Could Your Town Get Kids Walking to School Like This One Does?

Readers — Enough with the craziness. Let’s leave on a high note with this video, below. And a shout out to my neighbor, Clarence Eckerson, Jr., for making it!

Lakewood, Ohio: The Suburb Where Everyone Can Walk to School

 by Clarence Eckerson, Jr.

The inner Cleveland suburb of Lakewood (population 51,000) calls itself a “walking school district.” Lakewood has never had school buses in its history, and kids grow up walking and biking to school.

Mornings and afternoons are a beehive of activity on streets near schools, as kids and parents walk to and from classrooms. You can feel the energy. The freedom of being able to walk and socialize with friends is incalculable.

Read the rest here!

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37 Responses to Could Your Town Get Kids Walking to School Like This One Does?

  1. BL August 22, 2014 at 8:40 pm #

    “Building a sprawling car-centric campus far away from where families live wasn’t an option, the way it is for a lot of suburban districts.”

    Not just suburban, alas. In small-town rural areas like where I live, it seems every new school is built out in the country, replacing a town school that’s turned into the school district offices (or something similar) if not just razed.

  2. Warren August 22, 2014 at 11:27 pm #

    I wish the board would just cancel all buses for kids within town limits, and have the buses from the outlying farmland, drop the kids off at the arena, making them walk the 1.5 km to school.

  3. Michelle August 22, 2014 at 11:50 pm #

    The local elementary school is *in* our neighborhood. Some of the kids walk. Last year, bus service was cancelled for kids who live in the neighborhood, and that was a good start, IMHO. Unfortunately, enough parents still drive to clog up the street around the school for an hour or more while dropping off and picking up. Last night was some kind of open house, and it was insane trying to get into our neighborhood. People were parked in the middle of the street, and even in the driveway of the daycare across the street. :-/

  4. Nicole 2 August 23, 2014 at 9:11 am #

    I wonder how they handle special needs students. I’m imagining that they have a few special needs buses, but if they found another way to handle it (such as sending out an assistant to help the student get to school) that’d be awesome.

  5. lollipoplover August 23, 2014 at 9:16 am #

    It IS good news, I just wish it didn’t have to be news at all. Schools increasingly are *catering to the car culture* and we are treating our kids like little happy meals that need to be dropped off and picked up in the drive-thru. Walkers and bikers are seen as a nuisance.

    We don’t have bus service to our school either. There’s a healthy amount of kids feeling “the freedom of being able to walk and socialize with friends” and many bikers as well. Mine have been getting to school on their own for 5 years. My oldest is doing morning announcements this year and can get to school early because she is in responsible for her commute. They check the weather each day and make modifications. Their brains are engaged in so many ways before they walk into school.

    I honestly don’t care how anyone gets their children to school. Everyone has different circumstances. But the amount of traffic around schools poses a real danger to kids who walk and bike. The mom in the minivan texting and driving is what I tell my kids to watch out for on the road, not the creeper in the bushes. The majority of accidents around school zones are parents speeding to pick up their kids.

  6. Nicole 2 August 23, 2014 at 1:13 pm #

    ^I can’t stand that. Parents act so idiotic dropping their kids off, I wish they’d just let them walk or take the bus. The parents driving are the ones creating the safety issues.

  7. Reziac August 23, 2014 at 2:30 pm #

    Well, here’s a solution for ya… make schools a “No motor vehicles” zone!!

  8. Emily August 23, 2014 at 2:41 pm #

    >>wish the board would just cancel all buses for kids within town limits, and have the buses from the outlying farmland, drop the kids off at the arena, making them walk the 1.5 km to school.<<

    @Warren–I can see why you'd want that, because your answer to lack of bus services, as a free-range parent, would be to let your kids walk. However, a lot of other people don't feel that way, and their answer would be to drive their kids. Sometimes it'd be for a good reason (inclement weather, kids with special needs or injuries, heavy items that need to go to school, like maybe a tuba, or a big bag of hockey equipment), but that would gradually slide into "everyone else is driving, so I might as well too," especially as the school year progresses into the winter months. So, I think Lakewood is on the right track, by just setting things up so that walking to school is actually more convenient than driving.

  9. Jenna K. August 23, 2014 at 7:13 pm #

    Yes, but I bet there are parents who drive their kids anyway because they don’t want their precious little ones to get tired walking, or worse, they think their kids will be abducted. Where I live, the majority of kids live close enough to schools to walk, and mine do, but last week a news story came out online about whether or not kids should walk to school and of the hundreds of comments I read, only a few of them supported walking. Most parents were saying they would rather not risk anything happening to junior and they would be driving their kids the two blocks to their school.

