Well, readers seemed to enjoy that little item on commute times. Here’s a piece in today’s New York Times with some more surprising numbers.

Forty years ago, half of all students walked or bicycled to school. Today, fewer than 15 percent travel on their own steam. One-quarter take buses, and about 60 percent are transported in private automobiles…
It has had several unfortunate consequences. Children’s lives have become far more sedentary. They are fatter than ever and at greater risk of developing hypertension, diabetes and heart disease at young ages….
The American Academy of Pediatrics in July issued a policy statement on school transportation safety …. The academy’s statistics on injuries and fatalities suggest that being driven to school in a passenger vehicle is by far the most dangerous way to get there …
Cities and communities throughout the country are trying to encourage more children to walk or bike to school. The only way this can occur is if children can travel there safely. That means more sidewalks and clearly marked bike lanes or paths separated from roadways, lower traffic speed on school routes, safer crosswalks, well-trained crossing guards at all corners near schools and adult supervision.Also helpful are traffic-calming measures ….

And here are the numbers that amazed me:

Seattle has reported a 77 percent to 91 percent reduction in traffic accidents after installing a citywide traffic-calming program that included 700 new residential traffic circles.

Vancouver was the first city in North America, as far as I can tell, to introduce traffic calming – in 1973, when diverters were permanently installed west of Denman. But I have never seen such high numbers for a reduction in traffic accidents associated with the traffic calming – at least for neighbourhoods in this city.

Comments

  1. I don’t necessarily think that it’s the planning/traffic safety issues that cause parents to drive their children to school – I think it more about the strangers and pedophiles that the children could encounter on the way to and from school.

  2. Preying “strangers and pedophiles” probably existed in the years when I walked to school (30+ yrs ago) as much as they do now, which is to say not very much. This trend towards driving probably spiked after a few well-publicized abductions, but I don’t think fear is the driving force for parent’s taking to the wheel to get to school.
    I don’t like the fact that on a rainy morning I often drive my daughter to school, but I find an excuse to drive that .75km distance when we should probably be on foot.
    The problem is complex. In my case, it’s laziness and convenience, coupled with the fact my kid is very young. For many, it is because they lack faith in local schools, and choose French immersion, private schools or Montessori programs. Rarely are these around the corner, which means Mom or Dad are gonna drive.

  3. I agree, Michael. Fear keeps parents from letting their children walk to and from school alone, or even with friends, but laziness leads to driving instead of walking or cycling.

  4. I think another factor contributing to growing rates of children being driven to school could be the rise in students attending schools outside of their local catchment area. Mike partly alluded to this with his comment about parents sending their children to schools outside the mainstream public education system. What I am referring to is students who voluntarily attend public schools that are far from their home.
    I was one of these students and I went to a high school out at UBC that was no fewer than three catchment districts west of where I lived at the time. Many of my friends were in the same position. I would guess the main reason for such enrollment was the parental attraction of sending their children to what was widely perceived as a better school. However in a few cases my friends originally began living with their families in UBC and then later moved away while still attending the high school. Some of these friends were driven to school in the morning by a parent who worked or taught at the university and a shared commute simply made sense. In the afternoon they would usually take the bus home or go to a friend’s house.
    Another factor is the synchronization between the start time of most school days and traditional jobs, which makes a shared commute in the morning a higher likelihood, especially if a child’s school is en route to the parent’s job.
    Living in an area with poor or overcrowded transit service is another major factor. I know people who choose to drive to university because they could never trust on the overcrowded buses to reliably deliver them on time without having to add half their commuting time again to wait for a bus to finally pick them up.
    I am curious, though, of how many trips to drop off kids at school are completely unconnected to a parent’s commute to work or household errands. Just how many trips are purely to drive the kids down the street to school?
    Lastly, I wonder what the rate of car use is among children who were brought up being chauffeured to school versus those who walked, biked, or took the bus?
    David G

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