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Posted at 7:53 PM ET, 02/ 5/2011

One way Virginia can get kids moving

By Joyce Migdall, Falls Church

Rather than mandating more time in gym class ["Va. assembly approves PE bill in effort to curb obesity in kids," Metro, Feb. 2], Virginia lawmakers could promote physical activity for schoolchildren by requiring municipalities to provide safe walking and bicycling routes to school. The number of children walking and bicycling to school has decreased significantly over the past four decades, reflecting the lack of routes through neighborhoods that are safe from automobile traffic.

I grew up in a neighborhood with a streetscape similar to my current one in Falls Church. I could walk or bike to school and friends' houses without my parents being overly concerned about speeding automobiles. Drivers expected to encounter children who were walking or biking. Today, authorities at my child's middle school and former elementary school forbid children from walking or biking to school, citing traffic concerns. Authorities at the middle school even cite the presence of high school student drivers (encouraged with subsidized parking spaces on the shared campus) as a reason to forbid walking by younger students.

Part of solving the obesity epidemic is changing the toxic environment that discourages the walking and bicycling that should be a normal part of a child's day.

By Joyce Migdall, Falls Church  | February 5, 2011; 7:53 PM ET
Categories:  HotTopic, Virginia, education, health care, schools  
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Comments

Sounds good, but first, deal with sexual predators.

Posted by: ahoffinger | February 5, 2011 9:06 PM | Report abuse

Joyce Migdall, yours is an excellent idea. It would be a relatively low cost solution that would benefit everyone in summers and weekends as well. Unfortunately, I wouldn't be too optimistic about our local governments following through. They are too hung up on politically correct solutions and too accommodating to fearmongering like in the comment above.

Posted by: imback | February 6, 2011 7:30 AM | Report abuse

Would be nice to ensure all residential areas had sidewalks, too. Ours doesn't. I could easily walk, rather than drive, with my son to the grocery store or the library or wherever, but there isn't a safe place TO walk for a good bit before we get to a sidewalk.

Posted by: Catken1 | February 6, 2011 8:43 AM | Report abuse

Strangely many of our local high schools and middle schools don't even have sidewalks near the school.

There have been many letters to the editor at the Potomac News about a particular High School with dangerous walking conditions in Dumfries.

The school board doesn't want to do anything about it, nor does the county.

Sidewalks should be a given when designing a school. Seems that common sense died some time ago.

Posted by: VirginiaTeacher | February 6, 2011 8:43 AM | Report abuse

Strangely many of our local high schools and middle schools don't even have sidewalks near the school.

There have been many letters to the editor at the Potomac News about a particular High School with dangerous walking conditions in Dumfries.

The school board doesn't want to do anything about it, nor does the county.

Sidewalks should be a given when designing a school. Seems that common sense died some time ago.

Posted by: VirginiaTeacher | February 6, 2011 8:44 AM | Report abuse

The author of this article outlines what she would like the government to do about childhood obesity. I would like to ask the author, what have YOU done to make sure that your child is physically healthy?

Posted by: cellus | February 6, 2011 10:28 AM | Report abuse

In addition to school leadership needing a mindset change, parents themselves must change. It is all too easy to put Little Johnny in the SUV and drive him 1/2 mile to school in back.....vs walk him to school for 15-20 mins. Kids enjoy walking and biking to school - its the parents who don't enjoy it and look at it as a hassle or work. Some may have legitimate safety concerns but many do not. In fact the SRTS Partnership offered up a sobering fact that 50% of children hit by a car around a school are hit by a parent dropping their children off. This is even evident when cars sit at bus stops w/ children in the car. It isn't that cold here on a regular basis to warrant such behavior.....it is irresponsible for parents to be teaching the next generation this behavior. Parents and other advocates in Fairfax County are trying to change the mindset in the government, school system and parents...but it is not an easy task mind you.

Posted by: plojaa1 | February 6, 2011 1:43 PM | Report abuse

The author of this article outlines what she would like the government to do about childhood obesity. I would like to ask the author, what have YOU done to make sure that your child is physically healthy?

Posted by: cellus | February 6, 2011 10:28 AM | Report abuse

****

One thing the author of the article would like to do to keep her child physically healthy is allow him/her to walk or bike to school. She is asking that the school allow this so that it is an option in the first place. She's asking the government to allow the solution that she has thought of--this is a far cry from asking the government to solve the problem of obesity.

Posted by: DOEJN | February 6, 2011 5:43 PM | Report abuse

Good article - ridiculous to FORBID children from walking to school.

Let's be constructive - everyone has a role in solving the obesity crisis.

Posted by: fredcorgi1 | February 7, 2011 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Good article - ridiculous to FORBID children from walking to school.

Let's be constructive - everyone has a role in solving the obesity crisis.

Posted by: fredcorgi1 | February 7, 2011 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Right on.

I walked or took a public bus to school. But, I don't recall a street that didn't have sidewalks. And drivers were more respectful of crosswalks and school speed limits than they are today. Drivers today are even disrespectful of school busses -- witness the installation of cameras to photograph vehicles that zoom around school busses that are picking up or discharging children. Tighten down hard on those drivers and drivers that don't yield at crosswalks and that speed
around schools and on residential streets where children may play.

As for sexual predators: The data are clear. The highest risk by far for sexual child abuse is not from strangers but from persons known to the child, and this includes friends and members of the family.

Posted by: jimb | February 7, 2011 5:08 PM | Report abuse

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