Friday, September 2, 2011

You're in Trouble, Little Girl!!!

A fifth-grader in Tennessee was recently taken home by the police. Was she lost or hurt? Was she caught with drugs? Had she TP'ed a house? Painted graffiti? No. Why was she picked up by the police and taken home then? She was riding her bike to school!!!

From Bike Walk Tennessee (the blog of Tennessee's statewide advocacy organization): 
...the mother was informed that she was breaking the law by allowing her daughter to ride/walk to school.
Say whaaaaaaa?

By way of providing a little more background information, the League of American Bicyclists (LAB) futher explains:
The student trying to get to school really doesn’t have a lot of options to riding the mile from home to school on the road – her neighborhood has no sidewalks; there aren’t any alternate routes; her mother can’t drive her; the police didn’t really help her with a solution; the school bus isn’t an option. Besides, riding is a good option – it’s quicker and healthier; the streets are pretty quiet; many ten-year olds are quite capable of riding in that environment; and her mom shouldn’t have to drive her.
This situation is wrong on so many levels. Mostly, though, it illustrates to me the incredibly misplaced emphasis on motorized transportation that has dominated American life for decades. This emphasis clouds the judgment of law enforcement and people who should know better to the point that they threaten to hold the mother criminally negligent if she lets her daughter ride to school again. It's simply absurd.

How can allowing a ten-year-old to bicycle to school on quiet residential streets be criminally negligent when allowing this to happen is not?

The average American child spends between four and seven minutes playing outside per day.
This little girl's behavior should be encouraged, not criminalized. Her mother is a hero in my book for not simply rolling over to authority and for actually questioning the logic and legal reasoning behind the statements, determinations, and threats of the police and the mayor.

The situation also speaks to the need, as pointed out by LAB to fight for the Safe Routes to School Program in the Transportation Budget. Republicans in Congress are intent on cutting it from the budget even though it helps to "build sidewalks and trails to schools; to add bike lanes, signs and markings on roads around schools; to deliver critical bicycling and traffic safety education to students; to support bike trains and walking school buses; and even to begin to tackle bigger issues of school siting and access." 

<sarcasm>But I suppose keeping taxes low on the rich is more important, as is making sure huge corporations like GE continue to have zero tax liability.</sarcasm> How have our nation's priorities become so misplaced?!?!?!?!

Sometimes, a picture is worth a thousand words, so I leave you with one of my all-time favorite Yehuda Moon cartoons, which touches on this issue. For the uninitiated, the bearded man in the strip is Yehuda, co-owner of a bicycle shop and a very outspoken advocate for cyclists. (I highly recommend the strip. It's very entertaining, insightful, and has a compelling storyline.)

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