    There was a parent of a 10-year-old and 8-year-old who lived within two blocks of the school asking on the community Facebook page if there were any adult-supervised kids walking groups that her kids could join because she just couldn’t imagine her fifth grader and third grader walking without adult supervision the two blocks to school.

    My kids (who are now 11, 10, 8, 6) walked the last two years to school and back when we lived 1-1/2 miles from the school. We were just within the line for a bus, if we lived on the other side of the street we would have gotten to ride the bus. But my kids walked to and from school in sun, rain AND snow. Even when the temps got down to 20 degrees (farenheit), my kids walked. I just bundled them up.

    Now we have changed schools because the district realigned the boundaries and our school is much closer (three blocks, about 1/4 mile), so of course my kids walk again, but I can’t believe how many parents who live over by me with kids as old as mine who won’t let their kids walk because they think it’s too dangerous. I even told these parents that their kids could walk along with mine,but they declined because “it’s too dangerous”. I think it’s a shame because the pick-up/drop-off at the schools around here are so dangerous and complete madhouses, not to mention what a waste of time for the parents who sit and wait and what a waste of gas and huge contribution to the pollution problem.

  10. Glen August 23, 2014 at 8:19 pm #

    The town where I work is a walking community. Kids walking everywhere. It’s very nice there.

  11. SOA August 24, 2014 at 8:11 am #

    I noticed our school has more walkers this year than ever before since we started going there. Good to see. The more ridiculous the car line gets the more parents might encourage walking. It is all the kids in the subdivision behind the school but that is still a start. They built the school on a road with no sidewalks and a ditch on either side of the road so it discourages walkers from anywhere but the houses right next to the school.

    The best part is we avoid the ginourmous car line every morning. Most parents won’t even put their kids on the bus. Most parents just pick them up and drop them off.

  12. lollipoplover August 24, 2014 at 1:36 pm #

    When other parents inquire about my kids biking and walking to school, they ask “Don’t you have a car?” and I usually respond, “Don’t your kids have legs?” because the assumption that school aged children need to be driven short distances is insane.

  13. Wendy W August 24, 2014 at 3:21 pm #

    We’re in one of those small towns that put the new high school way out on the edge of town. They had to expand the city limits to put it there, and there are several farm fields between in and town. There are newer neighborhoods that have filled in some of the spaces, thanks to the sewer and water lines being run out there, one of which is where we live.

    Our town does have walking zones around the schools, the distance of which vary according to distance and location of major roads. Apparently state law forbids requiring kids to walk if they must cross a state hwy, presumably due to traffic concerns. That resulted in one elem. school where the kids directly across the street were picked up by the bus! Now that highway has been rerouted so that’s no longer necessary.

    Now our high schoolers are all driving themselves to school, and making a left turn across a major commuter highway. Every year there are major accidents at that corner, and one year a poor boy driving on his learner’s permit made the turn in front of oncoming traffic, which resulted in the death of him mom.

  14. Papilio August 24, 2014 at 4:54 pm #

    Nice start, and very sensible to leave the car at home in such a dense area and to keep the schools in that same area.
    And nothing wrong with walking, of course, but… I do see a number of reasons to build/upgrade cycling facilities. The advantages of riding a bike over walking is that it goes faster (while putting in the same energy), and you can use the bike to carry your hockey equipment for you – but I didn’t see any of these kids (OK maybe 1) take those advantages (kids were walking their bike, slowly cycling with pedestrians, and I didn’t see luggage racks on those stripped-down MTB-style bikes). Missed opportunities all over the place! (what’s new)

    I think it should be at least a priority (but more like a basic right, given that students are almost by definition non-drivers) to be able to reach a school safely on foot and by bike.
    And this makes me realize once again I’m totally spoiled living here… The idea of a school only reachable by car is mind-boggling to me. ‘Then how do they want the kids to get there??!!’

  15. BL August 24, 2014 at 5:33 pm #

    @Papilio
    “I think it should be at least a priority (but more like a basic right, given that students are almost by definition non-drivers) to be able to reach a school safely on foot and by bike.”

    Hmmmm. In some sparsely-populated areas, that would be difficult even with a return to one-room schoolhouses.

  16. Shari August 24, 2014 at 7:10 pm #

    I grew up in a walking school district in a Cincinnati suburb from K-12. It was wonderful. In 1st grade, my Mom found me a reliable 2nd grader to show me the route. We are still friends. In 2nd grade, I walked my Kindergarten sister to school. We walked home together, and in middle school, I walked back to the elementary to pick her up first. We learned to plan and manage our backpack, band instrument, and projects. We let ourselves in the house and stayed until our Mom got home from work.

