Saturday, April 21, 2012

Walking To School

How many of you remember doing that? Fewer and fewer, I suspect.

CLS, over at Classically Liberal reminded me of it with his post on walking to school and how so few kids do it anymore. I'd wondered the same thing for some years now, having watched kids being driven to school that was only a few blocks from home.

What's with that? Why... when I was your age I used to walk 20 miles through...! But seriously, I did walk to school and enjoyed it. Maybe not always. I know when we lived in Mexico we took buses. I can't recall how far school was from our house then. I was real young.

Back in California, I walked to school for a number of years. In Tustin, Sycamore Elementary School was less than half a block up the street. No big deal. Once I got to jr. high school, it was further, but I walked and didn't think much of it. In fact, it was usually pretty decent social time as I'd either walk with friends or meet some along the way.

We'd often play games of one kind or another while walking to school. I remember one morning I met up with my neighbor, Mark Sanchez. We started up a little game of "honking loogies" at each other as we walked- We'd get up a big snotty one and spit it at each others leg while still keeping our walking pace. The idea was to come as close as possible without hitting the other guy.

I honestly didn't mean to but I hit Mark- about the biggest pile of yuck you could imagine splattered about 3 inches- across his thigh. We were both grossed out. He was holding his thigh just above the loogie going, "No, no, no". He didn't have the guts to touch it. It was so gross. Then he actually threw up.

We both laughed at that, scraped the snot off his leg with a branch from a nearby tree and went on our way to school. Fun stuff.

I remembered the route to C.E. Utt Jr. High School as being maybe a couple miles. It took about forty minutes one way. I wasn't sure, though. Once I had Google Earth available I actually retraced my route using that "ruler" application that lets you measure distances. Sure enough, it was just about two miles. How many kids walk that far to school nowadays, and how many parents would allow them to?

My mother also made me a lunch to take to school then. How many do that anymore?

Once University High School in Irvine opened, we used to walk there, too. Eventually, I got a driver's license and a car so that came to an end. I was one of the relatively few guys- for the time- that regularly drove to school. Probably more because I could rather than necessity. I don't think the walk was much more than a mile had I chose to continue walking.

Then I weaseled my way into continuation school. Hillview High School was all the way back in Tustin. That was five miles away. Maybe ten. Driving was about the only way I could go, although I might have hitchhiked a few times. Since I managed to get my credits done about 6 months early, no more worry about walking or driving to school.
We've seen kids walk by our house on the way to school since we've moved to our current home, but there's never been many. When the elementary school was next to Eureka High we used to see a lot more.

Over the last ten or 15 years I could probably count the number of high schoolers walking to Eureka High each year on one hand. Kind of hard to understand as I'm sure they don't all have cars. How do they get to school now?


At 9:41 AM, Anonymous brian connors said...

How you ask? Mommy drives them to school in her oversized SUV, while talking her cell phone. Because the "Mass Media" has parents terrified.

At 10:13 AM, Blogger Fred Mangels said...

I was just thinking about this after making the post. I regularly work right next to Eureka High School, albeit on its south side as opposed to my house being a few blocks to the west.

I see kids walking to and from EHS on K Street all the time while I'm there. Sometimes just one or two at a time. Other times, presumably during lunch and class breaks, in larger groups. I never take notice about where they go after I see them.

As far as parents driving them, I'll have to pay closer attention from now on but I can't think of a specific instance where I could say I saw a parent pick up or drop off a kid there. Maybe they'd be more prone to do that over near the front of the school so I wouldn't have noticed?

I was surprised to notice a EHS bus drop off a load of students the other day. First time I recall seeing that, although I had to have seen it before and may be just not be remembering it.

What I thought strange was it dropped them off on the south side of the corner of Buhne and K Streets. Some of them walked north, across Buhne to the school. The others scattered to who knows where.

If nothing else, I would have thought there be some policy requiring the kids to be dropped off on school grounds, not half a block away. Maybe it was transportation from some special event, though?

At 10:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live in McKinleyville and drive my kids to school because much of their path to school lacks sidewalks and bike lanes. Where there are sidewalks, they are narrow sidewalks not designed for bicycle traffic (e.g., encouraging collisions between bikes and pedestrians).

Give me old time sidewalks where six people could walk side-by-side, a time when cities were designed with people in mind. The simple fact is, our communities are designed for cars and so we use cars to get around. I live less than a block from a grocery store as the crow flies, but to walk to the grocery store I have to walk 5 blocks, some of the way in a dirt gutter. Community planning since the 1960s has sucked.

How do you feel about Smart Growth Fred? Give me a Smart Growth community and then I'll gladly let me kids walk to school. Heck, I'll sell one of my cars because I won't need it anymore.

At 10:47 AM, Blogger Fred Mangels said...

Community planning since the 1960s has sucked.

Sure that shouldn't be the other way around? I would think some would say older communities weren't planned for anything if planned at all.

In the later sixties when I'd walk to jr. high school, sidewalks didn't seem any different to me than they do now. I'd walk down Charloma Drive to- was it Browning or Bryan?- a main street we'd have to cross. I don't think there was even a crosswalk on that street.

We crossed at least a couple fairly busy streets without any pedestrian accommodations, after which we'd often take the shortcut of some train tracks that got us pretty close to school. No harm done. Maybe because we looked out for ourselves?

I've often wondered if all these supposed improvements in safety might make it more dangerous for pedestrians as it makes them less likely to pay attention for their own safety.

After all, when you're in a crosswalk, you have the right- of- way and nobody can enter the crosswalk. Right? Or so more and more people are thinking.

At 11:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, I'm sure Fred. Smart Growth is about returning to the old way communities were planned -- around pedestrian flow. We can debate which year car-based planning came about, but my point remains.

At 9:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to ride my bike to school from about second grade all the way through senior year at EHS. Biking from Pine Hill to Winship, past the golf course in dense fog wasn't very safe, I'm sure, but I hated taking the bus. I never wore a helmet, either.

At 10:26 AM, Blogger Fred Mangels said...

I'm sure I rode my bike a few times to jr. high school. Helmets were unheard of back then.

Busses can be a pain for some. We took buses to school in Mexico. I remember little of that. I do recall one fairly traumatic experience. That it was traumatic is probably the only reason I remember it:

The bus would drop us off in front of our house, but they weren't supposed to let you off the bus unless an adult was there waiting (we were very young). Nearly all the time either one of my parents or one of the maids would be out in front of the front gate. One day I came to the house but no one was outside waiting.

The driver wouldn't open the door to let me out. He honked the horn a few times. No one came, so he wouldn't let me out. I was screaming, begging him to let me out, insisting surely someone was home. He wouldn't let me out.

He took me all the way back to school and I had to sit in the office for what seemed like hours until my mother showed up to take me home. I hated that and will never forget it.

Before University High School was fully up and running, we did half sessions at Mission Viejo High School. Irvine kids from 9 to noon, I believe, and Mission Viejo did noon to 3. Something like that, anyway.

We certainly couldn't walk as it was pretty far. Maybe 15 or 25 miles? Wasn't all that bad, though. The only thing was if you didn't want to go home right after school. Sometimes we might want to hang around Mission Viejo.

If so, you had to make a quick decision: Take the bus, or find my own way home? That usually meant hitch hiking. Every now and then I'd just take the chance and hitch hike. Always made it home.


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