“Children are a kind of indicator species. If we can build a successful city for children, we will have a successful city for all people.” – Enrique Peñalosa
Our house in Ogden is in an older neighborhood on a traditional street grid. There’s an elementary school a little over a block away and sometimes you can hear the joyous noise of children outside playing during recess. Many of these kids walk or ride their bicycles to school, depending on the weather. It’s that kind of neighborhood. Yes, they still exist. There are none of the ubiquitous long lines of parents’ cars lined up waiting to drop off and pick kids up as there are in so many other places where we’ve recently lived. This is very good. This is progress.
Even so, there are those fools who race down these residential streets far faster than the posted speed limit. In most cases, I don’t believe that their behavior is a result of malice as much as it is ignorance. We simply don’t think enough about others and how exercising our right to move about at whatever speed we please impacts their right to move about.
But some of it is a result of malice. A young lady walking to high school in a nearby community was recently run down. As is all too common these days, there were those who, while they didn’t exactly blame the victim, questioned why the girl was walking to school in the dark. She was 17 years old and did everything right, and yet to them she was still to blame. Unbelievable.
We’re fond of saying that we do things “for the children.” Okay, let’s try this. Let’s say you’re in a room with 100 other people and I ask you if you’d rather live on a street with traffic speeding by or in a quiet, safe place where your children could walk or bicycle to school without the fear of being hit by a speeding car. You don’t have children? OK, how about your nieces, nephews, friends’ children etc.? What would you rather have for them?
I already know what you’re going to tell me and here’s the thing…you’re right. We should have it and we can have it…all 101 of us. Perhaps it’s just a matter of deciding that we will have it. That’s what this is really about…deciding who we’re going to be and what it’s going to look like. Will we live in Peñalosa’s successful city or will we continue to live in a place where our machines continue to rank above us in priority?
We have a lot of problems in this country. Some are really easy to solve. Walking or riding a bicycle to school can put a huge dent in the childhood obesity epidemic. Imagine what you could do with that extra hour each day you currently use to ferry your kids to and from school. Close your eyes and envision neighborhoods full of kids on bikes instead of crammed into big yellow buses. Most importantly, think about the wisdom you’re transferring to the next generation. You’re creating future adults who understand that there are ways to get around without an internal combustion engine. This, in turn, will help clean the air and allow those with debilitating illnesses like asthma to breathe easier. All of this leads to better communities and a better world any way you look at it.
It also leads to all sorts of positive outcomes for adults like you and me. Heart disease, diabetes and a whole host of other diseases can be held at bay by simply getting up and moving. Poor health in old age is not an inevitable outcome. It is often a choice.
So is transportation and it’s high time that those of us who choose the active mode stake our claim to the future. This isn’t about bicycles…not really. It’s about something much more important. It’s a moral imperative that we as a society need to deal with. It’s time to stand up, make a conscious choice and have the courage to say it out loud. No human being, especially a child, should ever be sacrificed so that another human being can get to where he or she is going more quickly.
Not ever…under any circumstances.
It is as simple as that.