Two days ago, an “06880” reader suggested lowering the driving age to 14.
Here’s another thought: Make ’em walk.
It’s not my idea. I stole it from the New York Times, which reported on a town in Italy that eliminated most school buses and parent drivers. Instead, paid staff members and parent volunteers lead lines of walking students to school — “Pied Piper-style, stopping here and there as their flock expands.”
The town’s “piedibuses” (the Italian sounds better than “foot buses”) have saved more than 100,000 miles of car travel, and prevented tons of greenhouses gases from entering the air.
Here in the U.S. a few places — Marin County and Boulder, go figure — have introduced modest “walking-bus programs,” but the concept is foreign to most of us.
Westport — home of the first plastic bag ordinance east of the Mississippi — would seem to be a perfect place to try. We could save gas, help the environment, unjam roads, amortize our sidewalks, promote fitness, give students more time to socialize, give parents more time to themselves, and (the big one) cut some buses out of our education budget.
Walking to school might lighten backpacks too. Kids today haul all their earthly possessions everywhere — more academic, less migratory versions of the Joad family.
The downside? Drivers still on the road — those hustling to work, or their workout appointments — would be freed up to speed up. Our streets are already riskier than Baghdad’s; adding hundreds of potential targets might not be the smartest idea to come down the pike.
On the other hand, it’s worth a try. Perhaps we can use the stimulus package to put Pied Pipers to work, leading ever-expanding flocks up and down North Avenue.