Do any kids walk, ride their bike, or take the school bus anymore? Holy gridlock, Batman – trying to drive past an elementary or middle school at certain times of the day is worse than rush hour in the first turn of the Indy 500!
Between parental safety concerns (some valid, some overblown) and yearly school cutbacks to school bus service, it seems like most students are being chauffeured to school. The daily valet ballet that takes place in front of schools across the nation is not going to be viable in the long run and certainly is not safe. It is extremely inefficient, unhealthy, seriously eco-unfriendly, is teaching our kids bad environmental habits, and creates far more hazards for pedestrians and bicyclists than normal everyday traffic does – partially because the parents are in a such frantic frenzy to drop the kids off and then get to work.
Hopefully, Safe Routes to School and similar programs will help ease parental concerns about their kids getting to and from school safely. I used to walk approximately 1/2 mile each way in elementary school. All three of my sons rode the school bus until they could drive (or in some instances carpool). In London, middle school aged children regularly ride the trains, tube (subway), and city buses. We cannot insulate our children from the world until they are 18 and then hope they will magically know how to meld into society. At some point, as parents, we have to let our kids grow up and trust they will remember all we have taught them and then take the proper precautions.
If I had my druthers and someone had anointed me King a decade or two ago, I would have required use of school buses by all students except in special situations. Unfortunately, rising fuel costs are making that option less and less viable for budget-conscious school districts. Beyond that decree, one would think these chaotic valet ballets would present a great opportunity for some enterprising entrepreneur to start a jitney or shuttle service to/from specific neighborhoods to nearby schools. Just a thought…