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A snow job on why kids don't walk to school

August 24, 2002

Added to the growing list of things that kids can no longer do is

the news that American children are walking or bicycling to school in

far fewer numbers. This, in turn, has contributed to the increase in

childhood obesity.

The report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and

Prevention listed four main reasons why kids aren't walking or biking

to school: traffic, weather, crime and distance.

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But my not-so-scientific research has revealed another reason, one

that trumps all the excuses offered by the CDC. First, however, let's

tackle CDC's list as it pertains to our local kids and schools.

Traffic: Anyone who has tried to drive from one end of town to the

other knows that parents should not use traffic as an excuse to drive

their kids to school. This area has more signals and stop signs than

Heinz has pickles. Not only do we have plenty of lights and signals

to make traffic safe, many of our schools have crossing guards at

intersections controlled by signals. Go figure.

Weather: Not an issue in these parts. The worst weather most of us

have seen in Mesa-Newport was El Nino a few years ago, and even that

winter was just a little splash. Kids today have it easy, unlike our

parents who had to walk 10 miles to school in the snow, uphill each

way, even in the summer.

Crime: I'm not sure what the CDC meant by this one. Did they find

that parents were afraid their kids would be victim of a crime or

commit one? I've read enough news reports to know that parents are

unnecessarily frightened of their kids being snatched off the street

by a total stranger but not one that stated that kids who walk or

bike to school become third-strikers by the time they're 14. Either

way, fear of crime is no reason to drive kids to school.

Distance: The Mesa-Newport area is chock full of schools. For most

kids, distance is not an issue, although I will make one concession.

The parents of many kids on the Westside of Costa Mesa need to plan a

week ahead and pack survival gear to get their kids over to TeWinkle

Middle School on time.

These four reasons are not even close to the real reason that kids

are not walking or biking to school much anymore.

The real reason -- supported by my major poll of three other

parents -- is that no one has time to get them ready to walk to

school in the morning. Getting kids of on a bike or by foot requires

some planning and a lot more time than simply tossing them and their

100-pound backpacks in the minivan.

Cay and I both get up about 6 a.m. During that time, we are

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