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First day of school

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First day of school

Old 09-05-13, 01:10 AM
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First day of school

You know how us old folks like to talk about our grandkids! Mine (14 y.o. boy) just started high school yesterday. Over the summer he shot up in height and suddenly he's taller than me! He lives in the same house with his parents and me.

Luckily, he still likes to do stuff with grandpa. Carfree stuff, of course, since I don't have a car. So yesterday I walked the mile to his school to pick him up after his first day. He goes to a large inner city school, one of three in Lansing.

The plan was that we would walk downtown (another mile) to eat at Our favorite restaurant, the Grand Traverse Pie Co. I thought this would be a nice treat for him after his first day in the big school. Unfortunately there was a miscommunication, and he went to soccer practice instead of meeting me. So I was left standing in front of this big school as the kids came out after their first day.

Wave after wave of kids came out, almost all dressed in brand new clothes. To pass the time, I decided to watch where they went after they got out of school. About three dozen of them walked into the neighborhoods to the north, east and west. Only two rode bikes. That made me think they weren't allowed to ride, but my grandson told me later that bikes are permitted. The majority of the kids got in cars. They have a special two lane drive where cars were double parked along the entire block in front of the school. I bet the people living there really hate that! Living across from a school would present some challenges, including the traffic issue.

As for my grandson, unless I walk to the school to pick him up, he is driven there and back. We only have one car, so it's rather difficult sometimes, but it gets done. Personally, I would have him walk since its only one mile. My son agrees. Even my grandson, who describes himself as "lazy", has been telling me for a year now that he would prefer to walk sometimes. But my daughter-in-law won't allow it. I guess she thinks the neighborhood is too dangerous.

................

Sorry to blather on. Besides liking to talk about my grandson, I do have a purpose for this post.

I'm starting this thread to give people a chance to talk about school problems and issues. I was wondering if other carfree/carlight parents have special issues, as well as any members who are students themselves. For example:
  • Do kids take any grief if their parents don't drive?
  • Is the route to school safe for walking or cycling?
  • How well does public transit work for young people?
  • Do carfree kids find it more difficult to participate in after school activities?


You can address any issue you want to, but lets try to limit discussion to elementary, middles school, and high school issues. I think pre-school children and college students would have different sets of issues.
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Old 09-05-13, 07:10 AM
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Originally Posted by Roody View Post
As for my grandson, unless I walk to the school to pick him up, he is driven there and back. We only have one car, so it's rather difficult sometimes, but it gets done. Personally, I would have him walk since its only one mile. My son agrees. Even my grandson, who describes himself as "lazy", has been telling me for a year now that he would prefer to walk sometimes. But my daughter-in-law won't allow it. I guess she thinks the neighborhood is too dangerous.
Just my opinion, but perhaps it's time for the teen to rebel. I mean, what kind of punishment would there be if he just pre-emptively walked or biked to school? It doesn't have to be all the time. But it sounds like it could be a difficulty reliever if there were times when he takes charge of his own transportation on occasion. I suspect this will occur if you give it time. High school will expose him to new norms and demands.

Looking back, I had a variety of transportation methods, walking, cycling, getting rides from friends and even driving. It's part of stepping out into the world. I hope you can make some progress on this front this year. It may be part of the natural growth, that he becomes more and more independent.

For me using a bike gave me the best control over my life. It enabled me to do after-school activities like soccer and drama and still get home at a reasonable hour. My old Wald baskets could carry a prodigious load. But walking wasn't bad either.
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Old 09-05-13, 07:48 AM
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I'd be surprised if High School students (beyond the freshman/sophmore level) don't take grief if they rely on their parents for driving them to/from school...

As to your grand son. I suspect that if he really wanted to walk to school he would. Mother's don't tend to have much say in what teens do, particularly if their father's don't support the mother's position.
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Old 09-05-13, 08:30 AM
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Last year my son walked a mile each day by himself to first grade and then a mile with an older kid to an at-home daycare.

