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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Walking to School: an Important Life Skills Teacher

An acquaintance said that she worried children who do not walk anywhere on their own are not learning the basic life skills of independence, direction and timing…

I couldn't agree more.  I am also highly worried about our obesity rate in Nashville:  greater than 30% in adults!  

In addition to the frankly healthy activity of walking, getting out on foot teaches one many things and enriches life.  

What are we teaching our children when we drive them everywhere?  Can you make an argument that we are teaching them healthy ways?  How to be self-sufficient?  

In terms of time being sedentary, the car drive time adds up quickly.  In addition, the school runs in Nashville adds a significant amount of traffic and air pollution (ie:  idling cars in the queue!) to our environment.

'Over the past few decades, a number of social and environmental changes have limited children’s access to safe places where they can walk, bike and play. As a result, children and adolescents are less physically active than they were a generation ago. For example, traffic dangers, neighborhoods that lack sidewalks and urban sprawl have contributed to a sharp decline in the number of students ages 5 to 18 who walk or bike to school, from 42 percent in 1969 to only 13 percent in 2001.

This decrease in active transport to school coincided with an alarming increase in childhood obesity. During the past four decades the obesity rate for children ages 6 to 11 has more than quadrupled (from 4.2 to 17 percent), and the obesity rate for adolescents ages 12 to 19 has more than tripled (from 4.6 to 17.6 percent). Policies and practices that address environmental barriers to daily physical activity are critical to preventing obesity among children of all ages, and supporting active transport to school presents an excellent opportunity to increase daily physical activity among youth'.

Adding to the health benefits and obesity prevention of walking - the sidewalk can teach additional things (independance, timing, direction) and help create a healthy internal life (public connection with your neighbors, experience of the outdoors, mental clearing).


'The city area, rich or poor or in between, harmed by an interesting sidewalk life and plentiful sidewalk contacts has yet to be found'.

An 'exuberent and varied' sidewalk life - a public life - teaches children (and all people) many things and provides a rich reward when engaged with.  

Compare this to sterile 'grey' areas of your city.  Jane Jacobs, author of The Death and Life of Great American Cities accuretly pins these areas as a 'Great Blight of Dullness'.  

An active sidewalk also provides a safety net as, with this rich public activity, comes 'eyes on the street' - individuals adding up to a culture of people watchers willing to lend a hand to keep all free from harm if ever need be.  


Let's help make Nashville a culture where the 'intricate ballet' of sidewalk culture grows for the health and education of all. 

You are formally invited to a public meeting April 23rd 2014, 6:30 pm, at West End Middle School library. 

We are going to be discussing need for sidewalks in Nashville with a special focus on a pilot project: Bowling Ave.


Jacobs, Jane.  The Death and Life of Great American Cities, 1961

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