Walk To School Day ... DAY? Why Not Always?
What to love and hate about living in East Greenwich this week.
RANT: Is it just me, or is National Walk to School Day the most asinine day ever? Even National Tap Dance Day (May 25, in case you have a pair of metal-soled shoes gathering dust in your closet) ranks higher, in my opinion.
Seriously, though, has it come to this? We really need a day set aside to encourage kids to actually venture outside and be pedestrians? OK, I know, life today is such that younger kids are no longer allowed to do so much as eat PBJ without an adult present. I promise, I will not drone on about how, waaaay back in my day, before down, Gore-tex and fleece had been invented, we were all walking to school at all ages and in all weather – usually lagging about a half block behind older neighborhood kids to spare them embarrassment – and somehow, we all survived. But the fact is over the past 40 years, the percentage of children who walk or bicycle to school has dropped from nearly 50 percent to closer to 15 percent. Even worse, half of children who live within a half-mile of the school (a less-than-10-minute walk, by the way) are driven. Whereas 40 years ago, my parents and their peers would have found it outrageous to drive a child a half mile to school, today no one even thinks twice.
The irony is that being a passenger in a car isn’t exactly a safe alternative anyway; turns out over 250,000 kids are injured annually in auto accidents and over 50 percent of those occur during drop off and pick up times at school.
OK, I know that the planners of New England streets didn’t always see the need for creating safe walkways for pedestrians, whatever their age. But maybe that is where our energy should go rather than pretending that a one-day-a-year promotion is really going to have any long-term effect on children’s level of physical activity. After all, the fact that we have set aside a specific day for walking to school sends the message that this is a special thing rather than something that could and should be done every day. How about making it every Friday instead?
But I digress. The fact of the matter is that what we need are secure places for everyone – not just kids – to walk, run or bike. I know it is impossible, especially in these financially-strapped times, to suggest that the local powers that be authorize a general road rehab so sidewalks can be laid. But how about nice big shoulders mapped out on EVERY street, delineated with a nice white reflective painted line?
Is it perfect? No. But it’s a start to really get our kids out and about – which is the whole purpose of this national day. Now if we can just get them to unplug while they walk.
RAVE: We may not qualify as completely bipartisan here in East Greenwich, but we certainly seem to be doing better than Romney and Obama in terms of crossing color lines. I am talking about the Blue and Red state of the parties, of course. Judging by the tie choices of the candidates at the first debate the other night, Romney is clearly Republican Red and Obama is Democrat Blue (were the ties even made in America?).
Such died-in-the-wool color schemes don’t seem to be the case in our fair town. Here, Democrats are red – at least in the case of Mark Schwager’s political signs. And, if Messieurs Giarrusso’s, Hodgson’s and Isaacs' signs are any indication, Republicans are blue. I’m not sure if there is a more calculating reason for the shade choices (confuse the voters! – but hopefully such a scheme would only work on the Teletubby set and they don’t vote), but I prefer to think that whatever the state of our national fabric and no matter how much at polar opposites our states seem to be over questions like government, taxes, healthcare and sex, in anyway, our town, we really are color blind.