Special gravel coverage

Safe routes coalition: Too many kids unable to join Walk and Bike to School Day

Posted by on October 12th, 2015 at 12:07 pm

Ride Along with the Stedman Family-5

Safer infrastructure would shift this traffic equation.
(Photo @ J. Maus/BikePortland)

By a scan of headlines and social media feeds, last week’s International Walk and Bike to School Day was a big success. But the full picture reveals a more sobering truth: The vast majority of kids didn’t walk or bike to school.

This morning, Our Healthy Streets, the coalition behind the “For Every Kid” campaign, an initiative that aims to offer safe routes to school funding and programs to every student in the metro area, released a statement highlighting the many schools who didn’t participate.

According to the coalition, 115 schools in 12 cities across the Metro region took part in the event, but over 300 schools could not participate.

“It was so much fun to see these little bright people, so earnest and excited walking and riding to their school,” said Milwaukie Mayor Mark Gamba in the statement. “The sad thing was the long, long line of cars waiting to drop their kids off and the little ones that really wished they could have walked but their mom thinks it’s too dangerous. She’s probably not wrong.”

Thanks for reading BikePortland.

Please consider a $10/month subscription or a one-time payment
to help maintain and expand this vital community resource.

The same goes for Tigard says Woodward Elementary parent Eric Reynolds: “Many families did not participate in Walk and Bike to School Day because of dangerous intersections caused by inattentive driving. There are also gaps in the sidewalks with no shoulder to walk in and you are forced into the road with speeding traffic.”

As we reported last week, this coalition (which includes the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, the American Heart Association, the Community Alliance of Tenants, Oregon Walks, Upstream Public Health, and others) has the support of many state legislators. Together they’re ramping up pressure on Metro to commit more dollars to safe routes programs.

Learn more at OurHealthyStreets.org.

Please support BikePortland.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • John Lascurettes October 12, 2015 at 12:12 pm

    The greatest irony about walking or biking to school being “too dangerous” is that the most unpredictable urban drivers I encounter are parents with kids in the car around the time the first bell rings.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Todd Boulanger October 12, 2015 at 1:02 pm

      YES. I have seen this time and time again when PTAs / parents would call us in for a school area safety audit.

      Its the ‘parents stupid’…plus the school administration unwilling or unable to adapt policies (parking / loading area separation or to have different release times: let the peds / bikes disperse and then release the kids-as-passengers etc.)

      Plus in other older school zones there were often teachers/ staff who would fight pedestrian or bike safety enhancements if these new sidewalks would reduce on-street parking etc. The Principal just did not want to go there…even if the his employees were parking illegally in the right of way.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

    • mark October 12, 2015 at 1:16 pm


      How about parents that speed through the parking lot..as if that 1 second gained is going to keep your snowflake from being counted late. Nevermind a child in the car observing it’s perfectly ok to drive fast around a school parking lot.

      I drive..a lot..yeah..it sucks. Lately..I have been driving the speed limit or even slower (gasp!)..especially through parking lots. You would think I was threatening the parent with water balloons.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Mike Reams October 13, 2015 at 8:50 am

      Just as bad is when school lets out. Narrow streets with hordes of parents trying to cram through picking up their kids.

      Recommended Thumb up 1

    • mixtieme October 13, 2015 at 10:27 am

      ‘There is no more neutrality in the world. You either have to be part of the solution, or you’re going to be part of the problem.’ – Eldridge Cleaver

      The folks that fear that by walking they may be killed by a car, so instead they get into a car that could kill people walking have ultimately failed to fully understand that they and their car and this fearful way of thinking has lead to this problem. By driving instead of walking or biking they are perpetuating the very problem they fear most. Many of PB readers may say, wait now, I drive, or I ride not as a form of protest but for fun, fail to see that unfortunately no matter how you look at the situation choosing something other than a car is in itself a threat against the status quo. That threat is real to those not yet ready to make the leap from perpetuating the problem to a problem solver.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • rick October 12, 2015 at 12:14 pm

    Woodward Elementary has numerous nearby dead-end streets without trails or alleyways. Tigard does have a new concrete staircase at the old Tigard armory on SW Ventura “Drive” (between SW Oak Street in the 66th block) which is being constructed for housing. However, the staircase doesn’t have the bike rollup thing to allow one to push their bike up the stairs. The new staircase is likely the biggest staircase in all of Tigard.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Joe October 12, 2015 at 12:19 pm

    I overheard a co-worker complaining about bike to school day, how it slowed his drive down.. :/ this guy use to bike.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Todd Boulanger October 12, 2015 at 12:47 pm

      Time for him to get a bike bell. (‘Damn the kids and full pedal ahead.’)

