From Canyon to Cove: Schools say 'no' to Walk and Roll

October 14, 2010|By Cindy Frazier,

Proponents of Complete Streets were disappointed that the Laguna Beach Unified School District declined their invitation to be part of Walk and Roll to School Day, Oct. 6.

Other school districts and cities in Orange County promoted the event with special chaperones for the kids, banners and the general feeling that this was a worthwhile activity, good for the environment and for the health of the students, many of whom have a too-sedentary lifestyle.

In San Juan Capistrano, for instance, parents got out and accompanied kids on walks to schools. Other cities also got on the bandwagon. In L.A., the week was capped with a "take-back-the-streets" event on Sunday in which major downtown thoroughfares were cordoned off and only bicyclists were permitted, with hundreds in attendance, including some of Laguna's avid cycling community.


How could Walk and Roll to School Day be ignored in Laguna, which arguably boasts some of the most active environmentalists around? The reason given by school officials: It's just not safe to walk or bike to school here.

Les Miklosy, who heads the Environmental Committee's Complete Streets Task Force — a group that aims to put more bicycles on city streets and promote pedestrianism — was not happy that his invitation for the district to participate in the event was rebuffed. Miklosy wants to get people to give up their cars in favor of human-powered transport, but this didn't fly with the district.

In a Sept. 22 letter to Miklosy, Norma Shelton, the district's Asst. Supt. for Business Services, wrote:

"The administrators have discussed the [Walk and Roll to School Week/Day] event and what ways the district might participate. However, the main theme of the event causes us the most concern.

"The School District provides transportation to students, not just as a convenience, but as a safety issue. Many of the streets in Laguna Beach do not provide a safe route from our students' residences to our campuses. Therefore, although we may agree with elements of the event, we feel it would encourage an unsafe activity."

Miklosy says he was frustrated that the district rebuffed his invitation after weeks of mulling it over. "The whole nation is doing this," he said. "Michelle Obama is endorsing walking and biking to school."

Even if not all kids in the far-flung district participated, "Neighborhood kids could walk or bike to school," he said.

But that's not how the district sees it.

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