The Chainlink

It's been a long time since I was a kid, even quite a while since I was raising a kid.  So when I had to make my driving commute one day recently at just the time elementary schools were dismissing, I was reminded of and saddened by the traffic jams I saw around them.

I remember it being rare for kids at my elementary school to travel by car.  There were no traffic jams, and 5th grade kids were the only crossing guards.  Now it seems really dangerous to walk in the midst of all the car congestion around practically any school.

It's sad that we have developed our towns so that kids can't explore, and can't even go to school under their own power, as most of us once did.

Here's an interesting little film on this subject:

http://www.streetfilms.org/streetfacts-4-children-have-lost-the-fre...

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Thanks for sharing that video, definitely going to send it around facebook as well where many of my non-cycling friends and family will see it.

I grew up driving and busing to school in the burbs. My nephews who live in the burbs do walk and bike sometimes to their school which makes me so happy since in general they lead a very car centric lifestyle there.  

I have mixed feelings on the subject - I grew up in the suburbs of NJ, and walked/biked almost every day to school and adventures between, and wish my kids could have the same experience. Then I get an email like this from our district last week:

http://patch.com/illinois/glenview/3rd-grader-hit-car-while-riding-...

...and I shudder at the thought of what those parents went thought that day.

Maybe this is no longer an option in the 'burbs (although I recall reading about a school district in Ohio (?) that was designed for 100% walkability), but rather what the folks in rural counties still enjoy?

Interesting, though this argument does reek of "back in the day when I walked up hill both ways in the snow".

I also am 20+ years removed from elementary school. I went to urban schools and traffic was always rather heavy. I went to a relatively large school in a dense, residential neighborhood. If even 25% of our roughly 400 students got picked up, that 100 cars would naturally overwhelm a streetscape like that.


Unless you went to school in some one-room schoolhouse out in the sticks, the 8am/3pm traffic rush is virtually a guarantee, even if a small minority of kids are driven.

I am 40+ years removed from elementary school, and I lived in Chicago.  Some of my friends' families had one car, some had none.  We walked to school.  We took the bus (tokens for those of us under 12 years old were 12 cents). We rode our bikes around the neighborhood for fun.  Since I lived in Chicago, there were no hills.  I do remember a day in probably 1965 when my poor little brother got a bloody nose as we walked to school and the blood froze before it hit his jacket.  Too much information?  Also, we went out trick-or-treating after dark and without parents, with pillow cases to fill, and the only bad thing that happened was our parents took most of the candy so we would not get sick eating it all at once. :-)

Brent Powell said:

Interesting, though this argument does reek of "back in the day when I walked up hill both ways in the snow".

I also am 20+ years removed from elementary school. I went to urban schools and traffic was always rather heavy. I went to a relatively large school in a dense, residential neighborhood. If even 25% of our roughly 400 students got picked up, that 100 cars would naturally overwhelm a streetscape like that.


Unless you went to school in some one-room schoolhouse out in the sticks, the 8am/3pm traffic rush is virtually a guarantee, even if a small minority of kids are driven.

Kids in Chicago can still often walk to school, now more than ever, with the growth of very strong public elementary schools in the last 10 years. It's often a matter of the parents' priorities: What is the value of my being able to walk (or bike) my kid to and from our neighborhood school v. the cost of having to drive her 20 minutes each way to another school (magnet/selective enrollment/private school)? It was a daily pleasure for us to walk our daughter to and from three different nearby schools from age 3 until age 12, when she could do it on her own or with friends.

I grew up on a farm in rural Michigan. When it was nice out, my brothers,sisters, neighboring friends and I all biked the 7 miles to elementary school when the weather was nice. When it wasn't, you rode the bus. Everyone had a bus route that they were assigned to. The bike racks were always overflowing.

In Chicago, it would be much much safer if more people/parents made the effort to walk their kids to school. My children attend a neighborhood school in our neighborhood (although not the school we are assigned to). It is 1.7 miles from our house. We bike daily as do fellow classmates around us - even thru the winter. But, many parents within blocks of the school get the kids in the car to drive around those few blocks and drop them off. In an effort to increase families walking, our school as taken surveys as to why this happens to see if the problem can be fixed. There is definite hierarchy with those arriving in cars appearing more important than those walking. Also, parents want to be directly on their way to work rather than returning home first. And lastly, our school (in a relatively good area) has a 87% poverty level. Many kids do not have the necessary outerwear for being outside any extended length of time (resulting in no outdoor recess for most winter months). These are not small bridges to gap but some schools are taking initiative and working on it. It did take a child being hit by a car in recent years and the death of an elderly gentleman in front of the school from a car backing up down the street to make things start to happen. Not all parents are in board either which is sad IMO. There is definitely room for improvement though.

My school years were spent in Evanston.  My schools were 1/2 mi to 1 mi away.  When I was in 1st and 2nd grades, my dad always walked with me to school and mom came to meet me in the afternoon. After that, dad walked with me part of the way in the morning and I walked home by myself - later with my younger brothers in tow. We only got rides in the most extreme weather. Most of the other kids walked, too. There were never traffic jams around the school.

I walked to high school. Most of my classmates walked, rode bikes or took CTA buses. Few drove or were driven.  Everyone lived within about 2 miles of school. On my walks to each school, I had to cross busy streets like Dempster, Asbury, Ridge, Main, and Dodge. Getting lessons in street safety from dad and then getting to learn more on my own was a valuable learning experience in decision making, navigation, and attention to detail. I got to know my neighborhood and nearby neighborhoods much better, met more people, saw beautiful gardens, etc.

Those lessons have served me well, and I wouldn't trade that valuable learning experience for anything.

Now I have to deal with hordes of parents in SUVs dropping their kids off at a daycare center by my train station. It's a dooring hazard every day, because most of the parents are only thinking about getting their kids into the daycare center as quickly as possible and not watching out for anyone else.

A nearby elementary school has such a problem with traffic volume and bad parent behavior that they now have a cop there writing tickets - lots of them - on parents who violate the posted regulations on drop-offs. Most of the kids going to this school live within easy walking distance (less than 1 mile) and are old enough to navigate on their own.

I've encountered enough teens in recent years who lack navigation and decision making skills to see the results of so many kids being driven everywhere.

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