Why Isn’t Bicycling to School More Accepted/Viable/Practiced?

Accessibility/proximity to schools and parks are two of the most common criteria my buyer clients specify when searching for homes in Charlottesville, and more often, bikeability is a factor in addition to walkability. Walkability increases property values;

This is an excellent article from Bicycling magazine that describes the impediments presented to those who try to ride bikes to school; a few choice quotes –

Childhood obesity rates are soaring, youth participation in sports and other active pursuits is plummeting, and a generation is coming of age with little understanding of the joy and freedom of unsupervised play. There’s a simple solution—but all across the nation our schools earn a failing grade when it comes to letting kids ride their bikes.

The team leader for the CDC’s Healthy Community Design Initiative, Arthur Wendel, is charged with altering the design of cities and towns to improve public health. No dogmatic evangelist, he acknowledges that cycling can be hazardous; he brings up, for example, a 2002 report by the Transportation Research Board (a collaboration between the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine) titled “The Relative Risks of School Travel.” This report showed that the highest number of fatalities and injuries occurring on the way to school are among teenagers who drive themselves in cars—but after that, the second most come from bicycling. Still, he contends that the takeaway message shouldn’t be that kids should neither drive nor bike. It’s “that all forms of transportation carry some risk of injury, but only a few have health benefits. Bicycling is one.”
Schoolwise, this might be referred to as the Maple Avenue Mind-Set: passive acceptance of a status quo that promotes not only pollution and disease but also the lesson that children (who grow up to be citizens—and parents) are helpless. Amid this grand civic failure, the chief cause for encouragement comes from individuals who refuse to give in: the Marinos, Olsons, Skenazys, and Robinsons who prioritize fresh air and exploration and exercise, the powers-that-be be damned.

My favorite line is this:

“We’re not going to back down,” Janette said, declaring that she and Adam wouldn’t stop riding “unless you tell the other parents not to drive their kids.”

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