the crossing will slow down traffic during morning commute time, which does in fact impact many people. The government has balanced the costs and benefits, made a decision, and this woman is pitching a fit because she doesn’t personally like the decision. That is a selfish and immature response, and one that all too often goes unquestioned in the US today.

  129. But she has admitted there is a crosswalk and flashing lights for cars to slow down. She ALSO wants a crossing guard. Twenty some THOUSAND dollars of tax payer money a year for ONE child. That’s just not reasonable. The reasonable method would be either convincing a lot of other parents to walk their kids to school OR start a petition to add something on the next local election to make it a law that you can and will be ticketed for speeding in school zones during drop off and pick up times.

  130. Walking ought to be the norm. Vanyali, you’re wrong, plain & simple.

  131. “But she has admitted there is a crosswalk and flashing lights for cars to slow down. ”

    But she’s also been told that the town has no intention of enforcing the crosswalk or the reduced speed, and driver behavior indicates that they’re well aware of this. So effectively, there isn’t a crosswalk or flashing lights.

  132. “Twenty some THOUSAND dollars of tax payer money a year for ONE child. That’s just not reasonable.”

    No, twenty some thousand isn’t reasonable. There’s no need for it to cost that, though.

    I’m not saying it’s necessarily reasonable to expect a crossing guard to be posted when the demonstrated need is miniscule at this point, but this twenty thousand figure, whether or not it’s accurately the average, isn’t reasonable. That’s almost twice as much as than (broken down to 180 school days per year) substitute teachers make here! It could be done for much, much less. So there’s no need ot view the situation as though it would have to cost $20K. It doesn’t have to cost that.

  133. I’m sorry, but I actually laughed out loud at the woman’s reply about people putting their kids on the bus because it wasn’t safe to cross the street. Oh dear. Oh dear, Oh dear.

    In other news, I let my 9-year-old daughter ride her bike. Alone. To the local convenience store for the first time this weekend. It’s 1km away and she has to cross a main road through the small city to get there. And she did fine. :) Thanks, Lenore!

  134. Putting your child in danger? Excuse me, it’s the drivers putting the children in danger. Whenever I hear someone offer that point of view, I get so angry I could spit. Those who PRESENT the danger are the people who are doing a dangerous thing, not those who EXPOSE themselves to danger. And in your case, the state, city, and school are partners in creating the danger.

    Roads are not just for motor vehicles. Roads are for people who should be able to use them on foot or with any legal vehicle, such as a bicycle or car. If the road doesn’t accommodate all who want to use it, it’s defective.

  135. Pentamom, reasonable or not, it is the national average.

    http://www1.salary.com/Crossing-Guard-Salary.html

  136. Sam, I don’t deny it’s the national average. But there is no law anywhere saying that this town has to pay an exorbitant national average for two hours (or less) of work per day, 180 days a year. At 25 bucks an hour, which seems princely to me for the job, it would cost all of $9000.

    So my point is that it doesn’t MATTER that it’s the national average and we should stop assuming that it needs to cost anywhere near that, when making the argument.

  137. Katie: You haven’t even bothered to present an argument. Just because you prefer something doesn’t make it better, or give you the right to impose it on everyone else. You are narrow-minded and selfish, just like this blogger.

  138. Pentamom, where do you think that average number comes from? If other towns could get a crossing guard to show up for $9k/yr, then they wouldn’t be paying over $20k/yr.

  139. Vanyali, it seems you’ve confused automobiles with monorails. Automobiles have to stop at times along their journey. Also, they do not drive along a track designed only for them.

  140. @Vanyali, I suspect you are a troll, but here I go feeding the troll… The typical priority for use is:

    Handicapped (wheelchair) has highest priority
    Pedestrian
    Bicycle (sometimes bikes are considered vehicles below)
    Motorized vehicles

    Those lower on the list are expected, and possibly required, to yield the right of way depending on the local laws. Certainly in a designated crosswalk motorized vehicles are required to yield the right of way to a pedestrian in every jurisdiction I am aware of. In the US at least, those flashing lights are a federal standard and there is no leeway in obeying them or not.

    The police chief is most likely failing to enforce the law. “Community choice” has nothing to do with it. Expecting the police chief to uphold the law is not selfish.

