A Visit From Ray LaHood
It is about 7:30 on this bright but overcast morning. Squad cars parked on side streets have their red and blue lights on as I approach the intersection.
Children accompanied by parents and grandparents from four different directions converge on the school building, under the watchful eyes of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.
The schoolyard in the aging neighborhood of middle, upper middle and upper class homes has cops, newspeople an overhead helicopter and a curious number of cyclists milling around.
Ray LaHood, U.S. Secretary of Transportation in the Obama administration has come to St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Grade School on Indianapolis’ northeast side to accompany his grandchildren on their walk to school, and also promoting “Safe Routes to School.”
The Safe Routes to School concept intends that children ought to have a safe way to bike or walk to school, period. Urban planners have sought to incorporate this concept into current and future street designs, a concept often overlooked in the past.
The idea of getting children to school used to focus on bus and car drop offs, as automobile use changed the entire culture.
The current shift in thinking gets a lot of traction when travel time, gas and oil costs, child safety seats, traffic, lack of adequate parking, dangerous drop offs, a lack of exercise value and even road rage can make the school routine unhappy.
The concept also involves city, police and community awareness to make the coming and going safe for children and whoever might accompany them.
An environmentally conscious, healthier approach to living could include the more environmentally friendly, more relaxed practice of walking or biking to go places rather than depend on motorized transportation.
In this vital routine, people can live less expensively and more healthily, with much aggregate benefit, especially when repeated millions of times a day across the planet.
Said Secretary LaHood during a news interview at the site: “This is one of the best examples of a neighborhood school with safe access for children.”
Accompanied by the Mayor of Indianapolis, and U. S. Congressman Andre Carson, other notables present included Andy Clarke, Exec Director of The League of American Bicyclists who just yesterday presented Mayor Ballard with an award naming Indianapolis a bicycle friendly city.
--Photos and article by Mario Vian