In less than a month this blog will be seven years old; apart from a six month break I took four years ago in 2008, I have written here at least once a week, often twice.
When I look back over this relatively short period, “Cycling,” that is to say the lot of the cyclist has improved greatly; this is happening globally, Even here in the US, a country seemingly entrenched in a “Car Culture,” the bicycle is slowly but surely gaining acceptance.
The type of thing I find encouraging are movements like the “Safe Routes to School” organization. I had heard of Safe Routes but knew little about it, until last week when I received an email from Carolyn Battaglia who works for the South Carolina Safe Routes to school.
I was invited to a meeting at a local school. The school with 1,200 students has a huge traffic issue every day as parents drop off and pick up their kids.
The school was encouraged when they participated in the International Walk and Bike to School Day, on October 1st. They wanted to extend this idea and have a Walk and Bike to School Day every month. The meeting was called to study the feasibility.
One of the ideas put forward was for the parents to drop the children off at a Church parking lot less than a mile away, and have the kids walk or bike the rest of the way as a group with adult escorts.
The goal is to encourage groups of children who live within a reasonable distance to meet at certain places then walk or bike to school with adult supervision and protection, and to do it on a daily basis.
The reason so many parents choose to drive their kids to school is because the school busses take a disproportionate amount of time for what is often a relatively short trip.
As well as being beneficial as a physical exercise, it would go a long way to cut down the congestion and air pollution at the school. What a great idea; a win for everyone.
What I didn’t know is that the Safe Routes to School is part of the South Carolina Department of Transport. This is wonderful news, because it means that when meetings like this are held, recommendations by Safe Routes org. for things like sidewalks and bike lanes go straight to the people who have the power to make it happen.
In fact there was a SCDOT engineer at the meeting taking notes. He made it clear that sidewalks needed around the school would only happen if money was available. But at least as money became available a work order would already be in place.
I would urge all those interested in local bike advocacy to look into Safe Routes to School in your state. Infrastructure improvements made for the benefit of schools and children, like sidewalks and bike lanes, are of benefit to all pedestrians and cyclists who live in the area.
And as I have said before; the day that it is safe for a child in the US to ride their bike to school, will be the time when our roads will be safer for everyone. Pedestrians, cyclists, and yes even car drivers.