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • RH October 12, 2015 at 12:20 pm

    Parents are normally the role model. If they don’t walk or bike anywhere, then the child won’t. Heck, even if they parked a few blocks away from school and walked their kid in, that would be a glimmer of hope.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Dan A October 12, 2015 at 1:04 pm

      Ask a roomful of parents if they walked or biked to school as kids. Most of them will raise their hands.

      Won’t be able to do the same with the next generation.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Tim October 12, 2015 at 12:49 pm

    As someone who rides past two elementary Schools nearly every school day, I can say the biggest safety hazard to children and people on bikes is the people driving the children to school.

    Nearly everyday I need to avoid drivers turning in and out of the school without regard for the basic rules of the road. The even sadder thing is that this is a suburban neighborhood with sidewalks on every street and crossing guards at the busy intersections.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Granpa October 12, 2015 at 1:52 pm

      Last year I was pinched to the curb by a parent dropping off their kid at Cleveland High. My response used my “outside voice” and I think I embarrassed the kid (for her mom’s sake) considerably.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Todd Boulanger October 12, 2015 at 12:56 pm

    The barriers to walk / bike to school are pretty complex…
    – school districts creating factory sized schools in remoter locations (desire for cheaper land, more space for athletics/ parking etc., single storey facilities, arterial frontage);
    – cities zoning large suburban tracks/ mono culture land use with poor street connectively for peds;
    – federal and state funding disconnects (school bus funding not flexible mobility funding);
    – overlapping silo’ed transport resources (school bus resources that cannot be used for suburban transit in off hours / or schools not using existing urban transit resources);
    – parents parents parents;
    – national movement/ research supporting pushing school start times back (good for the kids = bad for parents leaving for work);

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Todd Boulanger October 12, 2015 at 1:05 pm

    Some good news for walking and biking to school:

    I have always been impressed with the Vancouver School District’s forethought during its school reconstruction of older schools: maintaining existing city center locations (often by building the new schools on the old play fields and then demoing the old structures for new play fields) plus avoiding single storey structures when they can.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Adam Herstein
    Adam Herstein October 12, 2015 at 1:15 pm

    It’s a negative feedback loop. Everyone drives, making it dangerous to walk to school, so everyone drives, making it more dangerous to walk to school, so…

    That and good chunk of the Metro region was designed solely for cars, so it’s actually impossible to walk, or what walking infra there is was obviously a distant afterthought (3-foot sidewalks next to 45 MPH traffic, full of garbage and branches). We need some serious traffic-calming measures and people-friendly designs if we want more kids to walk to school.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Eric Leifsdad October 12, 2015 at 2:13 pm

      For lack of a bit of courage and effort, parents are ruining their children’s future by trying to keep them safe. The wording “unable” is telling — nothing about our infrastructure makes it impossible to walk or bike anywhere and in fact the law provides for it (except on I5, etc.) The problem is participation and compliance (or “enforcement”, which obviously needs to be self-funding.) It often seems like drivers want to ignore all traffic laws except “right of way goes to the person with the largest weapon” — this might be an interesting exercise: weekly Thunderdome Thursdays and weekly Car-Free Fridays for contrast (I think Fridays would ultimately win by process of elimination.)

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Dan A October 12, 2015 at 4:39 pm

        I have heard from a few 5th grade parents at our elementary school who consider their children to be very bright…and yet unable to walk to school.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

    • bikeslobpdx October 13, 2015 at 7:55 am

      Although the consequences may be negative, that’s actually an instance of positive feedback.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Lester Burnham October 12, 2015 at 1:37 pm

    Kids don’t want to bike or walk…it’s easier to have the parents drive them so they can stare at their iPhones like zombies.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Mao October 12, 2015 at 4:53 pm

      If I could pick between riding the bus to school in the rain or getting a morning ride in a car with a heater, car will win every time as a kid.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Dan A October 12, 2015 at 6:28 pm

        We don’t give our kids a choice. I have walked with them to school in some wicked weather. And they are tougher for it.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

      • gutterbunnybikes October 12, 2015 at 7:24 pm

        Funny, I remember well my friends and I raceing the bus from our stop to school. It was about mile and half and it had two stops before hitting the school. Once we were winning that race consistently, the ankle weights came into play.

