Stories Needed: How Do Kids Get To/From School in YOUR Town? (Wackiness Appreciated)

Hi Readers! I’m about to write a column on how kids are getting to school — with a plea for more walking or biking, when possible — and for this I need stories of kids get to school in your neighborhood. For instance, I heard from my friend that her nieces are driven by GOLF CART two blocks to the bus stop in their GATED COMMUNITY. This seemed a bit, shall we say, ridiculous. The kids are able-bodied! The community is gated! The distance is two blocks! But the mom thinks the walk is just “too risky.”

I also heard of a school in Florida where dismissal works like this: The cars line up, single file, outside the school where there are NO children outside. As a car reaches the front of the line, a school aide reads the name on the dashboard plaque issued by the school and barks into her walkie talkie, “Jeremy’s mom is here!”  At which point someone inside the school shouts, “Jeremy! Your mom is here!” And Jeremy is ESCORTED OUT to the waiting car — like an unpopular dictator being hustled into his limo.  Jeremy’s mom careens off and the process begins again, with the next car and kid. Dismissal takes half an hour.

And, finally, if this is happening in your neighborhood, I would love to hear about it:  Is it hearsay or the truth that in some school districts, the bus no longer stops at bus stops but now actually stops at each child’s home? And that some parents drive the child from the garage down to the sidewalk in front of their house to wait?

Please tell me what strange new things are happening in your neighborhood, vis a vis getting to school, including whether kids are even ALLOWED by the school to bike or walk. Thanks!

Mom & Son Bike to School. State Trooper Awaits!

Hi Readers! In defiance of a policy that seems to forbid biking to the local grammar and middle schools in Saratoga, New York, a mom and her middle school son did just that last Wednesday.  That is, they ignored “a phone call placed to students’ homes by school officials, asking parents not to allow students to walk or ride bikes to school,” according to The Saratogan. And then?

Upon arriving at school on Wednesday, Adam and Janette Kaddo Marino were met outside by school officials and a New York State Trooper, who were on hand for the first day of school. They were informed that they were “out of compliance,” and had a lengthy discussion over where Adam’s bike could be locked.

And you thought State Troopers were the strong, silent type.

What’s cool is that the next day, mom and son were joined by several supportive adults. Friday was too rainy for a ride, but we can only hope more and bicyclists will be converging every day. (I can see the Disney movie now!)

For its part, the school district is said to be “reviewing” its bike policy.

Good. Once again, it’s not that any of us here are in favor of danger: If we were talking about kids riding their bikes up slippery slopes frequented by ice road truckers who drive while texting, that’s one thing. But The Saratogan reports that the road  in question is actually designated a bike route by the New York State Department of Transportation.

Let’s hear it for folks who defy laws that make no sense and don’t even make us safer.  (And for a middle school student who is still willing to be seen in public with his mom.) — Lenore

Support Safe Routes To School!

Hi Readers — To see  a line of cars snaking up to the door of school on a sparkling  fall day is disheartening,  especially when those cars disgorge perfectly able-bodied little kids who live just a few blocks  away.  But sometimes the problem is not parental hysteria. Sometimes, it’s that there are no crossing guards at a busy street, or no sidewalks. Safe Routes to School is a program that addresses just such issues to make it easier for kids to get THEMSELVES to school, safely. (As you might guess from its name.) Here’s a note from the deputy  director there on how we can help support its efforts: 

Join the Safe Routes to School “Dear Congress” campaign

The federal Safe Routes to School program is all about making sure that children can safely and independently walk and bicycle to school. With Safe Routes to School funding—which is $612 million over 5 years—communities are building sidewalks, bike paths, crosswalks, and other infrastructure improvements to make sure children have safe routes to school, separate from traffic.  Safe Routes to School funding also helps teach children safe behaviors when they are walking and bicycling, and encourages more families and children to get active on the way to and from school.

Congress is currently considering reauthorizing the federal Safe Routes to School program as part of the next transportation bill.  The Safe Routes to School National Partnership wants Congress to hear from children, parents, Safe Routes to School staff and volunteers, and school and city leaders about why Safe Routes to School matters to individuals and communities. 

Please take a moment to write a letter about how Safe Routes to School helps your child be “Free Range.”  Quick instructions are below. Write a letter that addresses the following points:

  • Start your letter with “Dear Congress,”
  • Thank Congress for the Safe Routes to School program
  • Why it’s important to you, as a parent, that your children are able to walk and bicycle to school
  • How it is important that your children walk and bicycle to school every year, up through high school, to build healthy habits
  • (if applicable) How Safe Routes to School has helped make it safer or easier for your child to walk and bicycle to school
  • What kinds of infrastructure improvements are needed in your community to improve safety for your children on their way to school
  • See if your children want to participate – ask them to draw a picture or write a short letter (crayon is ok!) about why they love walking and bicycling to school.
  1. Make sure you put your mailing address on the letter so that it can be matched with your Congressional district.
  2. Send your letters to Margo Pedroso with the Safe Routes to School National Partnership by September 24, 2009. You can scan and email electronic versions to margo@saferoutespartnership.org. Or you can mail letters to: Margo Pedroso, Safe Routes to School National Partnership, P.O. Box 442328, Fort Washington, MD 20749.
  3. Do not send your letters directly to your Members of Congress; the Partnership will bundle your letters together with those from other families and deliver to Congress as a package to have the strongest impact. 
  4. Pass the word to other individuals and organizations you know through e-mail chains and list-servs.

 Thank you so much for your help in making sure that Safe Routes to School continues—and is able to get more children walking and bicycling to and from school!  If you need additional information, please visit http://www.saferoutespartnership.org/national/299443 or contact Margo Pedroso with the Safe Routes to School National Partnership at margo@saferoutespartnership.org . 

That’s it! Sounds good to me — Lenore