Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Walk this way...

Here’s a trivia question for you:

What is significant about October 7? (Besides the fact that it’s the day before my sister Becky’s birthday--HAPPY EARLY B-DAY, Becky!)

Give up?

Today is International Walk to School Day.

Every year, Walk to School Day makes me a little melancholy. I adore the idea of the event, I applaud the good intentions behind it, I support the goals of the organization--but the execution is, sadly, flawed.

At least at Kristen’s school.

Here’s my problem: I’ve participated in Walk to School Day several times. Do you know what the kids and parents do? We drive/bus our kids to school, and then walk AROUND the school at a predetermined time.


Somehow, driving to school, sitting in the carpool line, dropping off the kids, driving home, and then driving back to school for a walk-to-school event just seems a tad absurd to me.

In fact, I think the International Walk to School Organization would agree that the event at my daughter’s school is a bit short on meeting the group’s goals. Here’s what the organization’s website states about the event:

“Communities are using the walk or bike to school [event] as the first step to change community culture and create environments that are more inviting for everyone, young and old. Here are some reasons to support walking and biking to school:

“To enhance the health of kids. Increased physical activity can combat a host of health problems facing kids today.

“To improve air quality and the environment. Replacing car trips to school with walking or bicycling can help reduce air pollution.

“To create safer routes for walking and bicycling. Sidewalks, education programs and traffic calming measures are some of the ways to improve conditions.”

Considering the goals of the International Walk to School Committee, our event seems rather...counterproductive.

Granted, I can’t offer a good solution to the school's administration. I know they’re doing the best they can with an event that just doesn’t fit Kristen’s school. The major problem is--there are no safe routes for the kids to walk or ride their bikes to school. The school is 2.5 miles from our house, and we’re relatively close to school compared to other students. Yes, distance is an issue--but the traffic and lack of sidewalks are the major reasons it’s not feasible for an actual Walk to School event. The school lies just beyond the intersection of two main, four-lanes roads. To say drivers are aggressive on those roads is like saying that the Duggars kind of like kids. Lame analogy, but you know what I mean...

So, basically, we can cross off two of the goals for Walk to School Day--improving air quality and the environment, as well as creating safer routes through education programs and “traffic calming measures.” Call me a skeptic, but I don’t see the county installing sidewalks or speed bumps based on a once-a-year event.

As far as enhancing the health of kids: yes, a walk around the school provides exercise. But a few years ago, after the kids walked around the school, the PTO provided ice cream after the event. Now, I like ice cream as much as anyone...but really, did anyone even look at the goals for Walk to School Day? If we can't achieve the environmental goals of the event, couldn't the school at least focus on the health aspect? Strike three.

I wish the event could work at Kristen’s school. I really do. I know that throughout the country, the event truly raises awareness about the environmental and health benefits of walking or biking to school. I’m thankful for an organization that encourages families to leave the car at home more often and hoof it to school. I’ve seen the newscasts of hundreds of families walking to school together. It does work, in the right community.

I guess I’m just a little jealous.

I would love to walk to school with Kristen.

1 comment:

  1. Growing up in Southern Florida, I was almost always a "walker" or a "biker" to school. We had tons of side walks and crossing guards through the whole route. I think we DO need side walks here!