As you read my blogs over time, you will find a common theme - walking, biking, or using some other form of nonvehicular transport to get around the township. Last week, I wrote about "Pints for the Park," a very successful (thanks everyone!) event for at in Ardmore. Linwood Park is generally a park people walk to. The event at Brownie's was an event many people, even Sam and Mary Jane Quinn of Narberth, walked to. Hopefully, many people walked home after having had a few "pints for the park."
Now, on the eve of the last day of school for Lower Merion public schools, I am writing about walking to school. Most of us in Ardmore can't walk to school. We are bused to elementary, middle, and now, high school. Well, we could physically walk to school, but there are no sidewalks around the schools that half of South Ardmore goes to (Penn Valley, Welsh Valley, and Harriton - I have a child at each) so it would be dangerous and very time consuming at 7:00 in the morning.
My son goes to Harriton High School. He has to go there and not , which we can easily walk to, because our area of South Ardmore lost choice in redistricting a few years ago. There is a whole other story behind that, but for now let me stick to this story.
Last week, my son missed the morning bus to school. He is finishing his sophmore year and has only missed the bus a handful of times over the past two years, so I don't get too upset as we climb into the car and set off across the Township to Harriton. I am still wearing my glasses, slippers, and have not had coffee yet. Still, I am not upset.
Ten to fifteen minutes later we get to the intersection of Old Gulph Rd. and North Ithan Ave. ( I know, where?). Harriton is on N. Ithan. As soon as I turn the corner, I am in a line of traffic that extends to the driveway at Harriton and snakes up the drive, through the parking lot, to the student drop off point. Really, I can't believe it. My son informs me that it is like this every morning. Every morning for 180 days there is a line of vehicles - very few Priuses I must say, think Lexus SUV - idling as they wait in traffic to drop their child off at a LEED certified school. I would drop my son off at the corner and tell him to walk the rest of the way, but there is no sidewalk.
Does anyone else see the irony in this?
What are we teaching our children if we build multimillion dollar schools that they cannot access or leave without a car/vehicle? If parents have their children take the bus instead of driving it alleviates some of the issue, but in high school the kids drive themselves.
What are the solutions? I cannot pretend to know them all but I can throw a few out there for consideration- let kids go to the school closest to their house that they can also walk to, build sidewalks and bike lanes throughout the township to ensure "Safe Routes to School", the school district should do long term planning in collaboration with the township to look into acquistion or reacquistion of possible school buildings within walkable neighborhoods, and teach our children about the environmental benefits of walking and biking while building infrastructure to support it.
Let's go back to the future and join the 21st century with basic bike and pedestrian access to our schools and throughout the township.