Better ways to get to school: are we there yet?

Better ways to get to school: are we there yet?

Part of Reconnecting America’s report Are We There Yet? sheds light on how children (and their parents) get to daycare and school, and the ramifications of these options – or lack thereof. In a section titled “Safe Routes to School,” the authors explain that only 13 percent of children walk or bike to school today, compared to nearly 50% in 1969; parents cited schools being far away, traffic safety, and crime as major concerns. The authors highlight many serious repercussions of children no longer walking or biking to school:

“Obesity among children has tripled over the last two decades, and more than 20 percent of morning traffic is generated by parents driving kids to school. The combined emissions from all those cars and school buses adds up to the single greatest cause of pollution in many cities.”

The report points out that some communities are working to change the way kids get to school.

“At the Bear Creek Elementary School in Boulder, Colorado, Principal Kent Cruger serves as inspiration, arriving at school via foot-powered scooter, skateboard or unicycle — to cite a few of his choices — when he isn’t carpooling. The number of students now regularly walking and biking has risen by 30 percent, with a corresponding 30 percent reduction in traffic counts. At the Green Street School in Brattleboro, Vermont, the number of “walking school buses” — groups of children are accompanied by adults on the walk to school, picking up students along the way — and “bicycle trains” have tripled. A public outreach effort to reduce speeds around this school, just outside downtown, has resulted in a 40 percent reduction in the number of cars speeding through the school zone.

Due to increased interest in walking and biking in Auburn Washington, the Auburn School District has been able to reduce the number of school buses from six to one, resulting in an annual savings of $220,000. At Pioneer Elementary in Auburn, 85 percent of students walk or bike on a regular basis and they receive the highest academic scores in the district, which Principal Debra Gary attributes to their healthy, active lifestyles.”

In addition to walking and biking, transit can also play a big role in how children get to daycare and preschool:

“Quality preschools and daycare facilities in high-access locations have proven to be a real benefit to harried parents dropping kids off on their way to work. A study by Local Investment in Child Care, a California nonprofit organization, finds that locating childcare facilities within a third of a mile of transit results in high ridership by families: 34 percent of people dropping their children off then walked or used transit to commute to their destination, with even higher numbers in low-income areas.

Childcare facilities not only provide an essential service to families but they can also serve as ‘anchor tenants’ in a development that can provide other needed shops and services that serve families.”

Creating more pedestrian-friendly, bike-friendly, and transit-oriented neighborhoods means that children and those who take care of them will have more options when deciding how to get to school, which would likely lead to healthier children and a healthier planet. Check out Reconnecting America’s blog post on childcare and transit for more information.

Amy Donin


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