This year it's still a mile, but a dramatically different one. He has to cross a major road so I go with him and pick him up in the afternoon. We ride together and it's been a great opportunity to hang out with him for 15 minutes twice a day and just ride around.

He doesn't have any extra-curriculars yet with the school, but I don't see it as being an issue.

His current school is along a busy road that almost completely precludes any walking or biking to school. His is the only bike locked up to the rack during the day.
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Old 09-05-13, 09:12 AM
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Originally Posted by Artkansas View Post
Just my opinion, but perhaps it's time for the teen to rebel. I mean, what kind of punishment would there be if he just pre-emptively walked or biked to school? It doesn't have to be all the time. But it sounds like it could be a difficulty reliever if there were times when he takes charge of his own transportation on occasion. I suspect this will occur if you give it time. High school will expose him to new norms and demands.

Looking back, I had a variety of transportation methods, walking, cycling, getting rides from friends and even driving. It's part of stepping out into the world. I hope you can make some progress on this front this year. It may be part of the natural growth, that he becomes more and more independent.

For me using a bike gave me the best control over my life. It enabled me to do after-school activities like soccer and drama and still get home at a reasonable hour. My old Wald baskets could carry a prodigious load. But walking wasn't bad either.
I agree with the need to rebel, but as a grandparent I'm not going to stir up that nest of stinging ants! I think my role is to help impart the skills he will need to get around independently. Like navigation skills, riding safely in traffic, and knowing the bus routes. I don't know how many times I've told him, "pay attention because pretty soon you're gonna be doing this by yourself."

Like you, I was very independent when I was that age. Very rebellious also. By age 14, I was riding the bike and the bus many miles from my home. A week before I started high school, I took a bus to downtown Detroit with a friend and bought my own school clothes. I don't remember very many classmates being picked up by parents, unless they had a doctor appointment or something.

But I think the cultural norms are very different now. People--children and adults--seem to be much more reliant on cars. Like I said, almost all of the kids I saw at the high school were being picked up by cars. This is not just a quirk of my daughter-in-law's.
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Old 09-05-13, 09:17 AM
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Originally Posted by PlanoFuji View Post
I'd be surprised if High School students (beyond the freshman/sophmore level) don't take grief if they rely on their parents for driving them to/from school...

As to your grand son. I suspect that if he really wanted to walk to school he would. Mother's don't tend to have much say in what teens do, particularly if their father's don't support the mother's position.
Like I said in the OP, almost all of the high school kids were being picked up by somebody in a car. It seems to be normative behavior. It might be different where you live.
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Old 09-05-13, 09:22 AM
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My youngest is now a Senior in HS. The HS is about 6 miles from our house. He rides the school bus.

The middle school is just under 2 miles from our house.
When my daughter went there, she would sometimes walk home in the afternoon.
For a middle-schooler - here, it's much safer to walk than ride a bike. There are no bike lanes or sidewalks and the road between our house and the middle school is the worst stretch of road that I commute on for, let's call it; motorist-interaction.
Someone walking can stay away from the roadway in the grass areas along side, including a few yards.

Very few bike riders at either school, but based on the infrastructure, that's no surprise.

The car drop off lines are often ridiculous.
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Old 09-05-13, 09:39 AM
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Originally Posted by Roody View Post
Like I said in the OP, almost all of the high school kids were being picked up by somebody in a car. It seems to be normative behavior. It might be different where you live.
I haven't been near a high school in decades (feels like centuries), I was recalling my youth. In my day, those students old enough to drive did so if they owned a car. Not owning a car past that age was considered 'uncool'

You might not have been seeing the entire student population of that high school, particularly on the first day. Many of the upper class may have either already left the campus (used to get out earlier in my day) or they may have already been in extracurricular activities... As I recall it was usually only the freshman (who are too young to drive) who left the campus right away on the first day...

It will be interesting to hear if you notice a different pattern as the year progresses.
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Old 09-05-13, 09:49 AM
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I've been hearing a lot about Safe Routes to School programs, an organization that funds and helps communities to develop various initiatives to encourage walking and biking to school. It looks like you've got a Michigan chapter (https://saferoutesmichigan.org) - maybe you could get involved with them to help with events and awareness campaigns.