        Little snot nosed me running down the street with a trumpet in one hand, my backpack slung over my shoulder, and ankle weights in my moon boots running through the snow or puddles, I could never beat Jack or Eric – good times. Infact, looking back, I do remember being disappointed the few times my parents came to pick me up.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

        • Mao October 13, 2015 at 1:09 pm

          Standing in the rain alone for 10-15 minutes, followed by a packed ride to St Johns (Think Roosevelt area) then a 15 minute walk to the building for morning class was never fun. I did it because I didn’t often have the choice. The only good part was if my first class was social studies I could sit on a radiator to warm up/dry off.

          Both you guys are talking about walking with friends or your kid, and that makes a huge difference. Maybe you just had coats that kept you dry. But if I have to pick between cold and silence over warmth and conversation, it’s no contest.

          Recommended Thumb up 0

          • Dan A October 13, 2015 at 1:45 pm

            I want my boys to raise my boys to be men, not just ‘older boys’. Why would I let my 7-year-old choose how to raise himself?

            Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Dan A October 12, 2015 at 1:48 pm

    Here’s the new high school coming to the BSD. The school of the future!

    There’s something hilariously incongruous of artist’s renderings and reality.

    (we like to walk and bike, nobody drives, ooh look a butterfly)

    (just casually strolling across Scholls Ferry or 175th like a lunatic)

    Current site plan:
    (where is the walking/biking access? is that prohibited?)

    The SE intersection:

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Chris I October 12, 2015 at 3:35 pm

      No one is going to walk or bike to that school. So sad.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Tom Hardy October 12, 2015 at 7:09 pm

      Yes Dan and it is just outside of what was the edge of the urban growth boundary. Farms across the road on one side and new apartments and mansions on the other side of the street. No bike access although there is a bike path in front of the school. I live back up the road about 4 miles and the street has always had a bikepath (fog lines) for the last 40 years. now since new sidewalks were put in on Scholls Ferry the bike path across from the schools have washboard pavement with dips and ruts in the pavement and on the side where the schools are at the bike lanes have been wiped off the pavement. The center lane (non driving left turn) is 14 foot wide and the bike lane is 30 inches at best. At least the drains next to the sidewalks are the type where the water drains into the curb.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

    • mark October 13, 2015 at 2:46 pm

      Do you see a bike parking plan in there? I barely even see paths except to the hallowed parking lot and softball field.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • paikiala October 12, 2015 at 2:02 pm
    • davemess October 12, 2015 at 2:18 pm

      Yes, we see a lot of kids and families walking by to the elementary school a few blocks from my house.

      I wonder if there is an inverse correlation between walking to school and median income in Portland?

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • KristenT October 12, 2015 at 4:10 pm

    Glad someone from Tigard piped up– Woodward is definitely one of the many schools here that are difficult and dangerous to get to by non-motorized means.

    I go by Fowler Middle school twice a day, every day (once in the morning, once in the evening). Sure, there’s sidewalks on Tiedeman, and a sort-of sidewalk on one side of Walnut, but most of the kids within 1 (ONE) mile cannot ride or walk to school because there are no shoulders, sidewalks, or bike lanes within that one mile.

    The ironic part is that the City of Tigard has set itself the lofty goal of becoming the Best Walkable City in the area. From my interactions with the City, they think they can do it without spending a dime on the missing connections…. of which there are many.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Mao October 12, 2015 at 5:00 pm

    Would it be possible for the schools to offer some sort of incentive for kids to bike/walk/bus to school? This would mostly be for middle and high schoolers.
    A thing like, everyone who logs x number of trips to school over y months gets to join a pizza party. So 30 trips over 3 months for example, something that would average out to 33% of the school days for that period.
    That may encourage kids to get their parents to help them bike or use non-car methoids, because pizza.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • rachel b October 12, 2015 at 5:09 pm

    I don’t have kids and I know this remark would reveal that even if I hadn’t said it up front… I’m first and foremost for helping and encouraging kids to walk and bike to school. But I’m completely baffled about all the parents chauffeuring and picking up their kids to and from school, and here’s where I (clearly) need some filling in.

    Why is no one taking the school bus? Have schools gotten rid of school buses? When I was a kid, no one’s parent drove them to school (unless they worked at the school). Everyone mainly took the bus. We even had the “Activity/Athletic Bus” to take us home in the evenings, after practices. What’s the deal?

    Let me reiterate–I’m for the biking/walking solution. In lieu of that, though, I would expect kids would be expected (by their parents) to take the school bus. ???

