If you're a parent of school-age children, please read Dan's column about the importance of letting kids find their own way to school vs. chauffeuring them. Walking and bicycling are practical options that have physical, social and confidence-building benefits. He also highlights Lakes Park, a local gem.
Florida Weekly, Outdoors Section
Dan Moser Column, Aug. 20, 2014
|Dan Moser firstname.lastname@example.org|
At the risk of sounding like a broken record and reigniting the ire of those who believe they need to be their child’s personal driver, I will again make the case for letting kids find their own way to school and as many other places they can and should be able to get to on their own (soccer practice, library, neighborhood park, friend’s house…). Walking and bicycling are practical options that have physical, social and confidence-building benefits. It gives kids a level of independence that grows as they get older and their range expands. Ideally, these transportation-independent kids become young adults who have mobility options, sometimes even delaying obtaining their driver’s licenses and saving a bundle of money by doing so.
The furthest a child needs to travel to get to school or a bus stop is two miles (1.5-miles to a bus stop). For most, it’s much less than that. But far too many parents feel compelled to drive their kids to either location, which, in turn, makes conditions around campuses and certain street corners less than ideal for those on foot or bike, thanks to the presence of so many vehicles. Thus, parents come to the conclusion that it’s too dangerous for their child to be out there without the protection of their family motor vehicle. Besides, this should be quality time spent with each other, right? Well, not exactly.
One visit to the student drop-off line or bus stop where parents sit in the car with their kids is all it takes confirm that this almost daily task is a time to make phone calls and conduct other “business” on handheld devices. Not quite quality parent-child time. Rather than the child interacting with fellow students at bus stops or while walking or biking together, kids get to hear “blah-blah-blah” or “tap tap tap” as their parents engage others electronically in order to use this time for something productive. Of course, parents being role models, the kids do the same.
walkingschoolbus.org and saferoutespartnership.org.
Now’s the time to enjoy one of our most popular parks, while kids are in school and tourists and snowbirds are few and far between. Lakes Park (leeparks.org) is a gem that’s only getting better as its trees and other landscape upgrades that were part of the post-Charley master plan mature. Newer features, such as state-of-the-art fitness stations, additional unpaved trails, and a community garden add to the lure of this former quarry that’s now one of the best examples of a top-notch urban regional park in Southwest Florida.
Yes, it’s hot and rainy, but Lakes Park has plenty of shade and water that keeps temperatures significantly more comfortable than surrounding areas. It still gets very busy on weekends but it’s a different story on weekdays, especially now that summer camps are finished. You may not have the place to yourself but you’ll enjoy a level of solitude and quiet that makes it worth bearing the heat and humidity. Thanks to the Lakes Park Enrichment Foundation (lakesparkenrichmentfoundation.org), the park will only continue to thrive.
Until next time, I’ll look for you on the roads and pathways.
— Dan Moser is a long- time bicycle/ pedestrian advocate and traffic safety professional who cycles, runs and walks regularly for transportation, recreation and fitness. Contact him at email@example.com and 334- 6417.