Thursday, October 14, 2010

International Walk to School Day

We were out of town last week during International Walk to School Day. Wolftrap Elementary School in Vienna celebrated the event, but there was little official support elsewhere in the school system.

Today the Post published an article on walking to school, Walking to school is a step in the right direction:
It's not just our kids who will benefit if we can make cycling and walking part of the daily routine again, as you know if you've ever tried to squeeze by the line of cars jamming a street outside a suburban school.

"The sum total and type of benefits that will come when more kids bike and walk to school is amazing," says Blumenthal, who is also president of the Bikes Belong Foundation. "It's not just that kids will be healthier... In many parts of the U.S., 20 percent of morning traffic is one parent driving one or two kids to school."
There seems to be a great deal of resistance from school administrators to the idea of encouraging kids to walk and bike to school. Some have cited liability concerns. According to this liability fact sheet from the National Center for Safe Routes to School:
A school will not ordinarily be held liable for injuries sustained by children while they are walking or bicycling to school simply because the school encourages children to walk or bike, where injuries occur off school property, and parents have been reminded that the school is not responsible for supervising children who walk or bike to school.
The purpose of the Safe Routes to School program is to address liability concerns by assessing existing routes to school, suggesting improvements, and obtaining funds to implement the improvements. If the county does not participate in the program, there's little hope that the current situation in which very few kids walk or bike to school will not change.

There's money available for this program, and Fairfax public schools, the largest school system in the state, should be participating. As far as we know, currently only one school is receiving SRTS funding, Lynbrook Elementary School in Springfield.

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Why is there such resistance??

I have had children in the public school system for 10 years now, observing elementary, middle, and high schools. I can say - with absolutely certainty - that the most dangerous, most traffic violating space is near a school. Never have I seen so many self-absorbed, selfish parents putting the lives of children in danger because they are in a hurry. I have seen illegal U turns, illegal 3 point turns, illegal stopping, illegal parking, driving the wrong way down a one way street, cars blazing right through "do not enter" signs, parents even ignoring a principal standing on the curb giving traffic directions. ... I have seen neighbors activity refuse and resist the installation of sidewalks one block from an elementary school - and act which would significantly increased children's safety - but they didnt want sidewalks in front of their houses. I have seen garbage trucks operating right in front of schools - resulting in traffic night mares. On and on and on.

The worst I ever see traffic - is the pace that should be the safest. The solutions are simple. But automobile drivers *dont want to be inconvenienced.*

It is a form of insanity.

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