Tag Archives: walking

Walking to School Encourages Children’s Independence and Responsibility

My kids have been back in school a couple of weeks now, walking themselves there without me. They’ve always walked to school, as we live within a quarter mile of their school, but in years past one or the other has been at an age where I had to handle the pickup. Now they’re old enough to walk on their own. This, I believe, is great for their independence and responsibility.

I did walk them the first two days of school. Those are the days when everyone’s getting used to the school, and things were just plain hectic around the school. We had people parking their cars around the corner from our house because the school lot and the rest of the neighborhood was so full. Even more so than the rest of the school year, I refuse to drive them the first days because we’d end up parked in our own driveway for the best possible spot.

I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not easy letting them walk on their own. Parents taking their kids to school are sadly not always the most alert for pedestrians, even when those tend to be other children. But I’ve taught my kids to be extra careful crossing near the school, and fortunately there are often other students and parents crossing at the same time.

That’s just one way walking to school encourages independence and responsibility. They have to decide when to cross a rather busy street to get to school. The street is only busy during the times people are dropping off or picking kids up, but during those times it’s really busy.

They’re also responsible for getting to school on time this way. Once they’re out that door, they can’t rely on me to remind them to keep moving, no matter what neat things they want to investigate on the way.

I also see benefits in how happy my kids are. They’re so proud to walk to and from school on their own, something I was allowed to do much younger. They have house keys for on the off chance that I’m not home when they get there (I don’t expect that to happen, but one can’t always plan for things) or if I lock the door and don’t hear the doorbell. They’ve had those for a while, actually, but now they have more chance that they’ll actually be used.

I know that we’re lucky. Not everyone lives all that close to their children’s school, or in neighborhoods safe enough to allow kids to walk there on their own. We have these advantages, and so mine walk rather than get driven to school. It’s fun, healthy and saves quite a bit of gas. Given the amount of traffic I’d have to get through, it’s also faster than driving them to school in our situation.

This is something I really encourage. Having kids walk to school has a lot of benefits. It’s really worth it if it’s a possibility for your family.

Is Your Community Walkable?

One of the easiest ways to get some exercise is to take a walk. All you really need are your feet and a place to walk. Sadly, a good place to walk isn’t something all communities provide, as many were designed more with driving in mind. Some neighborhoods don’t even have sidewalks, so people who want to walk there have the choice of walking on other people’s lawns or on the street, neither of which are really great options.

Walkable doesn’t just mean you can take a walk around the block for exercise, of course. A community is even more walkable if you can reasonably walk (or bike) to do errands such as going to the store or to school, or even to work.

What’s the Problem?

A big part of the problem is that many people live far from work, making it impossible for them to consider walking or riding to work. That can be a reasonable choice, such as when you change jobs and it’s farther from the home you already live in, or if your work isn’t in a safe neighborhood. These things happen.

My husband’s job, for example, is in a downtown area that coworkers immediately warned him we would not want to be in. We got lots of advice from them on better areas to live in, and eventually picked one. None of the places would have been even biking distance, especially in wet weather or much of summer, when temperatures often break 100ยบ F.

Many people don’t have shopping conveniently near either. Admittedly, groceries get heavy really fast, especially if you like to stock up for the week rather than shop daily.

For kids, there’s also the fear parents have for them these days, even when they live in relatively safe areas. Many parents are all too aware of the potential dangers out there, and for them, the balance falls on the side of protecting them from admittedly rare problems. Sure, there are neighborhoods where you absolutely don’t want your kids roaming, but many parents don’t let their kids roam where they should.

Where Are the Solutions?

It’s never easy to solve this kind of problem. A part of it comes down to our own choices, and a part is how communities are developed. You have to look at both.

Community development takes significant time, and changing an existing community to something more walkable is even more difficult. Developers need to be encouraged to include sidewalks in their communities, and to think about walkability just as they consider driveability. Prioritizing cars over feet will always lead to less walkable areas.

As an individual, you can choose to live in more walkable areas when possible, and to take advantage of that. Get out and let developers see that people are using the walking areas and they have more motivation to add them to future developments.

I also believe this means giving kids more freedom to explore. I really enjoy Free Range Kids, and while I don’t always agree with everything there, the idea is generally good. Kids need to be allowed age and skill appropriate independence, but many parents are too afraid to let their kids have it, despite the statistics being in their favor.

You don’t have to get it all perfect; it’s not always practical or even possible to find a place to live where you can walk, bike or even get public transportation to most places you’d like to go. Just have some degree of walkability be a factor as you search for a place to live.

When Was the Last Time You Walked Your Errands?

Driving to run errands is very much so a habit for most people. It’s easier and faster. But if the places you need to go are within walking or bike riding distance, it’s perhaps not the right choice. How often could you do errands without using your car, and how often do you?

