The signs have been subtle over this March starting early with a 3/4/12 Beth Kassab’s Sunday local front-page appeal for a suburbia not designed to endanger small children by speeding-up traffic; or, for that matter, finding the fastest part of a highway to build elementary schools without sidewalks instead of designs to slow it down in school zones. Here she points out that every time more pavement is poured to make school and playground access more dangerous the results are more permanent too. All so road designers can save the cost. The political history of what she was referring to is that schools used to have a policy of busing kids across any dangerous crossing while requiring they walk up to two miles to school where it is safe. “NO ONE IS SAFE.” became the battle cry that both demanded every parent take their kids who has a car to protect them from crime and made it convenient for school officials to save the cost of buses by eliminating such ‘courtesy busing’ except in neighborhoods that was urban enough to get sidewalks and presumably some sort of urban supervision as well. As the price of gas fell, suburban kids felt like trash if they didn’t each drive what amounted their own off-road bus to high school. As the economy fell, here came the suburban parents now willing to walk their kids to school sans the car they can’t afford to drive assuming thay have one.
If all this means it’s time to introduce some sanity, the signs are it may be. On 3/19/12 USA TODAY reported that cyclists and nature lovers are becoming a political force to be reckoned with as the nation considers alternatives to the car. Signs of this is when matching funds were to be stripped from a national transportation bill, that force rallied; as of this point the funds remain.
Florida has just passed traffic laws more favorable to bicycles. And the cost of gas continues to soar. As we all reconsider our lifestyle, don’t ever forget this: the Florida drivers handbook had traditionally said that driving a motor vehicle is not a right but a privilege awarded by the state. In recent years buses also have carried such a warning. Try to find a sticker on a bicycle with that on it. Now to be sure, by law a bike is a type of vehicle. But if a little personal freedom is within your own personal ideology, it’s worth considering anything that guarantees the freedom to move around that you and your children need.
As for Beth Kassab’s concerns, here’s a glimmer. An engineer told me that it doesn’t take that much costly preperation to create a dedicated bike trail. Since the problem occurs in suburban ‘speedways’, it’s time to find space for trails to connect schools and neighborhoods since ‘suburbia’ suggests room is still there. But time is running out.