Safe streets are the best tool we have to combat climate change - Curbed

Started in 1997, International Walk to School Day now counts tens of thousands of students in 40 countries—including students at 5,100 schools in the U.S. alone—who pledge to walk and bike to school on the same day each year. Walk to School Day also brings attention to the dismal conditions under which many students must walk and bike to school every day.

That is, if their parents even allow them to walk or bike. Where I live, in Los Angeles, it’s not hard to understand why most parents don’t. Here, on streets designed for the fast movement of cars, traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for kids aged 4 to 15.

At least once a month when I’m talking to fellow parents, I hear a different version of the same sentiment: “I have to drive my kids to school—it’s too dangerous for them to walk.”

Reverting to cars for short trips like the journey to school is one reason that transportation emissions keep going up in the U.S.—a third of our vehicular trips are three miles or less. Yet you can see the evidence that people want to walk and bike on virtually any weekend in the U.S. People of all ages move through our cities during open streets events—in LA’s case, its over 100,000 people per event. But the reason those people aren’t traveling on foot or bike along the same streets to school or work on Monday? They don’t feel safe.

The new reality of our climate crisis has been outlined in stark detail by a devastating United Nation report published this week; it’s clear that unsafe pedestrian and biking conditions in our cities could end up making climate change much, much worse.

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