Some of the initiatives I've heard of are competitions between students (how many days in a row did you walk), "drop zones" located a certain distance from the school, walk to school days/month, getting extra credit in PE by taking active routes to school, etc.
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Old 09-05-13, 09:52 AM
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Originally Posted by FenderTL5 View Post
My youngest is now a Senior in HS. The HS is about 6 miles from our house. He rides the school bus.

The middle school is just under 2 miles from our house.
When my daughter went there, she would sometimes walk home in the afternoon.
For a middle-schooler - here, it's much safer to walk than ride a bike. There are no bike lanes or sidewalks and the road between our house and the middle school is the worst stretch of road that I commute on for, let's call it; motorist-interaction.
Someone walking can stay away from the roadway in the grass areas along side, including a few yards.

Very few bike riders at either school, but based on the infrastructure, that's no surprise.

The car drop off lines are often ridiculous.
I think you and a couple others make good points about this ridiculous infrastructure being a problem for school kids.

When I was a grade school kid in the suburbs of the 1960s, I walked and rode my bike on some pretty big roads. Actually, I used the sidewalks, and a pretty big road was usually 2 or 3 lanes, with car speeds about 30 mph.

Those same roads are still there and they're still pretty big. Only nowadays, that means they have 5 or 6 lanes, and car speeds are 45 mph. And what did they take out in order to make room for wider roads? The sidewalks of course! God forbid they would reduce parking spaces to make room for a sidewalk.

As a fit adult, I would find it difficult to walk or ride along these suburban roads. There is no way a child could walk or ride a bike on the pretty busy roads that I used to roam freely on.
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Old 09-05-13, 09:55 AM
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Originally Posted by Roody View Post
And what did they take out in order to make room for wider roads? The sidewalks of course! God forbid they would reduce parking spaces to make room for a sidewalk.
I would love to see some actual citations (or some other evidence) of roads that had sidewalks that were removed when widened...
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Old 09-05-13, 10:03 AM
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Originally Posted by charbucks View Post
I've been hearing a lot about Safe Routes to School programs, an organization that funds and helps communities to develop various initiatives to encourage walking and biking to school. It looks like you've got a Michigan chapter (https://saferoutesmichigan.org) - maybe you could get involved with them to help with events and awareness campaigns.

Some of the initiatives I've heard of are competitions between students (how many days in a row did you walk), "drop zones" located a certain distance from the school, walk to school days/month, getting extra credit in PE by taking active routes to school, etc.
Very useful information. Thanks! Do your kids have a chance to get involved with a Safe Routes program?
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Old 09-05-13, 10:06 AM
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Originally Posted by Roody View Post
Very useful information. Thanks! Do your kids have a chance to get involved with a Safe Routes program?
No problem, I hope something comes of it for you!

I actually don't have kids (yet!)... I've just heard about it from the news and from teacher friends.
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Old 09-05-13, 10:09 AM
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I think about this issue a lot. Right now I have a one year old son. Hopefully more on the way. My goal is to retire right around the time my son reaches elementary school age. At that point my highest priority will be finding a home in a neighborhood where my son can safely bike to school. This video represents my ideal, pie in the sky scenario:

https://vimeo.com/38385810

A dad leads a bike train through the neighborhood. While en route with his own children other kids from the neighborhood hop on and join the train. You end up with a safe group ride to school with some parental oversight.

As a retired dad I hope to be able to lead the train everyday and get other parents involved. Obviously choosing the right community is a big factor. Take Boulder, CO for example. The have community bike parks, pump tracks, and skateparks. They have high school cycling teams. Cycling is the norm, not a fringe activity. This is the ideal type of environment I would want to raise my child in.

A couple of thoughts/questions for the OP:

Does your grandson have a bike? Have you ever biked to school with him? Seems like cycling through a bad area is safer than walking through it. What would the mother think of that idea?

