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It’s Time to Start Allowing Our Children to Walk to School Again

It was just a few short decades ago that nearly half of all children walked to school each day. Now that number is closer to 10%. Here’s why we need to reverse that trend. And quick.

It’s Opening Day. That means many of you may be “staying home sick” from work or school today in order to “rest up.” We get that. In fact, two of our writers took the day off their normal routines in order to be able to participate in Opening Day festivities.

In any case, this break from our normal schedules gives us a good opportunity to look at something we should get back in the habit of doing once we collectively recover later this evening. That something is walking. And for those of you with children, that means having your children walk to school.

Just a few short decades ago, it was estimated that almost half of all children walked to school each day. That’s a great thing. It means more independence, more physical activity, more bonding with other neighborhood children, and a stronger relationship with one’s city. It also means less congestion on our roadways and fewer emissions. All in all it’s one of those rare win-win-win-win-win-wins.

Unfortunately, it is now estimated that only 10% of children walk to school today. Ten percent.

American policymakers have tried to combat this in recent years with the Safe Routes to School Program. Instead of it encouraging parents to have their children walk to school. SRTS merely attempts to fix decades of investment that have focused almost entirely on accommodating people driving cars. This has left most all communities built over the past 30 years inhospitable to anyone who wants to walk to get to their destination.

“Kids need to learn about a healthy lifestyle in school; and they need to learn how to integrate activity into their day,” said Dr. Elizabeth Joy, University of Utah, in the two-minute KCET City Walk film. “When it’s possible, kids need to walk to school, so that they learn about active transportation, and that when you have to go two, three, four blocks it doesn’t mean you get in the car. You can actually walk.”

Yes, you can actually walk.

By Randy A. Simes

Randy is an award-winning urban planner who founded UrbanCincy in May 2007. He grew up on Cincinnati’s west side in Covedale, and graduated from the University of Cincinnati’s nationally acclaimed School of Planning in June 2009. In addition to maintaining ownership and serving as the managing editor for UrbanCincy, Randy has worked professionally as a planning consultant throughout the United States, Korea and the Middle East. After brief stints in Atlanta and Chicago, he currently lives in the Daechi neighborhood of Seoul’s Gangnam district.