Mom of Boy Picked Up By Cops for Walking to Soccer TRIUMPHS!

Hi Readers — Here’s an INSPIRING story about what we can do when life hands us paranoid neighbors, officious cops and maybe a lemon, for good measure. Let’s hear it for Lori LeVar Pierce, the small town mom and teacher we first heard from in 2009 when she let her son walk to soccer and a local police officer slammed her for negligence. Here’s the original piece. And here’s her local paper’s editorial piling on, reminding her that “things are different now,” the days of “Mayberry…are gone,” and rare but terrible things could have happened to her son in the one third of a mile walk in this quiet Mississippi town.

Well you know what happened next? She didn’t crumble. She didn’t lay down and die. She decided it was time to make Mayberry come true. If her town wasn’t safe for walking, why then, she’d get it sidewalks, and stop signs, and everything you need to make a town walkable — enticingly so. And she got started even before this study came out, saying: “Want a slimmer, healthier community? Try building more sidewalks, crosswalks and bike paths.”

One year after the cop berated her for letting her son walk, here is Lori’s story!

MAKING MAYBERRY by Lori LeVar Pierce

Some of you may remember my story. Last year I let my then 10-year-old son walk to soccer practice from our home, a distance of less than a mile in a residential neighborhood. He was picked up by the cops after 911 calls about him. As a result of that experience, as a family we made an even more concerted effort be outside walking or biking and discovered just how unfriendly our city is to safe biking and walking.

So I educated myself on what could be done and connected with local individuals who wanted the same things and others who had made changes in their communities. Earlier this summer I contacted my representative on the city council to propose a “Complete Streets” ordinance. This is an ordinance requiring that any new developments or major street repair also include features for safe biking and walking, such as bike lanes or striping, sidewalks, good curbs, etc. I was able to provide him with examples of similar ordinances passed in other municipalities and encouraged him to make it happen in our city.

I am pleased to report that the city council my hometown of Columbus, Mississippi just passed its “Complete Streets” ordinance this week. There is a major development going in just a few blocks from my home that will include sidewalks and a pedestrian bridge. I’m so excited for progress!

Me too! Light the way, Lori!

P.S. Look! Lori just sent in this very positive story from yesterday’s paper about the Complete Streets initiative.

20 Responses

  1. This is what I like to see instead of an echo chamber about “the world today”. Thanks for standing and making the world better.

  2. Good for her! They say you can’t fight City Hall, but she did a great job of finding a way to work with it instead. Lori is not just making her point, but changing her community for the better.

  3. That is awesome and I applaud the initiative Lori took! Great job!

    I remember beeing stopped by the police in a small town in Virginia just one block away from the College I went to — it was a Sunday (early) evening and I had walked to the local seven eleven (that was two blocks away from the College), when a police car pulled up next to me, and the officer inquiring why I was out on the streets and then telling me to stay off the streets for my own safety… (Which makes perfect sense in a community that blamed the two crimes that happened while I was there on the victims: they should have known, they shouldn’t have…)

    So long,
    Corinna

    So long,
    Corinna

  4. I applaud a couple of things. First the initial comments in the original editorial. Most were pro-free range. Obviously the writer of that editorial was very out-of-touch with reality & kudos to the comment writers for taking the editorial writer to task.

    Second–the main point of Lenore’s post, I think–kudos to the mother for not backing down & assuming a defensive stance that waters down her free-range parenting so as to placate the busy bodies. We should all learn from her example–you’re the parent, not society. Fight the nonsense.

    Lastly, kudos to the police chief for not doing the usual “we stand behind our police & they followed departmental policy” bologney. Instead he realized that the citizens are the ones that matter & he (apparently) took the officer to the woodshed. Right on.

    And yes major “boo” to the original editorial–spreading an attitude of chicken-little and yes, c’mon with all these spelling errors. For goodness sakes I’m typing this on my Blackberry (yes all of this) and I still take responsibility for spelling errors & typos etc.

    May all intimidated parents & police officers etc learn from this example.

  5. Police telling citizens to fear for their lives has a certain irony to it… like a chef telling a customer not to eat the fish!

  6. Good for you! I think it’s great for kids to walk places by themselves because it breeds independence. Too many kids are sheltered, coddled and dependent on their parents well into their teens. Kids need to be made to fend for themselves a bit more.

