Kids Walking to School

A new University of Montreal study suggests only about 30 percent of kids walk or bike to school.

Now, I say “suggests” because they taught me in journalism school to say that. A study can never “show” or “prove” anything, my bloggies, because it only looks at a small sample of the population.

Particularly true in this case. It only looked at about 1500 kids, and in only two communities, both of which are in Quebec: Montreal, and Trois Rivieres. So you should take the results of the study with a bit of a grain of salt. Maybe it just so happens there isn’t a big culture of walking in those two communities– or maybe they did the study in the dead of winter. I’ve never been to Trois Rivieres in the winter (I sort of passed through in the summer a couple of years ago, on the way to P.E.I.), but walking around Montreal on a frigid, windblown, sub-zero day in Montreal is like having your face grated off with an ice-cold cheese grater, I wouldn’t wish it on an enemy, let alone my own child.

So you have to take the results of this study with a bit of a grain of salt.

Still, it’s a worrisome notion– on the surface. A 1971 study suggested 80 percent of Canadian children aged 7 and 8 walk to school.

Now it’s more like 30 percent, and of those 80 percent travel less than 600 kilometers.

And, last study I quote, walking to school is good for you: another study Mack was reading about indicated kids who walked to school were generally more active throughout the day.

Why are kids walking less? Dr. Paul Lewis, leader of the team of researchers who conducted the study, says, very confidently: “The decrease in walking and bicycling in Western societies is the consequence of a general trend towards sedentary lifestyles. This decline is explained by urban sprawl, greater distance to travel to more activities and modern schedules featuring tighter time-management.”

He says parents surveyed travel by car and do not set a good example for their children. “Even when the school is 300 meters away, some parents drive their children because it is on their way or they are leaving at the same time,” stresses Dr. Lewis. “Parents fear for their children’s safety in high urbanized environments. Safety takes precedence over health.”

Uh…yeah. Sounds about right to me. And blah blah blah according to Dr. Lewis our new sedentary lifestyles lead to obesity and etc etc.

The shocked tones in which Dr. Lewis makes the statement “Safety takes precedence over health” makes Mack wonder if he is actually a parent himself– and if not, and even if he is, he should probably just stick to reporting his findings and keep his proboscis out of the interpretation jar.

I mean, what’s all this “do not set a good example” stuff. Dollars to doughnuts dr. Lewis isn’t a parent himself, or if he is he’s got maybe one kid.

Dr. Lewis: Mack can tell you what’s going on. In 1971 kids 7 and 8 walked to school by themselves. Now parents have to incorporate them into their busy schedules, because they don’t want them grabbed by a pedophile and chopped up and found in little pieces in garbage bags around the city.

So, yes, “safety takes precedence over health,” Dr. Lewis. And before ye judge us, Dr. Lewis, those of us who, like Mack Daddy (and my kids all walk to school, so I’m not saying this out of reflexive self-defense, it is literally a disinterested use of words) have not one not two but three kids, drive a mile in our SUVs.

We don’t have cushy university jobs where we can show up at eleven and head home at three and get every summer and every whole seventh year off (my dad was a prof, so don’t even try to front, Dr. Summersoff) aka “sabbatical”– my Dad had so much time on his hands he didn’t even know what to do with all his time: he collected cars, he made home-made wine, he was all over the place– but the rest of us, Her Professor go flying out of the house in the morning, and it’s not only school it’s hockey games, guitar lessons, swimming lessons, volleyball practice– I could go on, but the point is maybe you should drive a mile in our SUVs before you presume to judge us on our habits and “sedentary” lives and the bad example we set for our kids.

Now, Dr. Lewis, if you have numerous kids and are very busy going to conferences and so on (even then I’m not sure I buy it, though: my father was always going to conferences, esp. in Europe, and came back assuring us all how busy and productive it had all been: young Mack wondered, though, how busy it had all been when Mack’s Daddy tried to write a book on the beers of Europe, based on the expertise he had accumulated during all these conferences), I beg your pardon and please accept Mack’s sincerest apologies.

If not, just stick to the facts, hotshot. Especially if you have no kids at all. Mack hates it when people with no kids presume to judge. Both Mack and Ms. Daddy are ashamed of the times we used to debate how Ms. Daddy’s sister could do things better back when she had kids and we didn’t.

What did we know? Nothing. Nothing at all. No one who doesn’t have kids should ever comment on parenting.

About Author:

Writer David Eddie works at home and spends much of his time looking after his three boys. He’s no minivan-driving kind of parent, though. David Eddie is Mack Daddy.