In a relatively short amount of time — a generation or two — the number of American kids walking or biking to school has plummeted. This isn’t the result of some natural law — it’s the product of public policy decisions about how to design streets and build schools.
But here’s some great evidence that with intentional effort, cities can reverse the trend and make walking and biking to school popular again. Michael Andersen at Bike Portland lifted the above graph from a recent survey by the Portland Bureau of Transportation. It shows that after 15 years of Safe Routes to School investments, biking or walking (or scootering) to school continues to gain momentum.
Among Portlanders in kindergarten through fifth grade, walking, biking and otherwise rolling to school became more common than traveling in the family vehicle sometime around 2010 and has more or less kept climbing since.If the trend continues, more than half the city’s primary schoolers will be walking, biking, skating or scootering to school by 2025 or so.
It’s worth noting that riding in a car isn’t the only thing becoming less common; riding a school bus has been, too…Coincidentally, the news comes just as the For Every Kid Coalition delivers a big bundle of testimony to Metro in favor of creating a regional Safe Routes program. The coalition’s $15 million ask would include a bit for instructional classes (that the Bicycle Transportation Alliance might teach), but mostly for biking and walking-friendly infrastructure improvements to the streets immediately surrounding Portland-area schools.
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