  7. Cops almost always see the worst – who calls the cop when everything is going just fine? “Hello, 911? I’d like to report nothing at all–no, seriously, please send the cops so they can see non-awful events happening and will quit with the fearmongering.”

  8. Yay Lori. Walkability benefits everyone and it’s become increasingly sought after. It’s the impetus behind a lot of the “smart codes” that cities are adopting over traditional zoning, which had few values of its own beyond “don’t build factories in residential neighborhoods.” And now that it’s more possible in Lori’s community for people to get out there and mingle, maybe they’ll see that the world bers little resemblance to what they see on SVU and CSI and is actually pretty safe.

  9. Over here in Germany, they actively promote walking and say parents who drive their kids to school are a menace:

    http://planetgermany.wordpress.com/2010/09/05/dont-take-your-child-to-school-by-car-in-germany/

    Maybe the crazy fears are an Anglo-Saxon thing. As the blogger writes in the last paragraph:
    How different this is from the UK where many primary school children are not allowed to cycle to school or even make the journey on their own because of parental fears of abduction or bullying.

  10. So more great news and I’m glad that Lori is doing well on this subject. I am so proud of her!

  11. If you stand up for yourself, your integrity, and never give into other people’s negativity, and your persistent, you can accomplish almost anything. Good for Lori. Reminds me a bit of Lenore’s story. 😉

  12. @Ian in Hamburg: This is exactly how the principle of my son’s school argues, and I absolutely agree to the observation, that it is the parents that drive their kids to school are exactly the ones that put all the kids in danger. It can be easily observed at my son’s school, but the principle might as well talk to windmills…

    So long,
    Corinna

  13. I’m wondering if “Complete Streets” includes mandatory training for law enforcement regarding who is allowed to use these improvements? I’m serious.
    The mindset of these officers needs to be IMPROVED as well.

  14. Ian, that’s wonderful! And such a great point. I’ve seen parents argue that if the cars are so dangerous, all kids should be driven!!!

    I’m so proud of this iniative! Just the other day I was discussing the original piece with people who felt it was disgusting. Now there’s a happy ending!

  15. This article seems all well and good. I have one problem. The end of the article states that the complete streets ordinance was passed in her area. While that seems nice it only makes a difference in new developments or if there is a road widening.

    I am curious as to what this will actually do for her not friendly already existing area.

  16. Brendhan, think turning 2 way roads without sidewalks into 1 way roads with sidewalks, narrowing a few overly wide lanes to make room for sidewalks, if there’s a grass curb, making that narrower for a sidewalk (or allowing people to walk on the grass….).

    Even reducing the speed limit in those areas to 15-20mph can make a huge difference, stop signs at intersections, speed bumps.

    Many US roads are extremely wide, making the lanes a bit less wide frees up all the room you need for a sidewalk while still allowing cars to navigate safely (and narrow lanes make people slow down, making traffic less dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists as a side effect).

  17. @ JT

    Yeah, I see what you are saying and that does not work.

    You cannot turn 2 way roads into one way roads without having an alternative means for traffic movement. That may seem possible in some areas. It certainly is not in most residential areas. Considering that most roads are older and not that wide and in many cases the property line can end up right next to the road. Not everyplace has a right of way easement.

    A grass curb is not acceptable to mom’s with strollers or to those with bikes.

    As someone who is actually dealing with issues like this in a very real situation. Who has to deal with homeowners, warranty deeds, property tax reevaluation,drainage, right of way, many of the other issues that will go into the mess that is trying to get something as simple as sidewalks. While I can admire the idea behind the article. The truth is nothing will change in her area. It might be good for the next area but the neighborhood she is in will probably not change. Which should have been the point.

  18. Just found this. Seems like a good related resource:

    http://t4america.org/resources/dangerousbydesign/

    Statistics about the most dangerous to walk in (as in, you will probably get hit by a car dangerous, not like you might get robbed dangerous) metropolitan areas, and ideas on how to start making important changes!

  19. Fantastic story! I love reading about wins like this!

  20. This is fabulous! I let my son who just turned 11 walk or ride to swim practice (his choice) and back this summer. It’s 0.6 mile through a residential area. Our community is very fortunate to have paved walk/bike trails, with a tunnel under a busy 4 land road, so the ride is very safe. However, I didn’t consider the ‘danger’ of having someone call 911 on him. That would be truly ridiculous and awful for him to have to deal with.

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