The Car Line

We’ve received two “car line” notices from my daughter’s school in the last few weeks, both of which seem to be discouraging either walking to school or parking and walking to avoid the car line.  Here is an excerpt of what came home on Friday:

  • Please do not park in Baker’s Loft parking lot in the morning or afternoon… It is not safe to have your child cross the driveway where cars are exiting the morning car line.
  • Due to closure of Lincoln, there is increased traffic coming down Columbia which makes it difficult for cars to pull out.  When foot traffic is added, it only slows the process down and brings the car line to a halt.  With this in mind, please do not park in undesignated areas on Columbia or 22nd and walk your child over.
  • If you are able, we encourage you to use the car line, despite the few extra minutes it takes, for the safety of our students.  Thank you.

Emphases are mine. When I unpack this memo a little bit, I notice that there are appeals to safety the first and third bullet points. It’s hard to argue with safety, especially when we’re talking about our children. The logic is problematic here, though: Cars are dangerous to our kids, and we’d like to address this danger by introducing still more cars into the system. The second bullet point clarifies what  this may really be  all about – keep the car line moving!

There are many, many places where this wouldn’t be surprising, but this is a city school in a traditional neighborhood. It was built in the era of sidewalks and city blocks.  There are no cul-de-sacs to make walking impractical, no arterial roads to make walking dangerous, no deep set-backs to require kids to cross a treacherous parking lot.  What we do seem to have is a modern suburban mind which prioritizes people in cars over people on foot.

Whew.  This afternoon I both talked to my daughter’s teacher and stopped in the office for clarification.  Both sources told me rather emphatically that NO, this school does NOT discourage walking, at all!  I found the emphatic denial of any bias against walking reassuring – these memos had me dismayed beyond words – but as a new parent I’m still struggling to parse the mixed messages I hear coming from the school.

In our few weeks at this school, however, this is what I see: The car line is a well-oiled machine. Truly, it is impressive.  Pick-up for walkers, however, does not seem to be, consisting of what appears to be a smooshed group of parents reduced to milling around on the sidewalk in no particular order.

I think that the time is ripe for a Safe Routes to School program here.  I learned who my initial contact needs to be in my visit to the office this afternoon, and will follow up on this in coming weeks.  Without question, we want to keep our kids safe.  The real question is how.


(I apologize for the wacky formatting of this post, by the way.  The code that’s visible to me looks fine; no idea why it looks like a mess.)