It’s a question worth thinking on.

Distance

Whether you want to walk, ride a bike or drive depends in part on how far you need to go. If it’s under a mile, walking is often not a bad option, weather permitting. Biking a few miles each way can be a reasonable choice too. There’s certainly a point where driving or taking mass transit makes more sense.

Weather

Some weather is better than other weather for walking or riding. Extremely hot and humid days can be a poor choice, especially if you aren’t used to doing a lot of walking. However, you could carry a water bottle and wear a hat and sunscreen on hot days to make things safer. You do not want to overheat or suffer from heat stroke.

Personally, I like walking on rainy days, but not quite so much for shopping errands. It depends on how much rain you’re talking as well. Snow is probably not the best for walking errands unless they’re pretty short.

Safety

Not all areas are safe for walking or riding a bike. You need to use your common sense.

A lack of sidewalks is a big part of the problem in some areas. There isn’t always a safe shoulder for pedestrians to walk along on busy roads that they need to use to get where they’re going.

How Much You’ll be Carrying

Some errands, even over a short distance, really don’t work as walking or biking, or even mass transit errands. Sometimes you need a car to carry everything you buy or are disposing of.

Reusable Bags

Having reusable shopping bags is wonderful when you don’t drive your errands. They can have much more comfortable handles for carrying purchases. They also go well in bicycle baskets or folding shopping carts if you want an easier way to lug things along.

Gear

You don’t need a lot of gear to walk your errands. The main things you need are comfortable walking shoes. Good shoes are worth the money.

I also recommend a hat for sun protection. My mother’s been serious about hat use since having a skin cancer removed from her scalp. That’s good motivation for me too.

If you think you might take a bike for some errands, it’s worth the money. They cost much less than cars (obviously!) and need only a little maintenance here and there. Include a basket on the bike to make running errands on it easier.

The Advantages of Walking the Kids to School

Yes, I know not everyone can walk their kids to school. It can be too far or just not fit in your schedule. But if you can find a way to make it work, there are a lot of advantages.

While it’s only at its worst for many schools at the start of the year, posts such as The Car Rider Circle of Hell are a great reminder of just how much of a pain it can be to pick the kids up after school in a car. It’s not a pretty sight.

Things aren’t that bad for my daughter’s school, which started last week. However, we did have cars parked all the way up to our house, 3 blocks away from the school for both the morning drop off and the pick up in the afternoon.

Obviously at that distance we walk. It would probably take more time to drive there.

Walking even part of the way has a lot of advantages over driving to the school. If you’re too far to walk, parking a short distance and walking the last bit still has some of the advantages.

1. Saving gas.

If you sit with your car idling while you wait in line to drop the kids off or pick them up, you’re wasting fuel.

2. Exercise.

Short distance or long, walking to the school means you’re getting some exercise.

3. Possible time savings.

This one depends on the situation at your particular school, but walking up to the school can mean you get in and out faster than the parents who drove there and are waiting in line. Doubly true the first few days of school, when more parents drive to the school.

4. Get to know other parents.

It’s really hard to talk to other parents when you’re all in cars. Get out and walk up however far the school allows parents to go and you have a chance to meet some of the other parents. This can be really great if you get to know the parents of your children’s friends.

5. Time to talk to your kids.

Yes, you can do this in the car too, but walking together can be particularly conducive to conversation. The walk to school last year was a special time for my husband and daughter to talk, for example.

Can you think of advantages I’ve missed?

Where Can You Walk To?

Despite that we will soon be getting another car, I do like being able to walk a lot of places in my neighborhood. Mostly to my daughter’s school, but once in a while my husband and I walk on a date, since it’s only 1-2 miles to a variety of restaurants.

So I found Walk Score to be a very interesting website. They didn’t rate my neighborhood as terribly walkable; just 32 out of 100. That doesn’t surprise me since for most people a mile is pretty far to walk, and it’s more than that to the nearest real grocery store.

I say real grocery store because they counted places such as 7-11 as a grocery store. I would have said convenience store for that sort.

I don’t walk to our local grocery store because a mile isn’t so far on the way out, but it’s pretty far when you’re on the way back with a load of groceries, some of which are heavy and need to be refrigerated soon.

The site also pointed out to me some businesses I hadn’t noticed yet. The categorization was pretty interesting… I didn’t know that a self storage place and U-Haul should be filed under Clothes and Music!

Having kids of course limits my interest in walking long distances. Mine do enjoy long walks, but have more patience for nature walks than anything on a sidewalk. Not that I mind.

Overall, it’s a nice reminder that there are many places in a lot of neighborhoods that you can walk to. Some of it is a matter of personal perception, but the reminder that you can walk in your neighborhood isn’t a bad one at all.