June 2010 home page

  Walkpooling to School
Piper Underwood | Rimini Road


Crest Road.  Photo Piper Underwood

When I was a kid, I walked to school pretty much every day. The trip was up hill, both ways, in barely translucent L.A. smog. Perhaps you had a similar experience? Turns out many of us did. Today only about 10% of kids walk to school, which is a 37% decline from 20 years ago. So what’s changed?

For one, newer schools are often built to accommodate more students and built where there is available land, which is usually in sprawling suburban neighborhoods. This type of urban planning means families often live farther from school and have to cross busy streets that were never designed for pedestrians.

With the exception of Del Mar Heights Road, which definitely doesn’t qualify as pedestrian friendly, our two neighborhood schools are just that – tucked into quaint, mostly walkable neighborhoods.

Walking to and from school has many benefits, including healthier, more alert children. It also alleviates traffic in our neighborhoods as well as congestion at drop off and pick up times. So why do we remain in our cars, windows rolled up, distracted by our day’s to do lists?

For my family, there are two primary reasons – excuses – why we don’t walk to school. One is my youngest son’s cantankerous attitude toward any a.m. activity. Ironically, right after I drive my kids to school and drive back home, I leash up my dog and go for a walk. Walking, it takes my family about 30 minutes at a moderate pace to get to school – that’s if we are focused (i.e. not kicking a pine cone east, west, north, south).

The second reason: Safety - carries some legitimacy. Although we live in an idyllic village that I believe is quite pedestrian friendly, there are a couple of real hazards en route to school. We live just off of Crest Rd., which is predominantly a very scenic, walkable road. However, there are two curves that I would categorize as dangerous for pedestrians and bikers alike. One turn has visibility issues due to an overgrown hedge, while the other simply has no room for a pedestrian if two cars happen to be passing in opposite directions. In both scenarios, safely navigating this route requires the most alert pedestrian.

The question for us parents is: Do the social, health and environmental benefits of walking to school outweigh the inconvenience and possible safety hazards? One possible solution is what I call a walkpool. Once a month, neighborhood kids meet at a selected “walk stop” and a designated parent leads the group of neighborhood kids to school on foot. This is a modest start, but we might just find that we like walking to school, and perhaps even our most cantankerous children will enjoy it too.



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