Dan Moser's Florida Weekly column 10/26/11
Earlier this month, a national event quite a few of our public schools have participated in for many years took place locally, but with fewer schools signing on than in the past. The annual Walk to School Day is meant to remind students, parents and school personnel of the many benefits of using active transportation to get kids to their destination. And, if the one-day activity has the intended effect, the experience should lead to walking or cycling becoming a regular method of transport. Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked that way, primarily because parents continue to serve as chauffeurs for their children.
One of the reasons often cited by parents for their reluctance to allow or encourage their kids to walk or ride a bike to school is because of the traffic chaos that reigns around almost each and every school. Why is it this way? Because so many parents drive their children to school. They are the cause of the chaos but can be the solution by staying out of the fray in their motor vehicles.
Another concern often brought up — and all too frequently perpetuated by media, school administrators and even law enforcement — is that of “stranger danger.” No one would deny that scary things do sometimes happen, but such incidents are much rarer than some would lead us to believe. In fact, kids are much more likely to be injured or killed in car crashes while being driven to school than even approached by potential predators or others who would do them harm. If the concept of walking or rolling school busses (www.walkingschoolbus.org) caught on — where adults chaperon groups of students — concerns about stranger danger or bullying would disappear completely in most cases. Add to that the many other benefits of getting kids on their feet and bikes and reducing the number of cars on the roads around schools.
In a related matter, a request was made recently by a Lee County School District Board member to close the Summerlin Road bike path where it deviates from the highway and runs behind some condos, an apartment complex and an elementary school.
The reason cited? To protect school children from apartment dwellers who will be living in those apartments that are soon to become low-income housing. If such a request isn’t inappropriate I’m not sure what is. Fortunately, this knee-jerk, misguided approach to dealing with change — and low income individuals and families — was shot down. I question whether this is about protecting the kids or “protecting” property values in the nearby well-to--do neighborhood since closing the pathway would cut off access between the apartment complex and that neighborhood.
Pretty much to a person, anyone who has taken one or more CyclingSavvy sessions to learn how to drive their bike in traffic has come away a more confident and less-stressed user of our pubic roadways. All three segments are being offered in Fort Myers again: one weeknight evening class Wednesday, Nov. 9; one Saturday morning on-bike session to practice skills in a parking lot environment Nov. 12; and a Saturday afternoon tour of roads and intersections on the same day. The cost is $30 per session or $75 for all three. You may visit cyclingsavvy.org for complete details and to register for this excellent Florida Bicycle Association program.
For all you runners out there, it’s that time of year when you have quite a number of choices from which to choose. Check out the adjoining list of Running/ Walking events, tighten your laces and get out there.
Until next time, I’ll look for you on the roads and trails. ¦
— Dan Moser is a league cycling and CyclingSavvy instructor and programs director for the Florida Bicycle Association who cycles, runs and walks regularly for transportation, recreation and fitness. He can be contacted at email@example.com or 334- 6417