Is your grandson an avid cyclist? Does your grandson tend to be the leader amongst his group of friends? If they had mtbs they could form their own little cycling "gang". Build trails and jumps in the woods. Ride wheelies. Do some urban assault riding. Goof off on the bike before and after school. Get other kids involved. Cycling could catch on at the school or it could become sort of a rebel thing for him and his friends. Cycling would provide great freedom and mobility for a 14 year old and relieve some transportation burdens for the rest of the family. Either way, cycling together with a group of kids could alleviate some of the safety concerns.

If the neighborhood is too dangerous, what constraints keep you from relocating? Any chance you could relocate to a better neighborhood and/or school? I figure there might be some economies of scale with a multi-generational family living arrangement that could make this easier.

Thanks for the post and sharing some info about your family situation! Obviously you are free to ignore any of my questions if they are too personal.
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Old 09-05-13, 10:16 AM
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Originally Posted by Roody View Post
I think you and a couple others make good points about this ridiculous infrastructure being a problem for school kids.

When I was a grade school kid in the suburbs of the 1960s, I walked and rode my bike on some pretty big roads. Actually, I used the sidewalks, and a pretty big road was usually 2 or 3 lanes, with car speeds about 30 mph.

Those same roads are still there and they're still pretty big. Only nowadays, that means they have 5 or 6 lanes, and car speeds are 45 mph. And what did they take out in order to make room for wider roads? The sidewalks of course! God forbid they would reduce parking spaces to make room for a sidewalk.

As a fit adult, I would find it difficult to walk or ride along these suburban roads. There is no way a child could walk or ride a bike on the pretty busy roads that I used to roam freely on.
Agree.

Here's the road, the middle school entrance is just in the distance, the cross street to the left.
The speed limit, or speed suggestion, on this road is 45 mph. There's no way I'd want my middle schooler riding a bike on this road - particularly with the driver attitudes in this area.

I ride it, daily, but I'm a bit more brassy than some.
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Old 09-05-13, 11:17 AM
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Originally Posted by FenderTL5 View Post
Agree.

Here's the road, the middle school entrance is just in the distance, the cross street to the left.
The speed limit, or speed suggestion, on this road is 45 mph. There's no way I'd want my middle schooler riding a bike on this road - particularly with the driver attitudes in this area.

I ride it, daily, but I'm a bit more brassy than some.
In public economics there is this idea known as Tiebout sorting. The idea is that people tend to "vote with their feet" and sort themselves into communities that reflect their preferences. The problem is that most bike commuters are a small minority in their communities (LCF folks even more so). Most communities reflect a strong preference for automobile usage. If that is not your preference, but you find yourself living in a car dominated environment, it can be very difficult to influence or change local infrastructure and policies. Any changes that do occur are very slow and gradual. Relocation may be the only option for those who want/need a bike friendly environment in the very short term. However, there are numerous constraints to just being free to move at will to a better bicycling locale so most folks are stuck with their current neighborhood. But, that is why I am currently making economic sacrifices (grad school and low current standard of living) to actively pursue a long term financial and career plan that will allow me to self select into a more ideal environment for raising my family.

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Old 09-05-13, 11:20 AM
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Originally Posted by mtb123 View Post
I think about this issue a lot. Right now I have a one year old son. Hopefully more on the way. My goal is to retire right around the time my son reaches elementary school age. At that point my highest priority will be finding a home in a neighborhood where my son can safely bike to school. This video represents my ideal, pie in the sky scenario:

https://vimeo.com/38385810

A dad leads a bike train through the neighborhood. While en route with his own children other kids from the neighborhood hop on and join the train. You end up with a safe group ride to school with some parental oversight.

As a retired dad I hope to be able to lead the train everyday and get other parents involved. Obviously choosing the right community is a big factor. Take Boulder, CO for example. The have community bike parks, pump tracks, and skateparks. They have high school cycling teams. Cycling is the norm, not a fringe activity. This is the ideal type of environment I would want to raise my child in.

