Walking to School

The first couple of times I went to kindergarten my mom walked me there. It was a little less than a mile away, through a tough urban sort of neighborhood. After that I walked there by myself. When my younger siblings started school, we all walked together.

After we left the gritty neighborhood where I spent my first decade, I also walked to school. It was 2-3 miles away from our new house in our new neighborhood. For the first two years of high school I either took what is now called the MetroBus but was then called the Bi-State Transit Authority or I walked. It was about eight miles. Eight miles is a rather long walk but the bus pass cost $5 a week and when I walked I could save the money and buy books.

I just read the statistic that only 9% of kids these days walk to school. I don’t know whether to believe that or not but I can think of several reasons that might be including more people have cars, more school systems use buses than used to be the case, schools are farther way for most kids than they used to be, or parents are afraid of letting their children walk to school. I don’t know whether that fear is justified or not. For most people it couldn’t possibly be more dangerous than my walk to school was.

One big difference might be that my parents both walked to school through urban neighborhoods so they didn’t think anything of it. The suburbs can be corrupting.

5 comments… add one
  • Modulo Myself

    I stopped walking to school in 3rd grade. School was quarter of a mile away if you cut across a cemetery. But the road between my development and the village where the school was had no sidewalks and a 35 mph speed limit, meaning 45 was the norm. Walking was not an option on the road and the school really discouraged waves of kids trampling across a cemetery.

  • walt moffett

    In the 4th or 5th grade, my school walk including jumping a small stream (and scrapping of the mud before entering school). Earlier had about a 2 mile walk on city sidewalks with AAA traffic guards the blocks closest to school. My kids took the bus since at ten miles or so over country roads is mite far to walk.

    Lets not also forget the now universal fear of the guy with van offering free candy and puppies and in some metros the corner residents/vendors.

  • PD Shaw

    Illinois State law required schools to provide bus service if children had to walk more than 1 & 1/4 miles. If the student had to cross certain types of roads, the school is required to provide a crossing guard, the need for which was obviated if buses were provided. I say was because I believe the law was changed about 4-5 years ago when the State cut subsidies for the requirement. But that must have been the law going back 40 years. I’m not sure that is the current law, because the state decided to eliminate requirements when it cut subsidies.

  • PD Shaw

    I walked or biked to and from school, except when I had zero hour classes in high school and then I hitched a ride with my Dad. All of the schools I attended were within 1 & 1/4 miles, and in fact I think I figured out that the west campus of my high school (for freshmen and sophomores) and the east campus (for juniors and seniors) were exactly 1 & 1/4 miles in different directions. For awhile I walked to one campus and took the intra-school bus to get to the other. I will not mention her name, but at some point I was told to stop doing that, which I did for awhile.

  • Andy

    I always walked, rode my bike or (eventually) drove myself to school. Both elementary and middle school were easy walking distance – high school was a bit further at 3.5 miles – still an easy walk, but faster on a bike.

    The parenting culture is different now due to a few factors:

    – Children seen out alone will generate calls to the cops and social services. The “Free Range Kids” movement is a reaction to this. Parents are not only afraid of predators (who always make the news), but also of busybodies who will get state agencies involved.

    – Modern neighborhoods aren’t pedestrian friendly and schools are larger and therefore more distant. So bussing is more common.

    – Working parents mean it’s usually easier to just drop the kid off on the way to work and then pick them up after at daycare or after-school activities. Back when I was an at-home Dad I would walk or bike with my kids to school and then meet them when school was over (this was up until my oldest was in 3rd grad). When I started working full-time again, dropping them off was logistically easier.

    – There’s also a cultural stigma to let kids be home without an adult and not just for safety reasons.

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