Tuesday, September 1, 2009

School days!

Yep - that three-month-long party is over, and kids have returned to readin' and writin' and 'rithmetic. And the news outlets are reminding the grownups to be careful, to avoid hitting the kids in the streets.

When I was in school, way back when, there used to be rows and rows of bicycles parked out back, in September. (Not so much in January, but every kid who lived more than 2 blocks from the school, and less than a mile from the school, rode a bike on the nice days. Or so it seemed.) All through elementary and junior high.

Once I arrived at high school, there was a certain prestige and status attached to driving to school, even back then. There were bike racks at Boise High, but they weren't nearly as well-populated as the racks at Roosevelt Elementary and East Junior. I didn't have a car at my disposal, but usually got dropped off, and then either walked or caught a ride to my after-school job. (If I'd known then what I know now, I would've used bike transportation a LOT more! At the time, of course, I thought I knew everything! Some things never change.)

As we jump ahead 35 or 45 years... some things have changed.

Nowadays, riding a bike, or walking to school seems to be the exception rather than the rule. Most of the little dumplings get dropped off at the front door. Moms and dads are too worried about all the crazy drivers, and how dangerous they perceive walking or cycling to be... and they don't want their kids exposed to the dangers of speeding, drunken, phone-calling, text-messaging motorists, kid-snatching perverts, roaming packs of vicious pit-bulls, and all the other stuff we hear about on the news every day.

(By comparison, the dangers of a totally-sedentary lifestyle seem benign. For many kids, the only muscles that get exercised regularly are the videogame muscles and the Cheeto-chewing muscles. Many adults, too.)

We all have a responsibility for doing what we can to keep streets safe for kids. Adults who speed and violate other traffic laws, and who drive while impaired or distracted, are part of the problem. NO - they're not part of the problem; they are the problem! Kids can safely navigate the streets and sidewalks, if they are properly taught by people who know what they're talking about... and if they are mature enough to understand the enormity of the potential consequences of a mistake.

Boise's Dr. Steve Smith offers some advice on how to keep street-going kids safe. His Idaho Statesman piece can be seen HERE.

Another very interesting website for parents is the "Free-Range Kids" blog, HERE. It purports a desire to "give our kids the freedom we had without going nuts with worry." The moderator, Lenore Skenazy, asks, "Do you ever... let your kid ride a bike to the library? Walk alone to school? Take a bus, solo? Or are you thinking about it? If so, you are raising a Free Range Kid! At Free Range, we believe in safe kids. We believe in helmets, car seats and safety belts. We do NOT believe that every time school age children go outside, they need a security detail. Most of us grew up Free Range and lived to tell the tale." Uncommon (in 2009) common sense!

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