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Thursday, October 01, 2015

October: International Walk to School Month

Not all of us stay within "walking distance" of school. But then again, "walking distance" is subject to interpretation which includes safe route, time constraints, physical limitations, proximity, weather, and motivation.

A two mile brisk walk could take about 35 minutes for a second grader, but possibly only about 20 minutes for an active adult. Not all working parents have the luxury of time each morning to walk the kids to school, turn around and walk back home, and then start their own commute to workplace.

I try not to rant here. I try to keep it positive, writing about things that are pleasant, avoiding the urge to carp. But, every once in a while, the issues I feel strongly about, and agonize over, gets some space here. One of which is this total disconnect between school hours and workplace hours for working parents.

Today's economy necessitates both parents to work to support a fairly frugal middle class life style. And employers typically require 40 hours a week for full-time job with health benefits. Not all jobs allow for us to be flexible with those 40 hours. Amidst talks of why 8-hour work days are not as effective and how some countries are scaling back to 6-hour work days, investing in families and children rather than corporations and profits, there seems to be no shift in sight for U.S.

And yet, kids are in (public) school only from about 9 to 3, for the most part, with no reliable after-school care or support, unless one is in a "good" school district with more options. So, one or the other parent either quits the job or takes up a less challenging and less satisfying and lower paying job that allows for this flexibility to drop off and pick up kids from school.

We all "manage somehow"... Life's all about finding what works for each of us and making compromises. But, when it comes to this universal issue of incongruity between job hours and school hours, can't we collectively establish a more sensible solution?

As a society, we all realize that investing in our children awards the best returns and yet we don't actively support and implement policies and procedures to make this happen.

Anyway, I am digressing... back to the point of walking to school: There aren't enough safe sidewalks and paths to get to school in my neighborhood, and I suspect in many neighborhoods across town. A particular stop sign with a free right turn near our residence is a place kids have to cross to get to the cross walk, that will then let them cross safely to the other side of a busy 2 lane road, that takes them towards their school. And this stop sign is mighty dangerous as drivers don't come to a full stop to allow for pedestrians to cross.

I do want my kids to walk to school daily, rain or shine. I want them to feel safe walking in their neighborhoods, alone, when they are ready for it and feel up to it. And, as often as possible, I plan to walk my kids to school not just this month or this week, but for as long as my work life would allow.

Through this International Walk to School Month, perhaps we can raise awareness to get our neighborhoods "Walk-ready" for our kids.

The Walkability Checklist can help figure out what needs to change, and perhaps National Center for Safe Routes to School can help fix the issues.

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