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  • Liz Dwyer

    My seventh grader's school is a magnet so many come from all over the city, but they organized walk-to-school meeting spots in several parts of the neighborhood for local kids to walk from and sent an email out to parents notifying us of them. We would've had to walk a 3/4 mile east to meet up, so it didn't really make sense to join the meet up. However, when I asked my son (who regularly walks home from school) if he wanted to walk the mile to school from our house instead of being dropped off, he was not feeling it at all. Sure, he was a little tired and cranky, but he told me that it's bad enough having to breathe in the car exhaust and dodge two homeless camps on the way home. Plus, his book bag weighs over 20 pounds and he didn't want to lug it twice in one day. He told me that none of his friends were walking and that the idea was so "hipster."

    There are plenty of issues in his complaints that have nothing to do with WTSD, but it made me think about how student investment is such a key part of this working. What if the students had been able to identify the challenges to walking and then problem solve around them--they certainly would've felt more ownership.

    • Ben Winig

      Thanks for the thoughtful comments, Liz.

      You are absolutely right that there are many barriers to walking and bicycling to school, and lack of student investment is a significant one. But when schools and communities remove some of the key legal and policy barriers that prohibit or discourage kids from walking or bicycling to school, they can better address some of the cultural and other barriers that you reference. As you imply, creating a safe route to school is not just about reducing or eliminating traffic-related hazards. It’s about taking a holistic approach to ensure kids feel safe and healthy on their daily commutes. That requires an assessment of the health impacts of all kinds of decisions with which a community grapples, ranging from big issues like where to develop new housing or site a new school to smaller ones like whether to prohibit motor vehicle idling on or adjacent to school grounds to reduce air pollution.

      Our policy resources are aimed to make it easier to make healthy choices and to discourage unhealthy behavior, but it takes folks working in their communities to overcome the hurdles that impact them the most.

    • Alessandra Rizzotti

      Liz- I loved your post about Chicago' safe passage routes- although I think the concept is sad: As someone who walked to school every day, I think the only thing that made me feel safe was the fact that I had a babysitter with me- which was also really sad to think about. It's almost like kids need to learn self-defense or what if cities had secret staircases, sorta like Silverlake? Seems absurd, but it's similar to the bike path/trail idea.