Ever since my kids started school, I’ve become fixated on a strange American practice: the school drive-through drop off. Many parents it seems have made the choice to drive by the school, open the door and drop their kids off at the school entrance without leaving the comfort of their car. I know every one does not live walking distance from school and some parents must drive their kids to school. But is it necessary to do a drive-through drop off? Can’t they park their cars and walk their kids to the school yard?
Sure it may be easier, more convenient and less hassle to do a drive-through. But what about the impact to the whole community around the school? What about the unnecessary pollution and increased traffic they are creating and the sedentary habits they’re teaching kids?
I want to encourage parents to change this habit.
Last year, I teamed up with a highly energetic biking couple at our school who also use bikes as transportation. Together we’re working to promote more walking and biking to school. Last year, we implemented some super successful walking and biking programs. Our Bike to School Month was a hit. A handful of parents have told me that because of our efforts, they have made a habit out of walking and biking to school.
This year, we got a little more serious. We teamed up with two women from another local elementary school in Northeast Seattle who were working on the same issues at their school. We decided, combining efforts could only help our cause.
In December, we applied for a Seattle DOT Safe Routes to School grant with the purpose of encouraging more people to walk and bike to school. We recently learned our two schools were awarded one of the grants. We plan use the grant money for various events to promote walking and biking to school throughout the year.
Our first campaign of the year is Walk A Block. In an effort to curb the drive-through drop off habit, we’re encouraging families to park their cars at least a block from school and walk their kids to school for one week. We’re not asking for much – just one block for one week.
We’re hoping to reduce the number of cars in the snaking line around the school. This will reduce the pollution directly adjacent to the school and encourage more families to leave the confines of their warm cars and walk their kids on to the school yard.
We’re hoping some families will get into a habit and make it a regular practice.
Maybe our next step will be to ask the neighboring Catholic school to join us? They have an even bigger problem (in my opinion). Not only do they have a line of cars that snakes around an entire city block during drop off and pick up (complete with a dedicated traffic cop to direct traffic and manage the line of cars), they have a second line of cars that snakes around the playground with a second pick up spot.
Apparently they have decided it’s more important to accommodate the cars than let the kids use the playground to play after school.