Category Archives: safe routes to school

GP-RED think tank — school travel and too much organized play for kids

I spent Monday at the GP-RED Think Tank schedule. The topic from my 20 minute talk that seemed to gain the most traction related to school travel. The basic point is that we can talk until we are blue in the face about getting kids to walk to school and the need for safe routes to school programs. But, as is becoming increasingly realized, the open enrollment issue is really shooting such programs in the foot. Kids don’t go to the neighborhood school; they go to school across town–too far to bike or walk.

People love talking about this matter. It merges travel (which anyone can relate to), kids (people love talking about children), schools (parents are manic about discussing the ins and outs of school involvement), and the environment (which everyone supposedly cares about, but really only nominally).

Here is another big take-away message from the spending the day at the “Think Tank.” Kids—and parents for that matter—are spending too much time in organized play. Parents have to supervise. Kids lose the ability to do whatever. They now get bored too easily in the absence of organized play and don’t know how to address the squabbles internally, always resulting in turning to an adult for this. We need to bring back entire afternoons hanging out on the block with no agenda.

Dedicated funding for bike/ped lost – is there still enough momemtum to overcome any loses?

I am not a political lobbyist. Nor am I close enough to the transportation funding situation in Washington, DC and other affected communities to reliably forecast the impact from last week’s vote: as part of American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act, Congress decided to eliminate dedicated funding for bike/ped, thereby affecting the two largest programs that fund biking and walking infrastructure — Transportation Enhancements and Safe Routes to School.
It begs a question, however. At what point does a particular endeavor no longer require dedicated funding? More specifically, at what point is there enough momentum to fund bike/ped infrastructure at the local level…that demarcated funding really wouldn’t matter that much. Assuming similar overall levels of transportation funding still exist, there might be a silver lining? It provides communities more flexibility and it is, possibly, an indicator that bike/ped issues can more reliably compete against other modes. We are not there yet (and won’t be in, say, 5 years time), but it is a thought.