When I was in fifth grade, I walked a half-mile to school every day. Because I was in my bookworm phase, I managed to perfect the art of walking and reading at the same time, only occasionally tripping over the sidewalk.
The Bellingham Heraldreported yesterday that there’s a good chance I wouldn’t be allowed such freedom today: Children who walk or bike to school are an endangered species.
Cari McMullin, a graduate student in geography at Western Washington University, found just under 15 percent of all students walked or biked. That’s a little over one in three children living within 1 mile, assuming none of the walkers and bikers came from farther away.
McMullin’s numbers match a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report that said about 16 percent of American children ages 5 to 15 walked or biked to school in 2001 – down from 48 percent in 1969. Among children living within a mile of school, the percentage plunged from nearly 90 percent in 1969 to 31 percent in 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Parents cited concerns that children might be abducted—so-called “stranger danger”—or hit by a car. But as the Herald noted—echoing Alan’s car-less post – parents’ fears are out of proportion. Kids are more likely to be injured while riding ina car than while walking or biking.
Stay tuned: In about two weeks, Sightline will release the next edition of the Cascadia Scorecard, which looks at how community design affects the health and safety of northwesterners, and identifies ways to help us walk more and drive less.