Hey Mr. Green,
In your answer to Sue regarding the school bus situation, you stated that "if I were running the district with my green iron fist, I'd require all those lazy, pampered kids to walk or bike to school, like in the old days." It's a nice sentiment but not practical in today's world. There are too many child predators waiting for this opportunity. In my neighborhood alone, there were three known attempts of men trying to lure or drag children into their cars just this past year. Each child was either walking alone or with a friend home from school or, in one instance, playing in front of her own house. Although I wish we lived in a world where kids could walk or bike to and from school without the threat of being accosted, I would not feel comfortable letting my child do this. For exercise, children should try sports or dance in a safe environment. —Tamara in Flushing, New York
Hey Mr. Green,
Just a comment regarding your advice that children should walk to school. Rather than excoriating these "lazy" kids, let's remember the hazards they face in many suburbs—lack of sidewalks, lack of pedestrian crossings, and excessive traffic with its attendant lack of controls. These deficiencies would put too many kids at risk of serious injury or death, especially given the impulsiveness of youths. Let's get our local governments to supply the needed upgrades so that kids can walk or bike again, safely. —Joan in Fairfax, Virginia
Mr. Green answers:
Hey Tamara and Joan,
I'm becoming such a crusty geezer that I need to hear such objections. Even granting my opinion that kids today are lazy and overprotected, you're right: The streets should be made tolerably safe for them—and for us grown-ups. Many adults would gladly ride bicycles, but they're scared stiff by traffic, and I don't blame them. I personally know a half dozen people who have been very seriously injured because they were hit by a vehicle or mugger while riding. I recently met a young woman who will not use a bike any longer because she was "doored" by someone getting out of a car. Though I've been doored too, I certainly don't expect everybody to hop back on a bike after such a harrowing episode.
But fear begets fear. The fact that so few people are out on the sidewalks and streets in the first place encourages predators and lets dangerous drivers rip along without being detected. So it becomes a classic catch-22: We keep our kids and ourselves off the streets because we're scared, and then the streets become scarier because nobody's on them. We burn billions of gallons of extra gas inside our vehicular fortresses while the pervs patrol.
A partial solution would be to limit traffic and create truly safe bike lanes and walking paths. I've seen this work in some cities in Europe, where you'll find old guys pedaling bikes while holding their canes over the handlebars, old women tooling about with basketfuls of cargo, and the younger set rolling along while talking on their cell phones. So if you're looking for a worthy way to restore a measure of civilization to our car-menaced world, this might be the campaign to take on.