Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Yellow Limousine

The suburbs are full of 'em-- empty school buses. The New York Times this weekend described the precipitous decrease in the number of students walking to their neighborhood school, even into the teen years. Fears of abduction often override a child's independence. One mother allowed her ten-year-old son to walk to soccer practice, only to have a concerned neighbor contact 9-1-1. With childhood obesity on the rise and greenhouse gasses in the ozone, it is counterintuitive to provide a bus for practically every student in the district; however this is standard practice in the 'burbs.
Not only are parents wary of letting their children walk to school, it has gotten to the point where even the bus is eschewed. Parent after parent drives the little darling straight to the school's front door. True, some students have early morning or after-school obligations, but more often than not, it is a convenience, allowing students that extra ten minutes of sleep or the luxury of being lax in one's schedule. The traffic snaking around school buildings every morning leaves cars idling while buses pull into the parking lot only a third full.
In that same edition of the Times, a book about new urbanism was reviewed, calling for people to embrace neighborhoods which encourage pedestrian behavior. It's an idea I fully embrace, but I can't help wondering if parents would still use the car, no matter how close the distance. And what would we lose in the process?

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