By Justyna Sweny
Five-year old Camila de Almeida of North York would have been starting Grade 1 this September – except that she’s not and never will be. Her life was cut short all too quickly when she was pinned between two vehicles during the afternoon pickup from her school in January.
Let me be clear, this tragedy was no one person’s fault. No one set out on that afternoon to be careless or lazy. But I can’t help but feel that what happened to Camila was symptomatic of a bigger problem: children are no longer walking to school.
All of us parents have been there on those frenzied mornings looking around the drop-off zone thinking “this is insane.” Last year on the first day of school I saw what were clearly tire tracks right through the flower garden around our school’s flagpole. I also witnessed a parent driving their black SUV into the side of a school bus trying to escape the parking lot by driving up the wrong side of a median. I can’t even count the number of times I watched a little person escaping the clutches of their parents and almost being hit by a car. It is insane indeed.
We seriously need to reconsider the amount of time our children spend in cars. Like many parents, when my alarm goes off in the morning and I think of all the things I have to do that day, I want to hide. A 20-minute walk to school is just one more thing on my to-do list.
I don’t enjoy the smirks on the faces of my childless colleagues when I’m the last one to arrive in the office either, but I know that it won’t be like this forever. Pretty soon my daughter will be embarrassed to be seen with me in public and that’s OK. For now I am happy to have her to myself for the 20 minutes it takes for us to get to school.
Aside from the obvious cognitive and health benefits of walking to school, the advantages are pretty clear: it’s safer.