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Mao October 12, 2015 at 5:20 pm

      As far as I know, school buses only pick up kids who live on the edge of a huge district WITHOUT transferring in, or if the kids are disabled. I never knew anyone in middle or high school who took the bus (This range spans 2000 to 2011)

      My parents told me stories of taking the bus to school, but I only ever road them for school trips.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

    • gutterbunnybikes October 12, 2015 at 5:23 pm

      Unless your child is disabled, Portland Public doesn’t offer bus service to within a 1 mile radius of the school. My son, when he was in Elementary School actually walked farther to the bus stop, than it would have taken him to walk to school – however the walk to school required a crossing of the “uncorrected” Division street. The bus would drive in front of our house everyday`and our block had 3-4 students on it – all which took the bus and walked to the stop nearly 1/2 mile away. One year we had a kid with a disability living across the street my kid and the others on the block could catch the bus there, which was nice.

      Once your kids are in HS their student ID is also a Trimet pass and there is no school bus service. But that’s cool, my kids now almost 17 and prefers Trimet over bikes and has almost no interest in getting a driver’s license (still doesn’t even have a learners permit).

      Recommended Thumb up 0

    • rachel b October 12, 2015 at 7:30 pm

      Thanks, all, for the illumination. Maybe that policy (the 1 mile or 1.5 mile rule) was in place when I was a kid–I was out in ruralish unincorporated Portland, and I think a lot of the student population lived more than a mile out. I remember a very full bus.

      I can see magnet schools and out-of-district petitioning having an impact on school-related traffic. But the schoolchild-ferrying traffic seems to have ballooned alarmingly over the years. Are most of these just parents driving their kids a mile or a bit more to school and/or magnet school/out-of-districters? Or are more parents who live farther out opting out of the bus for some reason?

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Dan A October 12, 2015 at 6:38 pm

    Oregon law mandates bus service for elementary students over 1 mile away, and secondary students over 1.5 miles away. Not sure what happens when a school district violates that mandate, as appears to be happening in Oak Hills.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Tom Hardy October 12, 2015 at 7:12 pm

      Buss service is supplied (seen them picking up and dropping off students at less than 300 feet from the school driveways). at my area schools. The students are still being taught to ride against traffic without helmets.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • gutterbunnybikes October 12, 2015 at 7:15 pm

    Interesting that there isn’t any mention that much the driving your kids to school is also fed by the magnet schools where there is no bus service at all, and students are often coming in from all parts of town. Also you can petition (success varies from year to year/ school to school) for your child to attend a school other than the one in your neighborhood doesn’t help either.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • BeavertonRider October 14, 2015 at 11:44 am

      As a parent, I’m very thankful for schools of choice (though Id rather have real school choice, e.g., charter schools). Absent that, my two boys would be trapped in a school where english is a second language. They’d also be surrounded by others they will be compelled to “understand” while those others are encouraged to hang on to their culture while being taught that our culture here is not just tainted but incapable of being something other than nativist, racist, sexist, colonialist backwards nation. Meanwhile, while my kids would know that Carlos is from Mexico and the very few things that Mexicans have contributed to American culture, they’d lack badic reading, writing, and math skills.

      No thanks, school choice is the right thing in our current time where Portland plays itself out as a Sanctuary City (violating federal laws) and the federal government refusing to enforce immigration laws and illegally dumping tens of thousands of illegal immigrant children into school districts…

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Dawn October 14, 2015 at 2:40 pm

        Strange, because in Portland’s inner city schools, the ones that offer immersion language learning are among the highest in demand. So high income areas value diversity and alternative language learning while those in lower income areas see this as a bad thing? Did you choose to live in a gentrifying part of town?

        Recommended Thumb up 0

        • BeavertonRider October 14, 2015 at 3:39 pm

          Im not sure how you arrived at that conclusion, Dawn. My instinct is to believe you’re acting in bad faith, ie., attributing some false motivation or belief to me to make a silly gotcha point.

          Nothing in my comment should suggest that I am resistant to diversity. I am resistant to sending my kids to school where there’s a high population of esl students. My wife, a certified teacher here and still in MI, and I both recognize the deleterious effects this has on other students. So we chose a different school in the district that is hardly a vanilla school.

          And I think you’re too narrowly limiting diversity to skin color, though that is the current fad where the only diversity that is important is skin color. I care far more about intellectual diversity that skin color.

