Not too long ago, I snuck out of work to attend a school function in the middle of the day. As I was walking into the building, I noticed the bike rack. It was rather large and ornate with two sculpted bicycles on either end. The inscription read “Compliments of the PTO.” It was also virtually empty.
I asked people if they noticed the rack. All commented on the gaudiness of the artwork. None commented on the utility. When I see a bike rack in front of school, I remember the pile of bikes that overflowed the rack to the point that the only place to lock a bike was to another bike. The wonderful daisy chain still occupies a special part of my memory.
I started wondering why there was a significant lack of bikes. Was it the weather? No, it was unseasonably warm. Busy roads? Nope, the school was deep in a residential neighborhood. Then why?
I asked parents. The best I could get was a sheepish admission that the busing and driving was preferable since we are all so busy. I asked the kids. The best I could get from them is an admission that they never really thought of doing that since the bus stop was right there or Mom always drove.
What happened to us? How do we change this destructive pattern? It seems that we have reached the ultimate limit. Bribery. Sad but true. You know the feeling. If you have been around kids, you have been there too. First you ask, then beg, then bribe.
The Guardian is reporting that the UK is considering paying for kids to ride to school. Parents actually are upset. Some say there is a safety issue. I think that is a red herring as they let their kids ride the same roads at other times especially during rush hour. The only possible exception is the parents themselves. I’ve seen the way they fly into the parking lot to drop off their kids before the opening bell. Others say paying sends the wrong message. I totally agree! But I think we disagree on which is the wrong message. I think the wrong message is that we had to resort to paying someone to do something they should want to do naturally.