September 14th, 2010 | Published in Urbanist
Photos by Lisa Bauso
Forty years ago, about 60 percent of American kids walked to school, compared to about 13 percent in 2009. Today, the most popular mode of school transportation is the family car – with demonstrable impacts on health, traffic and the environment.
A single vehicle dropping off and picking up kids at one school puts three pounds of pollution into the air in one month, according to a brochure published by the Portland Department of Transportation.
Parents driving their kids to school cause 50 percent of all traffic accidents in school zones.
“We tell parents if they walk one day a week, it would have a big impact on congestion, idling and pollution,” says Gabe Graff, program manager for Safe Routes to School, a city of Portland program that aims to increase the number of kids walking and biking to school.
Kid-powered transportation has other benefits, Graff says. “Instead of the box that is their house and the box that is their school, kids see that both are part of the community,” he said. “You don’t get that from the back of the car.”
Navigating Ford Rangers, Jeep Cherokees and Honda CR-Vs, Urbanist visited five Portland schools during drop-off and pickup. We asked parents and students why they drive to school – and what it would take to get them out of the car.