    We knew all the cats, dogs and kids on the route. We took extra lunch money to play video games at “Twin Fair” or buy hot chocolate. On rainy or snowy days, we made sad faces at some of the driving Moms and they picked us up. We sat on the radiators for a while to dry out and warm up when we arrived.

    The freedom was wonderful and we were both slim and healthy throughout school.

  17. Papilio August 24, 2014 at 7:34 pm #

    @BL: Okay okay – in some areas distances would genuinely be too great :-)

  18. Suzanne August 24, 2014 at 9:50 pm #

    I grew up in Lakewood, they do have buses for special needs children but only for them. They also own a few school buses for sports and field trips. It was great to walk to school but the video is a little misleading. The elementary schools are closer to a quarter mile walk (or less) it’s not until middle school or high school that the walk gets to be a mile or more and some of those kids take the city bus. I wish more cities had a school district set up like Lakewood’s. There are a lot of schools for the square mile area of the city which is how they can how a walking school district.

  19. Omer Golan-Joel August 25, 2014 at 2:21 am #

    Meanwhile in the Holy Land…

    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/12/11/bedouins-brave-elements-to-attend-bamboo-school/

    http://www.teachhub.com/bedouins-brave-elements-attend-school

    Yes, that particular school is in the middle of the desert, and in a semi-warzone, BUT children are highly motivated to go to school, even if this means walking for three hours in each direction, to get a shot of a better future! Oh, and they sometimes DO get a ‘ride’ to school – on a DONKEY they ride themselves, no adults around!

  20. Dirk. August 25, 2014 at 9:24 am #

    HA ha ha ha, I posted a link to this in another forum already. Wow.

  21. SOA August 25, 2014 at 9:53 am #

    I am bummed our school does not have a nice bike rack under a little roof because I think more kids would bike in from the nearby subdivision if they had a place to leave the bikes.

    I would love for my boys to do that when they are older and can handle biking up the huge hill the school is on. and the ride home down the hill will be quite a thrill every afternoon. But there is no safe place to keep a bike during school unfortunately. I am sure if I brought that up to PTA they would veto it and “Most kids are being driven in!”

  22. Warren August 25, 2014 at 10:28 am #

    Emily,

    Never took a bus until high school, here in Ontario. Weather is not a reason to drive, I walked, and rode my bike no matter what. Toughen em up. Unless it is hurricane force, tornadoes or sharknados there is no reason to drive them.

    Want to stop the parents from driving their little snowflakes…….easy. Unless special needs, or injured kid, you must apply for a permit for the drop off, at a cost of $5000.00 a year. Don’t like it, make em walk. It would either solve the lineups or it would make a lot of money for school supplies.

  23. Warren August 25, 2014 at 10:31 am #

    SOA,
    You actually had me agreeing until you wanted the bike rack under a roof.

    What the….why does it need a roof…………

  24. Papilio August 25, 2014 at 12:54 pm #

    @Warren: Ever had one of those leather saddles with spongy material underneath that, if the leather is old and not waterproof anymore, gets completely SOAKED when it rains? That’s why you’d want a roof over the bike parking…

  25. Warren August 25, 2014 at 2:45 pm #

    Pap,
    Let’s not forget air conditioning for hot days as well.
    Come on, bike racks are reasonably cheap, until you start adding stupid things like roofs.
    You see I had a bike with a ripped seat. Used to put a plastic bag over it. Lot cheaper than the thousands it would cost to put a roof over how many bike racks in the system?

  26. Dark Space August 25, 2014 at 3:33 pm #

    We have great trails cut in our town and many kids ride their bikes or walk to school. They line all their bikes up against the chain link fence out front and there are easily over a 100 bikes at the 700-student school every single day.

  27. Papilio August 25, 2014 at 6:53 pm #

    @Warren: Where you live the school bus is an important means of transportation for students, and money is spent on the bus system. Where I live cycling is the most important means of transportation for students, so schools spend money on bike parking.
    Now, bikes don’t need airco :-), but having a dry bike for the ride home sure is nice.

    (I used the free newspaper I picked up before entering the train to the town where my school (and that bike) was.)

  28. SOA August 25, 2014 at 11:00 pm #

    Because a bike that gets rained on, gets ruined duh. Its not good for them. Have you never heard the old mantra that a bike left out in the rain is never the same again?

