Why I Loathe “Walk and Bike to School Day”

My daughter stood, frozen by social anxiety and her sense of propriety, about 10 feet away from the “Walk and Bike to School” table.

She had spotted a friend and wanted to walk into the school together. Thanks to my merciless use of the timer this morning, we had gotten there early enough for open gym: ten minutes of free play before the school day begins.

“Just go over there and say, “Hi,” to her,” I said.

“I can’t. I can’t go up to that table. We didn’t walk or bike.”

“It’s okay. You don’t have to take a granola bar or sticker. Just go say, “Hi,” to your friend and ask her to walk in with you.”

“I can’t. I can’t. I can’t!”

“It’s okay. Look, she’s not at the table anymore. I’ll go over there with you.”

She finally relaxed enough to go talk to her friend. I noticed they were giving rewards to the kids who took the school bus, too.

Her friend wanted to know if we walked or biked that morning.

My daughter was crest-fallen. She hung her head and said, quietly, “No.”

I told her friend, “Oh, we live too far away. Hey, let’s go into open gym!”

As we walked in, my daughter asked, as she does every last Friday of the month, “Why don’t we walk or bike to school?”

“Well, we don’t live in this neighborhood. It would take us at least an hour. We are not going to leave at 6:30 in the morning.”

And you still ride with training wheels. And we have a baby who still wakes up several times a night. And I’m not in good enough shape to ride all that way with a baby in a trailer and you on a tandem or something, and, and, and OH-MY-EFFING-GOD I have done an “active commute” my whole life and I get to drive now!!!!!

(That last part was what I thought, not what I said, in case you couldn’t tell.)

I hate walk and bike to school day.

I should love it, because:

  1. It is always easy to find a parking place at the school those mornings when almost everybody else is walking and biking.
  2. I work in public health. Walking and biking reduces obesity, and I’ve promoted “Walk and Bike to School Day” and “Safe Routes to School” in a bunch of different ways over the years.
  3. I’ve never been much of a driver. Until the past two years, I’ve walked and taken the bus just about everywhere. I’ve bike-commuted. I’ve regularly walked 20 blocks to get to work.
  4. My husband bike commutes every day, and it’s one of the reasons I love him.
  5. I believe in it. It’s good for kids’ health and good for the environment.

But I just completely loathe it.

It makes me feel so guilty for not living up to my ideals.

Not only am I driving a big, gas-guzzling minivan with four kids in it to school… I’m not taking my daughter to our neighborhood school either. Instead, we sent her to the same school my stepsons attend, which happens to be two miles away (well, 1.9 miles to be exact).

That’s two counts against my liberal, progressive philosophy.

According to the Enneagram, my personality type is Type One: The Reformer:

Ones are conscientious and ethical, with a strong sense of right and wrong. They are teachers, crusaders, and advocates for change: always striving to improve things, but afraid of making a mistake. Well-organized, orderly, and fastidious, they try to maintain high standards, but can slip into being critical and perfectionistic. They typically have problems with resentment and impatience. At their Best: wise, discerning, realistic, and noble. Can be morally heroic.

Ones have a “sense of mission” that leads them to want to improve the world in various ways, using whatever degree of influence they have. They strive to overcome adversity—particularly moral adversity—so that the human spirit can shine through and make a difference. They strive after “higher values,” even at the cost of great personal sacrifice.

So, in other words, I have high ideals, and if I can’t live up to them, then I feel like a failure.

That makes me feel resentful.

And, oh yes, all those years of walking and taking the bus have meant a great deal of personal sacrifice.

Bus commuters have lower obesity rates: Must be from running after the bus

Beginning in high school, my “active commute” has involved:

  • Walking several blocks and then standing by the side of the road in the rain.
  • Walking home in the dark by myself.
  • Being late to the bus-stop by 30 seconds means being late to work by 30 minutes.
  • Getting left at the bus-stop by full buses, or buses that never showed up.
  • Crying in the middle of the street as the bus driver drives past me, shaking his head… as I’m trying to get to my prenatal appointment across town.
  • Not always knowing how I was going to get where I needed to be.
  • Carrying a sleepy two-year old to the bus stop at 7:45 am so I can get to work by 9 am.
  • Getting her home 12 hours later.
  • Dragging a resistant three-year old three blocks while she hits and scratches me so we can make the bus.
  • Making that same three-year old sit in a separate seat on the bus because she is kicking me and knocking off my glasses, while everybody stares.
  • Doing all of the above during a very vulnerable pregnancy.

I could go on and on.

And on.

Suffice it to say, I feel like I’ve done my part for the environment. I’ve walked or taken the bus pretty much everywhere for 25 years.

And that’s without anybody waiting to give me a granola bar or a sticker.

Tuesday is the kick-off to “Walk and Bike to School MONTH.” I think we’ll park the van five blocks away from school and walk the rest of the way. Heck, that’s how far the rest of those families have to go.

How do you get your kids to school? How do you feel about it?

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Part of the solution since 1973.

5 thoughts on “Why I Loathe “Walk and Bike to School Day”

  1. This is hilarious! Your Enneagram sure is accurate, isn’t it? I hate that feeling of not living up to my own ideals. I remember being an active commuter in University. Because I couldn’t afford public transport either. Walking backwards in the dead of winter to keep my face from freezing solid. (Think Montreal!). But pregnant? With a screaming 3 year old! You are way more woman than I am! 😉

    1. Thanks for the validation!!! I am always a little embarrassed about this post, because it could be so misunderstood, but I think you got it!!

      That sounds really, really cold.

  2. Kylie, I HATE riding the bus, I also get road rage, care about the environment, etc. so I bike commute nearly every day, rain or shine. My commute is 5 miles and this takes about 18 minutes. I think this summer would be a great opportunity for you to get on two wheels! 1.9 miles wouldn’t take an hour, I promise. 30 minutes max if you are seriously leisurely. My 18 minute commute is a 45 minute drive with rush hour traffic, so you may be pleasantly surprised that you actually save time, money and feel free and empowered!
    May 13th, Mother’s Day is also the Cyclofemme event at Woodlawn Park- there will be women of all shapes and sizes, modes of bike with and without kids displaying their love for bikes as part of the Sunday Parkways event. I hope you guys can make it and be inspired!!
    http://bikeportland.org/2012/03/27/portland-will-join-global-cyclo-femme-ride-69483

    1. Haha. Thanks Jaime! I have bike commuted and it was great. I miss it. Maybe you should be the one to teach the kiddo to ride. She loves riding her bike but she hasn’t exactly mastered it yet We have an awesome route to the school The choices are Fremont or a street with no sidewalks but plenty of potholes. Plus you get to cross both Cully and Sandy!! And towing a 30 lb toddler is an added fitness component. Really, what’s not to love? I’m really not trying to be dismissive but there are some very real challenges.

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