What's A Suburban Kid To Do? - Parental Phobias Keep Them Locked In SUV's


Converse All Stars In Legos. Image credit:TheShoeGame, Lego x Converse All Stars Sneakers

Chalk a lot of this problem up to the obsession of broadcast news with kidnappings and such. Sure..exurban kids are stuck out in the pseudo-country, making biking or walking anywhere an impractical choice. And, in any 'burban form there's often no safe way to bike to the DQ, much less school. Those problems aside, for the suburban child, parental over-reaction to 'Stranger Danger' has created a partial-generation of kids unable to express their Independence by exploring. Not that way in the city, though, where walking, biking, skateboarding, and public transit are how kids get about. Recapping: Over the course of roughly 40 years, the suburban reality of young people became one of 'structured' (parent and automobile dominated) lives, while city kids kept the beat on their feet. There's data about how dramatic the change has been.

New York Times cites some current, and may I say stunning, survey data about this trend in Why Can't She Walk to School?

In 1969, 41 percent of children either walked or biked to school; by 2001, only 13 percent still did, according to data from the National Household Travel Survey. In many low-income neighborhoods, children have no choice but to walk. During the same period, children either being driven or driving themselves to school rose to 55 percent from 20 percent. Experts say the transition has not only contributed to the rise in pollution, traffic congestion and childhood obesity, but has also hampered children's ability to navigate the world.
I walked to school, K through12, and only remember a few things about hoofing it that I resented. Because footwear for kids then was generally completely without insulation or even padding - remember those all-leather Buster Browns and Converse All Stars (as pictured)? - I often ended a leg of the school-home journey with frozen and/or wet feet: unless I wore the dreaded black "galoshes." This is no longer such a problem as long as the kid can afford decent sneaks.

City kids do suffer in one respect.
The other hated aspect of walking for me was that book bags were almost unheard of. The locker was your general book and paper repository; and you only took home what you would need to study that night. Sometimes, that meant arms full of books and loose papers and cold fingers on the way back home or returning to school. (Again, no longer an issue with book bags the design solution of choice.) I notice that this change came about in recent years, with large book bags becoming the repository of choice as school districts cut locker size down to save space (money). I can't imagine happily carrying 15 pounds of books and papers back and forth on foot every day but apparently that's what city kids have to do.

Maybe digital book readers will one day make the entire problem of book lugging go away!

More posts on walking.

Tags: Walking