A couple of thoughts/questions for the OP:

Does your grandson have a bike? Have you ever biked to school with him? Seems like cycling through a bad area is safer than walking through it. What would the mother think of that idea?

Is your grandson an avid cyclist? Does your grandson tend to be the leader amongst his group of friends? If they had mtbs they could form their own little cycling "gang". Build trails and jumps in the woods. Ride wheelies. Do some urban assault riding. Goof off on the bike before and after school. Get other kids involved. Cycling could catch on at the school or it could become sort of a rebel thing for him and his friends. Cycling would provide great freedom and mobility for a 14 year old and relieve some transportation burdens for the rest of the family. Either way, cycling together with a group of kids could alleviate some of the safety concerns.

If the neighborhood is too dangerous, what constraints keep you from relocating? Any chance you could relocate to a better neighborhood and/or school? I figure there might be some economies of scale with a multi-generational family living arrangement that could make this easier.

Thanks for the post and sharing some info about your family situation! Obviously you are free to ignore any of my questions if they are too personal.
thanks, MTB!

The bike train is a fantastic idea. The video showed that a lot of the riding in Portland is done on ordinary city streets with no bike lanes or anything. I think the key to widespread carfree cycling is cooperation and community more than infrastructure. (Although appropriate infrastructure is obviously very important also!)

My grandson doesn't have a bike at this time. I have posted before about the many bike activities and trips we used to do together, but he lost interest for a while. Just in the past couple weeks he has mentioned wanting a bike again a couple times. As for riding with friends, I don't know. Only a few kids ride around here. Like I said, I only saw two bikes among the hundreds of kids at the school on the first day. This is Lansing, MI, for gosh sakes...one of the major car building cities in the world! Across the street from his school is a HUGE vacant lot that used to be a Fisher Body plant.
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Old 09-05-13, 11:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Roody View Post
thanks, MTB!

The bike train is a fantastic idea. The video showed that a lot of the riding in Portland is done on ordinary city streets with no bike lanes or anything. I think the key to widespread carfree cycling is cooperation and community more than infrastructure. (Although appropriate infrastructure is obviously very important also!)

My grandson doesn't have a bike at this time. I have posted before about the many bike activities and trips we used to do together, but he lost interest for a while. Just in the past couple weeks he has mentioned wanting a bike again a couple times. As for riding with friends, I don't know. Only a few kids ride around here. Like I said, I only saw two bikes among the hundreds of kids at the school on the first day. This is Lansing, MI, for gosh sakes...one of the major car building cities in the world! Across the street from his school is a HUGE vacant lot that used to be a Fisher Body plant.
I would be concerned with the liability of being the parent leading the train. All you need is 1 stupid kid or 1 stupid driver, and suddenly you were the parent in charge when little timmy got hit. Parents can be insane when it comes to their kids.
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Old 09-05-13, 11:47 AM
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Originally Posted by Roody View Post
The bike train is a fantastic idea. The video showed that a lot of the riding in Portland is done on ordinary city streets with no bike lanes or anything. I think the key to widespread carfree cycling is cooperation and community more than infrastructure. (Although appropriate infrastructure is obviously very important also!)
Agreed. But I should note that even if you don't see bike lanes/paths pictured in the video above they do have major infrastructure support. Neighborhood speed bumps. Roundabouts. Streets with restricted car access and no stop signs so that cyclist can just roll through for blocks and blocks. Strategic use of traffic islands and medians. This is an example of the Tiebout sorting I mentioned.

Check out this video to see how regular streets are transformed into "bike boulevards":

https://vimeo.com/16552771#at=0

Do we live in cities where our taxes go to support a walking/biking culture or a car culture? Anyway you can get your family out of Lansing? Sounds like some of the obstacles to LCF would be insurmountable in a place that was?/is? the car capital of the world.

