Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Tale of Two Neighborhoods

What a beautiful day for a walk to school! There is nothing quite like a morning walk in the fall, leaves crunching underfoot and crisp morning air in my face!

Today is International Walk, Bike and Roll to School Day in the USA! This is the second year I celebrated a walk to school kick-off program with Mount Penn Elementary. Later today, I have statistics and numbers to report on the growing success of their program -- but this morning, I wanted to talk about built environment.

You see, I live in a neighborhood that is equally as dense in housing and population. The types and styles of home are pretty similar to those in Mount Penn. I'm pretty sure the families are also much alike. We live just a short distance from our public library and equal distance to the elementary school, grocery store, and communities parks as do those families who walked to school this morning with their children --

All of them talking, laughing, and enjoying their time together. Some walked their dogs -- others walked their bikes to stay with the Walk To School procession.

The difference between our two communities -- mine and that of Mount Penn -- seems to be design. Mount Penn was built for people. My community was built for cars.

That means my children cannot safely walk to their designated bus stop without the threat of being seriously injured in a traffic collision. That means my children cannot safely walk to their public library.

Built environment will determine my children's quality of life -- how they travel, play, and how they connect to their community. As a mother, I want my children to love their home -- their whole sense of home -- including their street, their schools, their neighborhood, their parks and the memories that they make while living here. I want them to look back as adults and recall their days bike riding with friends and hiking adventures across town to see a movie or grab a bite to eat.

It's funny to me that something as simple as some sidewalks and a little traffic calming makes that much difference in how we live. It's also funny to me that Mount Penn and my community share the same postal zip code.

Today, my daughter will celebrate Walk AT School Day with her wonderful PE Teacher who does recognize that fun, simple, everyday activities -- walking and biking -- help children remain healthy and active.

This morning in Mount Penn, there was a real sense of joy and shared appreciation for the neighborhood. A real "coming together" for kids and the school. It was nice to be a part of that -- if even as a guest for just the morning walk.

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