  141. Vanyali, sorry, but I refuse to believe that a town couldn’t get a retired person to show up as a crossing guard for $50 a day. Just because some large cities have professionalized, quasi-police crossing guard forces driving up the numbers does not mean that it is impossible to find anyone to do it for less in given instance.

  142. @Sera, where I live it is the law that any vehicle (bicycles included) must stop for any pedestrian at ANY intersection (all intersections are considered “unmarked crosswalks”). It is a given that pedestrians always have the right of way, no matter what. If someone were to hit someone after failing to yield to a pedestrian, they could be charged with involuntary manslaughter. It is a different mindset and from my perspective I am blown away by the idea that pedestrians would be inconveniencing cars by expecting them to stop. If I see someone at the corner, waiting to cross, unless there is a signal light, I must slow to a stop. If you think about it, it makes sense because since cars are so much more, um, dangerous, than pedestrians, if it is the pedestrians job to get the car to stop instead of vice versa, the pedestrians would never get anywhere.

  143. Compare 20K to the cost of a bus. If 50 children would walk, that prevents one busload but might not eliminate a job if the driver became the guard.

  144. Thinking about this a little more, you can tell society’s screwed up when many seem to believe that 40 minutes of walking is laziness, but making four car trips in a day that add up to less than 2 miles is conscientious and responsible. And whether you think this woman is being reasonable or not, don’t you think that the way she was dealt with was wrong? Shouldn’t someone who deals with the public have other tooks in their toolbox besides calling someone a lazy and irresponsible parent and trying to shame them into shutting up? Whatever happened to the time-honored goverment excuses of budget and manpower, anyway?

  145. My Mom works at a school in a smallish town where no child lives more than about 1.5km from the school, and it has become a HUGE safety issue for the few kids who still walk that there is so much traffic at the beginning and end of the school days – mostly parents who drive their kids to school despite the child’s capability of walking. I grew up in this town and walked to school nearly every day. Everyone did. Nothing has changed, folks…

  146. Did you know that of the kids who walk or ride their bikes to school and get hit by cars, half of them are hit by cars driven by parents DRIVING THEIR KIDS TO SCHOOL?

  147. When I was in 5th grade (10 years old), I was a crossing guard at my elementary school. Teachers selected kids they thought were responsible and mature and sent them to this camp: http://www.legionville.org/
    The camp taught traffic safety and bike safety and trained kids on how to be crossing guards. We would get there early in the morning and when the “walkers” would come to the corner, we would go into the intersection and hold up our huge blaze orange flag to stop cars. I don’t know if they still do this, but the continued existence of the camp makes me think they do. It was awesome. Lots of kids in that neighborhood walked, and other kids got to help keep them safe. I never realized how free-range that was until now. It seemed like common sense.

  148. I use to work for the state department of transportation (hopefully not the same one you spoke with!). What we found was that stuff rolled down hill. Basically, make a fuss about the situation. Start with your local elected officials and the school board. If they don’t take a stand for you…go up to the transportation department head – usually appointed by the governor. If that person doesn’t listen, go to your state elected officials and the governor’s office and the media. Don’t go straight to the media…nothing annoys people more than that threat and well, that’s when they would bring me in to shut the person or the media down….so to speak. I’d also suggest talking to the people in your neighborhood about walking their children to school…if everyone you’re contacting sees that more people are walking as an option…they will take notice. Good luck and keep us posted!

  149. Vanyali, asking that drivers follow the law is not exorbitant. No, even if it inconveniences them a little. Roads are made for people.

  150. Library Diva- Excellent post, and I agree completely. Creating conditions that are convenient only for vehicles is decidedly not future-smart, in any number of ways. Even if you are only thinking of the present, what are you supposed to do if you, against the norm, are vehicle-less and walking conditions are unsafe? In my small town, there are plenty of crossing guards and lights, but man, was the town shitty at plowing snow off sidewalks for a while! I used to walk to a job and would feel very uneasy during the winter months; due to the unplowed sidewalks, I had to walk in the street. Supposedly it was the job of homeowners to plow the walks- but, of course, they weren’t doing it. Eventually, someone who was walking in the street was hit and killed by a car and the walks have been more consistently plowed since then- it literally took someone dying for things to change.

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