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.

Who Says Mayberry Is Dead?

Hi Readers! Clearly, that TV town of uber-neighborliness lives on — if you let it. This mom did. Read on!

Dear Lenore: I just finished your book.  Before I found your it and your website, I thought my husband and I were the last sane parents standing.

We bought our house while still in our 20’s. We picked a nearby small town with friendly neighborhoods and an extremely low crime rate. Less than a mile from our house is the bay and farther north is a system of rivers bayous, and creeks.  We wanted to raise our future children to be Opie Taylor and Scout Finch.

It was 7 years before we had our daughter.  In that time, my husband and I volunteered for everything and walked around downtown often – EVERYONE knew who we were.  When my daughter was about 2 mos, I strolled her around town all the time.  The shopkeepers knew her, the librarians knew her, the mail carriers and police knew her.  When she was 8, she was allowed to ride her bike all over town by herself.  I would have prefered she go with friends but the other parents were too busy questioning my sanity.

My daughter liked to go to the bookstore/coffee shop and read magazines while drinking hot chocolate, go to the art gallery and talk to the artists, go to the park, walk around the toy store to daydream and even go to city hall and chat with the Mayor.  If she wanted to spend the day painting, she piled her supplies in a wagon and set up downtown  selling whatever she painted while she painted other pieces.  Occasionally the police chief would call us because tourists reported an unsupervised child and he apologized for having to follow up.  Since everyone knew who she was, I would get reports on her behavior.  By the time she got home, I would know that she made a left turn on her bike with out signaling.

What other parents didn’t understand is that my child is much safer than theirs.  If anything is off kilter or odd concerning my daughter, at least a dozen people will notice.  The sequestered child is unknown by the community.  How will the nice lady at the drugstore know when those people with her are not her parents?  How will they know if she is in trouble?

My daughter is 12 now and more parents are opening the doors so their older children can roam.  Now she has friends with whom to lunch. What I’m taking forever to say is here’s to Free-Range Kids.  We are not alone.

You can make a town small by getting to know it. PHOTO CREDIT: Katmere, on Flickr.