Right now America is experiencing an obesity epidemic so severe that, for the first time in two centuries, the current generation of children will have a shorter life expectancy than their parents. It's hardly surprising, considering the number of instances where parents are chastised or even prosecuted for allowing their kids to bike and walk to school.
Well here's another illustration of how far off course we are with respect to child rearing, transportation and physical activity. From Free Range Kids, via Network blog Systemic Failure, comes a story of a parent who found herself in the hot seat with administrators in Rockville, Maryland, for allowing her child to ride the city bus to school:
It had been brought to her attention, the principal said, by some “concerned parents,” that my daughter had been riding the city bus to and from school. I said, yes, we had just moved outside of the neighborhood, and felt that this was the most convenient way for our 5th grader to get there and back. The principal asked was I not concerned for her safety? “Safety from what?” I inquired. “Kidnapping,” she said reluctantly. I said that I would not bore her by talking statistics that, being in the business of taking care of young children, she surely knew better than I did. She reminded me that our transfer application (a formality in cases such as ours, when the student has less than a year left to complete at their former school) has not yet been submitted, and that if we were “unable to provide transportation,” the central office would not approve this transfer. I assured her that we were perfectly able to provide transportation, but were choosing to avail ourselves of the city’s excellent public transportation system instead.
When told that the district would be contacting protective services should she choose to keep putting her daughter on the bus, the mother explained how her 10-year-old had found a community there:
It was raining hard the next day so I offered to drive L. to the bus stop. I thought she’d want to wait in the car with me, but she said, “It’s okay mom, you go work. I want to say hi to my friends.” “Your friends?” “Well, they are not my kid friends. They are just, you know, my people friends.” There was the Chinese lady, the lady with the baby who cried a lot (but it’s not his fault, he can’t help it), and the grandma who always got on at the next stop. In a few short weeks, my daughter had surrounded herself with a community of people who recognized her, who were happy to see her, and who surely would step in if someone tried to hurt her.
Amazing how different this child's experience is from the image of the public bus as scary and dangerous, a stereotype propagated by district parents and administrators.
Elsewhere on the Network today: Los Alamos Bikes reminds us that driving should be a privilege, not a right -- but our legal system seems to have it backwards. Better Institutions says that the administration of the transit tax benefit needs to be overhauled so that this important incentive can do what it was designed to do. And Veritas et Venustas shares an excerpt from Jeff Speck's new book on the importance of walkability to community health.
Tanya became Streetsblog's Capitol Hill editor in September 2010 after covering Congress for Pacifica Radios Washington bureau and for public radio stations around the country. She lives car-free in a transit-oriented and bike-friendly neighborhood of Washington, DC.