Students’ Walking ‘Car Pool’

In a crosswalk, these Palisades Elementary students and their moms are part of a “walking car pool” that promotes walking to school at least one day a week.
Photo by Rich Schmitt, Staff Photographer

Resident Kelly Williams wondered what would happen if parents in the Palisades arbitrarily selected a day, and on that day, instead of driving, walked or took a bicycle to school. Williams, who lives in the Alphabet streets, normally drives every day. Last Wednesday, she walked her kindergarten and third grade child to Palisades Elementary, a trip of about 15 minutes. She noticed that there were six other kids who lived on her route to school. ‘I decided to form a walk pool, sort of like a car pool, only walking,’ she said, and invited the other families to join her walking to school. Immediately there were benefits. ‘Three kids who didn’t know each other became friends,’ Williams said. ‘Since one parent was walking, the other parents got to stay home, which kept four cars off the road.’ Marquez Elementary Principal Phillip Hollis is also urging parents to become a weekly ‘school bus’ starting on Wednesday, October 22. Parents will pick up kids as they walk by the children’s houses and continue walking them all the way to school. Hollis is encouraging families to walk to school at least once a week. ‘It would reduce traffic congestion for our neighbors, help kids get more exercise, lower carbon emissions and help build community,’ Hollis said. A nationwide trend of walking to schools is happening because many school districts are cutting transportation costs by eliminating bus routes. A Newsweek article (‘Waving Goodbye to the Bus,’ September 15) told about Nia Parker, whose bus in Columbia, Missouri, had been discontinued and who now walks to school instead. She and her neighbors travel the half-mile in a ‘walking school bus.’ Nia’s mother in the Newsweek article said, ‘It’s healthier for them to walk.’ According to the 1969 National Household Travel Survey, nearly half of students walked or biked to school. In 2004, a University of Michigan researcher found that less than 13 percent did. For many in the Palisades, walking is an option, but they often they feel a car will be faster. ‘I had to pick up three kids after school and take them to the park,’ said Williams, who decided to drive. ‘The traffic was so bad that my friend, who walked instead, beat us.’ For other parents, who live in the Highlands, or those who have their children at Revere Middle School, biking and walking are not options. Williams would like to challenge other schools to implement walking pools at least one day a week. Moreover, she asks, ‘If it can work for schools, why wouldn’t it work for businesses?’ Williams envisions Wednesday as a day on which everyone in the Village could walk or ride their bike to work. ‘We have a tiny little town that has everything we need,’ Williams said. ‘Walking could even promote local shopping.’