Only in America....
- From what I've seen and heard, these "safe paths to school" projects wind up as feel-good/look-good projects that accomplish nothing, ignoring the real problem. The newest high school here [built in 1999] follows the MO very well:
- New schools are built with as much consideration to pedestrian access as some airports. Chiles High School has a campus roughly 1000 feet on each side--then there's another 1000 feet or so of buffer woodland on three sides, with only one accessible side on an access road parallel to a rural divided highway. The entire campus is fenced, with only the gates on the front side open. High schools tend to be very NIMBY, since nobody wants to be near high-school students' anti-social behavior and dangerous driving habits.
- Since parents [supposedly] want their children to be able to walk to school, the school board, city, and county go in together on a "safe path" to the school. In the case of the above school, the "safe path" is a narrow sidewalk [fully ADA accessible, mind you] that exits the campus at a chain-link gate, goes about 1000 feet down the access road, and dead ends.
- The sidewalk will ultimately see zero pedestrians. It couldn't anyway, since students at the high school triple-park on the side of the road as if the sidewalk wasn't even there.
My downtown alma mater, built in 1936, is the same thing, except on a more dense scale. Three sides of the campus border public streets, and there used to be walk-through neighborhood access to the fourth side--it's gated and locked now.
Just like its younger suburban cousin ten miles away, the only pedestrians around the school are students walking between the school and wherever they parked. At both schools, students drive away to buy lunch--and have a tendency to not return for the 2-3 class periods after lunch.
The only difference? The downtown school is right across the street from a gas station/convenience store that students and faculty walk to for snacks and drinks. Because a lot of the students at this school park across an urban divided highway, the Sheriff's Office sends deputies to write citations for crossing mid-block. Which they continued to do after a student was hit crossing at an intersection.
It goes without saying what the real solution. Unfortunately, a lot of people like it Exactly The Way It Is--a lot of parents feel more "in control" of their children by living in an auto-centric area.
- =v= Greetings from America, where our President has recently
stated that, "The nation that invented the automobile cannot
walk away from it." Presumably because that would involve,
you know, walking. None of us here remember how to do that.
- On Mar 3, 2009, at 6:35 PM, Jym Dyer wrote:
> Greetings from America, where our President has recentlyMaybe he meant Germany, where the first functional automobiles were
> stated that, "The nation that invented the automobile cannot
> walk away from it." Presumably because that would involve,
> you know, walking. None of us here remember how to do that.
invented and produced in the late 1800s....
So we CAN walk away!
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
- I recommend that we not spurn "Safe Routes to School" or "Safe Routhes to Transit". Yes, I'm sure there are plenty of examples of lip-service projects that waste a lot of money and accomplish nothing. The same can be said of many carfree pedestrian streets or malls that were ill-conceived and unsuccessful(typically due to single-use design: retail) and that set a bad example for what we are trying to achieve.
The Carfree conference in Portland changed my thinking about the value of small incremental steps toward carfree cities. For several years, CarFree City USA has been striving to jump straight to a full-fledged carfree project (neighborhood scale or larger). We have been completely unsuccessful. Altering land use in an urban setting is extremely difficult and expensive. In seeking this quantum leap, I tended to pooh-pooh small incremental changes or one-day events as not really altering the status quo. This included carfree days, critical mass, cyclovias, bike boulevards, safe routes to schools, complete streets, changes in parking requirements, new urbanism, etc.
In Portland, I noticed that all the success stories were with these same incremental changes. And more importantly, they tended to change the most important thing of all: people's minds. When a kid realizes they can bike easily to school, they wonder why they shouldn't be able to bike easily everywhere. When a non-cycling adult dusts off their bike to check out a cyclovia, they realize that bicycling is fun and that the sky doesn't fall if the cars get pushed out of the way. These incremental changes expand the collective awareness of possibility and add to broad social support for alternatives to driving. That support is a prerequisite for bolder steps, like converting blocks and neighborhoods to carfree.
So rather than throw the baby out with the bathwater, World Carfree Network and all of its member groups should support incremental changes like Safe Routes to Schools. Rather than criticize, we should promote ourselves as experts and offer design advice so that the projects are successful and worthwhile.
CarFree City, USA