In my Brooklyn neighborhood, one of the most walkable and transit-rich in the country, the streets near schools fill up every morning and afternoon with parents dropping off and picking up their kids in cars. They double-park, they idle, they block bike lanes. Somehow this scenario — which was unthinkable when I was a New York kid in the 1970s — has become the norm.
The same is true in most communities around North America. Which is why the policy of a new elementary school in Milton, Ontario, is worth noting. Located in a fast-growing part of the Greater Toronto Area, it has been designated a "walking-only school" (bikes and scooters are fine, too).
From Streetsblog Network member Spacing Toronto:
In light of increasing concern over traffic problems around school and the rising incidence of childhood obesity, schools are beginning to pay closer attention to the transportation habits of their students. One Milton school in particular is drawing attention from around North America with a full-out ban on parents driving their kids to school.
The Halton School Board’s Active and Safe Routes to School and local public health officials launched the program this year at Milton’s P.L. Robertson Elementary School. Costing the school board $125,000, the ban on driving is a one-year pilot with hopes of expanding to other schools in the community in the coming years.
So far the project has been a success, with project manager Jenifer Jenkins saying that the school quickly reached a 100% compliance rate. Surprisingly the rate stayed high even as the weather worsened, indicating a broader change in behavior. Jenkins also says that some students who qualify for buses have opted to walk instead so as to join their friends. This implies that walking will become more attractive to students as more of their peers do start doing it.
Read more about the program here. It’s a far cry from the policy of a school in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., that made the news last year — a policy that banned students commuting by bicycle, even in the company of their parents.
A little-mentioned side benefit of encouraging kids to travel to school using their own power is that it will get parents out of cars as well. And maybe the grown-ups will be more likely to see that it’s possible to make other local trips under their own steam.
More from around the network: The City Fix reports on a Nigerian community that has successfully banned dangerous and dirty commercial motorbikes. Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage celebrates the passage of a bicycle plan for that city. And Tom Vanderbilt at How We Drive points out some interesting numbers on the amount of land taken up by parking lots in the United States.