  29. Warren August 26, 2014 at 12:21 am #

    SOA,

    You are just a stupid as I thought. None of bike racks at school had roofs. And my bikes got rained on during school, at the mall, at the ballpark and everywhere except home. Never ever had a problem with my bikes getting wet, not one. Now if you just leave a bike out in the rain, never use it, just let it sit there for months and years, then ya it is garbage. If your gears, and any moving parts are greased properly, rain will never hurt a bike. Water will not cut through oil or grease, chem 101.
    As for getting on a wet bike, who gives a rat’s ass, are you made out of sugar? And if it is still raining when you come out, your ass is getting soaked anyway. What a bunch of diva’s and wimps. Sheesh. Roofs over the bike racks will only give the students a place to go and smoke out of the rain.

  30. SOA August 26, 2014 at 7:12 am #

    They actually already have a good place to put a bike rack that is covered and out of the way. So they would only have to pay for a bike rack. There won’t be a ton of kids biking so one rack would do it. I am going to bring it up at a PTA meeting. I bet it still won’t be taken well. People already think we are nuts that we even walk to school but as I said more kids are doing it now than ever before since we have been there 3 years.

  31. Warren August 26, 2014 at 9:25 am #

    SOA,
    You are actually a big part of the problem. You are not satisfied with a bike rack. It needs to be covered as well.
    I don’t blame the school for not wanting to.
    If your little snowflakes cannot handle a wet seat, then they shouldn’t be riding a bike.

    You don’t get it do you? Because you are so self centered it isn’t funny.

  32. JM August 26, 2014 at 11:43 am #

    We get it Warren – you’re a badass motherf***er, you rode 7 miles in the snow uphill both ways, etc etc etc. Everyone acknowledges your supreme wit and toughness. You can finally rest from the hard work of repeating yourself.

  33. Warren August 26, 2014 at 11:59 am #

    JM
    I am responding to their lunatic demands. Don’t like it. To effin bad Princess, suck it up.

  34. Papilio August 26, 2014 at 12:42 pm #

    @Warren: “As for getting on a wet bike, who gives a rat’s ass, are you made out of sugar?”

    Neither are the Dutch, but many bike parkings at schools, train stations, supermarkets, office buildings etc are covered (one way or another) nontheless. If you want people to choose a certain mode of transport, you need to invest in it to make it safe & convenient. A roof over the bike parking is one of those little things that can be done to encourage people to cycle instead of taking the car. Nothing wrong with that (although infrastructure always remains the most important factor).

    “And if it is still raining when you come out, your ass is getting soaked anyway.”
    Eh… No, your ass is the very last part to get wet (duh) – you’d be home before that on most trips. (Plus, who wants to cycle feeling they wear a wet diaper, just because their ass might get ‘soaked anyway’???)

  35. Warren August 26, 2014 at 5:15 pm #

    Well Pap, seeing as how my former father in law is Dutch, this discussion only goes to prove what I always assumed. Canadians are much tougher.

    I cannot remember ever having a bike rack under cover, and don’t see any now, and I have been looking since this came up.

    Think about it though, do you want to bog down the process by trying to get structures built. Are you going to cough up the money? Sounds good on paper, but that would be a lot of budget wasted. Remember, every school would have to have one, and that would not be cheap. All for the sake of a wet seat.
    God forbid the snowflake uses their sleeve or something to wipe the water off like we did. Really, let’s spend thousands of dollars across the board of education budget, so riders don’t have to wipe their seat off.

  36. Papilio August 28, 2014 at 3:11 pm #

    Warren :-)

    We are both right, with regard to our respective countries. Yours is still at the very beginning of accepting cycling as a mode of transportation that should be suitable for ALL people. I agree that what the country needs most right now, is the needed infrastructure. That for now is indeed where the money should go. Canada just hasn’t done the work yet (I hope ‘yet’!) to reach the stage where covered bike parkings can make a difference, even if it’s a small one.

    The Netherlands on the other hand has been investing in mass cycling since the early 70s – seeing the possibilities and values of cycling – has done the bulk of the work (though improving never stops), and is at that stage where the details matter to keep/get people on their bikes longer, or more often. We now have a mode share of 27% and the time of easy improvements is behind us. Telling people to just toughen up and get on with it won’t help, providing them with a smooth ride and dry bike does. Whether that’s “tough” or not isn’t the point as being tough is a ridiculous requirement to use a mode of transportation; what matters is that they cycle, period.
    Now, of course we can force kids to cycle to school anyway, so putting a roof over the bike parking is merely an option for schools – many do, many don’t – but, sheesh, some of these kids have to cycle 20km home, just let them have that dry saddle. It’s not like schools have to spend anything at all on other modes of transport.

    And to return to SOA wanting to ask for a bike rack with a roof: when negotiating, always ask for (much) more than you’ll be satisfied with! So nothing wrong with asking for a bike parking with roof either :-)