It’s the week after Labor Day, and school is back in session. In Southern California that means schools become gridlocked traffic zones twice a day, with literally millions of idling cars burning gas, pumping CO2 into the atmosphere, and creating school zones that are unsafe for pedestrians and bicycles. The percentage of kids who walk or bike to school has plummeted in the last 30 years, and rates of childhood obesity have skyrocketed. As the parent of two children, I worry about their safety, and only allow them to ride to school if I’m riding with them. My oldest takes the bus to the local community college, and I’m proud of him for that, but my youngest usually gets driven to school, which is about 4 miles from our house, so I’m part of the problem. I see parents drive their kids to school from houses that are as little as 1/4 mile from school, then, of course, drive them to some after school sports “activity” so they get exercise. What lesson are we teaching our children when we drive them to school (indeed, most parents drive their kids pretty much everywhere)? Seems to me we’re teaching them that cars are the norm, and anything else is, well, weird.
Earlier this week, not far from my house, a girl riding her bike to school in the morning was struck by a woman in a small SUV (there’s an oxymoron) who said she saw the girl, but said she mistakenly hit the accelerator instead of the brake, and pinned the girl and her bike under the front bumper of her SUV. I don’t know the extent of the girl’s injuries, but thank goodness she was not killed. The driver, according to press reports, was not cited. To me, this is not just carelessness, but negligent operation of dangerous, heavy machinery on the public roadway.
I’m angry. Angry that a girl who was doing the right thing by riding her bike to school was injured by a negligent or incompetent driver. One more in the hundreds of thousands of Americans killed or injured by cars every year. Angry that using a 2,500 lb motor vehicle negligently and injuring a human being does not even warrant a slap on the wrist. No citation, no traffic school, nothing. I’m angry that our society continues to privilege cars despite the damage they do to our health, our communities, and our environment. I’m angry that people who do the right thing by riding a bike for transportation must put themselves at unacceptable risk with too little protection from police or community leaders.
I want safe streets so that children can walk or ride bikes to school without fear of being hit by a car. I want drivers to be held responsible when they injure someone with their steel projectiles. I guess that makes me weird.