          Also, again, not sure how you might conclude that I don’t recognize the value of or value knowing a second language. I speak English and Spanish and my wife speaks English and French.

          I don’t know if the area along Hall and Allen Roads is “gentrifying” or not. I simply chose not to enroll my kids in a school where their education is distracted by the esl environment.

          Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Pete October 13, 2015 at 4:17 pm

    Sad on so many levels. On one hand it’s the fear – not just that cars are dangerous, but that predators lurk on every corner (judging by headlines), and parents also like the ‘safety’ of their routines. Sure, I could accompany my kids to school by bike or on foot… but who has the time? We’ve heard it all before.

    In my city we’ve been fighting to put bike lanes and lower speeds by one particular school since long before I moved here, and yet when the budget comes available (we get ~$200K/yr that either gets banked or spent every other year), it doesn’t fully fund the improvements we really want, so we wind up picking something ‘cheaper’ (and less offensive to the ‘public’) from the Master Plan. Sigh.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • BeavertonRider October 14, 2015 at 11:22 am

      We all have the time…if we choose so. My wife was a stay at home mom precisely because we didnt want our kids raised by strangers, because we chose to forego the extra income a second job would have brought, because we chose to get married and recognized our natural male and female roles and chose to stay married rather than abandon our marriage and parental responsibilities.

      We have many friends who are parents and both work and whine, whine, whine about not having time to do homework with their kids, walk them to school, go on field trips with them…of course, this whining come in between stories of their adult trip to the winery or local microbrew (yes, you detect the sneering) or attending their weekly book club or daily soccer, dance, or whatever practice…

      As a culture, we are bombarded with messages that children are parasites (justifies abortion), that staying at home raising kids is a laborious and unwise activity, that absent going out and hanging with friends oir lives are dull, that marriage oppresses women, that distinguishing gender roles is so yesteryear, etc. It is cultural rot that has many unintended consequences, like increased driving, absentee parents, illegitimacy, and the breakdown of the family unit.

      We all have the time…if we choose.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • BeavertonRider October 14, 2015 at 11:11 am

    I recall as a kid walking to and from school all year round through 10th grade when I got a car. Early on it was my mom that walked me to school with other kids and parents. Then it was walking to school with a group of kids, like 7-10 of us and that was the norm. I always seemed to have lived just inside the mandatory bussing line, lol. But, my brother and I started out alone and then were joined by our friends as we made it closer to school.

    I wanted my kids to do the same here, but…

    Today’s neighborhoods are not as dense with kids as they were in the 80s and 90s;

    I did not have scool of choice, I had one school to go to. I lived in a city with 60k people in a burb outside of Detroit. Now, in Beaverton, we don’t send our boys to the nearest elementary school – no way I am sending my kids to an ESL school. So we have to drive our kids to school;

    Kids these days, and I haven’t figured this out, are into organized after school activities that require tons of driving. These programs are pushed on kids by the schools. After school, I’d get a snack and then it was play time at a friend’s or along the block or back to the school playground for a few hours. Today, though, it seems like many parents rush to pick up just to drop off multiple times and all of that stuff increases driving.

    There are several cultural themes that are encouraging more and more driving, like birth rates and parents being scorned for allowing children to play unsupervised (not fake cultural themes like preferring to drive rather than bike or driving is safer) and school districts being overrun due to uncontrolled immigration, legal and illegal. We can still choose to address these things rather than engage in national and cultural suicide. But it seems we rather want free cake, a genderless society and declare that all the world is welcome with no consequences.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Dawn October 14, 2015 at 2:46 pm

    I live in the Richmond neighborhood and my son attends elementary school at Abernethy. This is one of the best biking neighborhoods in teh city, IMO (even if I think Clinton still needs some work – yay, diverters!). Last week was the annual Tour de Ladd fundraiser where almost all of the kids bike (or scoot) in a loop around one of the Ladd’s circle gardens. As I biked to school with three kids under 7 and two other adults accompanying them, I was appalled at the inattention, excessive speeding and general lack of patience on the part of drivers, especially on SE 26th between Division and Harrison and then on Harrison east of that. Sadly, more work still needs to be done and funds committed to Safe Routes to School.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Dan A October 15, 2015 at 9:37 am

    Now, in Beaverton, we don’t send our boys to the nearest elementary school – no way I am sending my kids to an ESL school. So we have to drive our kids to school;

    Speaking of choices, did you consider your elementary school when choosing a house? We didn’t want to go to an ESL school either, so we moved.

    Recommended Thumb up 0