Adults choose not to walk or bike for a lot of reasons. Kids don’t get a choice, so much of their mobility (or lack thereof) is determined by parental whims, which often run counter to sound kid logic.

Junior: Why can’t I ride my bike to my friend’s house?
Parent: Because.
Junior: Because why? It’s just around the corner.
Parent: Because I’m your mother.

Or father. A few years ago, in a fourth ring suburb far, far away, Uncle Mark precipitated (was blamed for) a similar conversation between my eight year old nephew and his mom. We had spent the morning watching the Tour de France, and when I drove him to soccer practice that afternoon, he announced that he could easily do the distance–a 10 minute drive–on his bike. I agreed and told him to take the matter up with his mom. He did, and his mom drove him to the next practice.

Do not use this graphic in your PowerPoint. I made up these numbers, but the graphic is inspired by survey data from the National Center for Safe Routes to School.

When it comes to Safe Routes to School, parental attitudes can be just as significant an obstacle to walking or biking as any blunders in the built environment. Enter Leigh Ann Von Hagen’s presentation–Shit Parents Say: How Parents’ Attitudes & Percents affect SRTS–which will be one of several Safe Routes to School sessions at Pro Walk/Pro Bike 2012. Leigh Ann will discuss the findings of a New Jersey statewide parental survey on school travel concerns, and present strategies, tools, and messages for addressing common concerns.

Above: a view from the above mentioned fourth ring suburb. This is a what happens when we design a subdivision without thinking about children: a park in every backyard.

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