Want a sure sign of our growing auto dependency over the last 30 years? Look at how many kids now walk to school. A 2003 study by the Surface Transportation Policy Project showed that although 71 percent of parents with school-aged children walked to school themselves, only 18 percent of their children do, while 53 percent are driven to school. This coincides with a tripling of the percent of school-aged child obesity over the last 20 years. Luckily, some U.S. states are starting to use federal transportation money to urge students to walk or bike to school again. For instance, Wisconsin is putting a $4 million federal grant towards bicycle and walking safety in an effort to get parents and students to reverse the trend.
With many children being raised in sprawling auto-centric communities, safety becomes the concern of many parents. The Wisconsin plan addresses this by focusing on slowing traffic near schools, creating "pedestrian islands" and creating education opportunities for the kids to teach them pedestrian and bicycle safety. Wisconsinites should see the effects of the new plan starting next school year. Let's hope other states take Wisconsin's lead and help to get kids on the sidewalks again.