The weekend I moved to Woodbury almost 17 years ago from NYC, I put my baby Jake in a carrier and walked to Woodbury Commons to get a cup of coffee. More than one misguided, but well meaning neighbor stopped me to offer a ride. I have no doubt that my new neighbors' intent was to be welcoming and kind. But, to rescue someone from walking on a beautiful day struck me as absurd. Nobody offers me rides anymore. Everyone in town is used to the sight of me walking, running or if I'm very lucky cross country skiing with sometimes as many as 4 kids and my dog in tow.
Obviously active transportation, which refers to any human-powered transportation such as walking, running, biking, skating and even skateboarding is not a new idea. When I was a kid, even though my parents gave me plenty of rides, just as often I walked or took my bike. Active transportation gave me a sense of freedom. Not long ago, I spoke to a group of seniors from Jericho High School. I asked them how many had a bike, (all) and how many had ridden it in the last week (none). They told me bike riding was too dangerous. I told them I think sitting on the couch is even more dangerous.
Sometimes I joke with my oldest son that I feel I am raising him like a veal. I am always giving him permission to walk places even when he would much prefer a ride. When did walking to your friends house, which was pretty standard behavior when I was growing up, become viewed as reckless behavior? Why if I walk to Stop & Shop do you assume my car is in the shop? Why is using active transportation so frowned upon in the suburbs?
Of course I want my kids to be safe. I also want them to be independent, self reliant and physically active. Allowing them to get places on their own steam accomplishes all of these things.