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Old 09-05-13, 11:50 AM
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Originally Posted by squegeeboo View Post
I would be concerned with the liability of being the parent leading the train. All you need is 1 stupid kid or 1 stupid driver, and suddenly you were the parent in charge when little timmy got hit. Parents can be insane when it comes to their kids.
Yeah. Good point. Might seriously need an attorney to draft a waiver or something for kids who participate. But I suppose the litigation threat could be true of traditional car pooling as well.

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Old 09-05-13, 12:04 PM
  #21  
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Originally Posted by mtb123 View Post
Do we live in cities were our taxes go to support a walking/biking culture or a car culture? Anyway you can get your family out of Lansing? Sounds like some of the obstacles to LCF would be insurmountable in a place that was?/is? the car capital of the world.
The last thing in the world I want to do is leave Lansing. I love Lansing.

And it's a decent place to be carfree, although there's much room for improvement. We have a 13 mile (soon to be 18 mile) bike trail with zero car contact. We have an award winning bus system that does 11 million trips a year. Most of the city is bikeable, and somewhat walkable. We do have three high schools in the city. They're all on bus lines and no kid would have to go more than a couple miles to school.

I think it's more of an American problem than a Lansing problem. Even in the Portland video there are a lot more cars than bikes whizzing by.
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Old 09-05-13, 12:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Roody View Post
The last thing in the world I want to do is leave Lansing. I love Lansing.

And it's a decent place to be carfree, although there's much room for improvement. We have a 13 mile (soon to be 18 mile) bike trail with zero car contact. We have an award winning bus system that does 11 million trips a year. Most of the city is bikeable, and somewhat walkable. We do have three high schools in the city. They're all on bus lines and no kid would have to go more than a couple miles to school.

I think it's more of an American problem than a Lansing problem. Even in the Portland video there are a lot more cars than bikes whizzing by.
I think it's also the mindset of what counts as 'bikeable'. To me, anything that isn't a closed highway is bikeable. To people at work who hear about my current and previous bike routes, they're all like "You're crazy, it's not safe to bike on those roads", and 7 years ago, I would have agreed with them. I started out on sidewalks, and babystepped my way onto more and more streets. And now I'm king of my domain! Or just comfortable on a bike. Meanwhile my wife won't bike with me to a friends 4 miles away, because of the route. So, basically just get everyone you can on a bike and soon everyone will think everything is bikeable. It's just crazy enough to work.
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Old 09-05-13, 12:29 PM
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That bike train is a great idea!

There was a feature in our local newspaper about a group of kids doing something similar in Calgary: https://blogs.calgaryherald.com/2012/...ething-bigger/

It's nice to see things like this, though it's kind of sad that kids riding their bikes to school is so uncommon that it makes the news. I'm hoping that by the time my (non-existant) children are old enough for school, biking and walking will be more commonplace.
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Old 09-05-13, 01:35 PM
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  • Do kids take any grief if their parents don't drive?
my kids bum a ride if we can't accommodate them & I return the favor when I do drive


  • Is the route to school safe for walking or cycling?
yes, but it's a culture thing here. I did it as a kid but my kids are not into it


  • How well does public transit work for young people?
we have only school buses in my town


  • Do carfree kids find it more difficult to participate in after school activities?
one of mine borrows a car for his early morning activities then wifey and I pick it up on our way to work, but that's getting old. for after school stuff my kids have to bum a ride or sometimes they stay late enough for one of us (parents) to get them

HS means more independence, and this applies to transportation. it's tuff to let go, and even tougher in tough neighborhoods
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Old 09-05-13, 01:35 PM
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Originally Posted by charbucks View Post
That bike train is a great idea!

There was a feature in our local newspaper about a group of kids doing something similar in Calgary: https://blogs.calgaryherald.com/2012/...ething-bigger/

It's nice to see things like this, though it's kind of sad that kids riding their bikes to school is so uncommon that it makes the news. I'm hoping that by the time my (non-existant) children are old enough for school, biking and walking will be more commonplace.
Thanks for the link. Love to read this type of stuff. Neat to see that a kid got something like this going. Great article and photo. You'll never see smiles like that on a school bus!
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