Monday, March 15, 2021

Streets for People, Streets for Children

Sometimes you already know something, but you can still wake up to it again. That just happened to me as I was catching up on Twitter after a day without looking at it. (And let me add: that is a relief I've been enjoying more often in the past few months.)

The thread is from someone I've never heard of named Michael Napiorkowski:

While walking my daughters to school today I had an existential moment where the absurdity of our street design for schools became incredibly apparent. We literally have hired people in hi-viz to jump in front of cars with a stop sign so cars won't run over our kids.

Then we have we have teachers dressed up in hi-viz playing the role of traffic management and directing motor vehicle drop-offs. The entire frontage of the school is dedicated to this. The teachers even act as chauffeurs, opening car doors and walking kids to the school.

What do kids walking and cycling get? Well, they get to find their way on a tiny sliver of sidewalk through the mess of diesel fumes, cars not yielding to them and teachers yelling to get on the sidewalk because the swath of driveway is dedicated only to motor vehicles.

How on earth can you promote active transportation in such a hostile environment? There's zero effort to design this space in a way that encourages kids walking and cycling to feel safe.

Schools should be designed to promote and encourage active transportation, but currently they are designed to promote and encourage motor vehicle transportation. This is wrong and needs to be changed at the Board level.

The hypocrisy is that schools make children feel the burden and weight of climate change and health through the curriculum, but then promote the complete opposite through the over-accommodation of motor vehicles and unsafe streets near the schools. It's sickening.

It's time that motor vehicles took a back seat to children walking and biking safely to school, let alone anywhere else in their neighborhood.

If you haven't heard about school streets, they are part of a solution. The streets around a school are completely closed to car traffic for a period of time before and after school, so children can move freely. 

A school street in Hackney, East London.

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