The metro-Atlanta suburb-city where I live is discussing lower speed limits near schools because some parents are pleading for it. It has gotten so pathetically dangerous to walk to school that my “family-friendly” city is one of those embarrassing places where children carry orange flags in order to cross the streets directly in front of the schools. (Note: this is always a sign of road safety failure.) Less than .2 (yes, point two) percent of children here ride their bikes to school. (If interested, see chapters 3, 6 and the epilogue in my book, Traveling at the Speed of Bike, for more about bike riding in this city.)
City founder and ten-year city councilor, John Heneghan, is seeking to change that. Here is his excellent post about it. I have written about this issue many times before (including this reprinted post below*). I even invited all members of city council to walk, ride bikes, and ride in a wheelchair on our city sidewalks and streets with me years ago but not one did (although, please note that John Heneghan has always been an active supporter of safer access for all — he is pictured below in a public service campaign I created with citizen participation five years ago). I am hoping that other parents with younger children take up the cause now. I just sent a different public service announcement (pictured above) that I created years ago as well to the mayor and all city councilors, yet again. We’ll see what happens next.
Many cities are spending a whole lot of hot air claiming how walkable and bike-friendly they are, but I have simple questions for each and every city leader in your city and mine:
Have you walked a mile with a child? (and not just in a big crowd on Walk to School Day)
Have you pushed your mother in a wheelchair on your city’s sidewalks, or walked with her with a cane or walker? Would you be comfortable with her doing this on her own in your city?
Have you accompanied a mom with a newborn in a stroller all the way to the supermarket?
Have you crossed the street with someone who can’t see or someone who can’t hear?
Have you made sure every 12-year-old in your city can ride his or her bike from their homes to a community center or park or store without their safe route being compromised?
Have you stood at a non-traffic-signal crosswalk and counted how many drivers it takes before one stops (as is the law)?
Simple stuff, folks. Any time I hear an official making claims that I know are simply not true (because I see the trucks on the sidewalk and the crosswalks ignored and the crossing buttons too far away for someone with disabilities or even a stroller to access, and poles and bus stops jutting into the sidewalks and uneven, cracked pavement), I know that this official (although probably good-intentioned) has not walked a mile with a child, or a mom, or a senior, or someone with disabilities. And I wonder, perhaps, if this official has walked in my shoes at all.
See a whole lot more about walking and biking a mile with a child in my book, Food for My Daughters, which is about a wide range of sustainability-related topics, not just food.