How should children get to school? Safely, of course.
But does safely mean that their parents should drive them to the front door of the school every morning and then pick them up again in the afternoon?
Parents who worry too much about their children’s safety can create more problems than they solve. At many of our middle schools, vehicles line up in the morning to drop students off at the front door. The congestion is annoying and dangerous.
In a letter to the editor earlier this summer, Kim McCallister suggested that because of this congestion we should not allow bicycle lanes near Eastview or St. Thomas Aquinas. In another letter, Jim Dawson complained that a bicycle lane going by Aspen Heights would prevent him from parking in front of his house.
Consider the alternative. Imagine a world where students arrive at their school on their bicycles. Consider what would happen if we took away all of those cars and made it possible for children to arrive at school under their own steam.
When did it all change that kids were no longer able to ride bicycles to school? What logic led parents to believe they were doing the right thing for their children by chauffeuring them everywhere?
There are many benefits to arriving at school on a bicycle. First, it gives the kids a little power and independence. They can stop and chat with friends for a moment, as children tend to do, without holding up a whole line of parents sitting patiently, or not so patiently, in their idling vehicles.
Second, it gives the kids some much-needed exercise on a daily basis. Suffice to say that the lack of exercise for children in our society has created great concern for our health-care professionals.
A third reason is that we are teaching our children a way of life that can have surprising repercussions down the road. Many high school students drop out of school because they are too busy making enough money to pay for the insurance on the car that they need, ironically, to drive to school.
The City of Red Deer proposes to put in bike lanes to encourage children to ride their bikes to school. Presumably, if kids are riding their bikes to school, then parents are not driving them. That will lessen the congestion and make everyone safer.
Something has gone terribly wrong when parents are vigorously opposing children going to school on their bicycles.
The vision of building a culture where students ride their bikes to school should not be sabotaged by helicopter parents or by citizens who don’t want to find a better place to park than in a bike lane.
John Johnston is president of the Red Deer Association for Bicycle Commuting and a member of the city’s bike lanes steering committee.