Safe Routes struggles to pick up participation

The lament of the do-gooder, we suppose, is that human beings don’t always play along. Or seldom do. While many things may be “good” for people – eating right, not smoking, exercising, etc. – most people do not consistently stay on track. The do-gooder might want to consider that human nature tends to be self-indulgent. Avoiding the hard stuff while still enjoying rewards is a lifestyle – chosen or hard-wired, take your pick.

So we are not surprised, in our day and age of abundant food, video games, electronic devices and other distractions, that many children are overweight, and that they are averse to the outdoors and exercise. Apparently, this reality is hurting participation in the local Safe Routes to School program, which aims to get kids to walk to school. Only about 20 students regularly participate, despite a three-year effort by adult volunteers to promote the concept.

It is apparent to us that parents, as well as their kids, are not enthused about Safe Routes. Parents have expressed various concerns, such as kids being ready on time to join the caravan. Or about students getting to school in time for breakfast. Some parents like the drive time with their children, and perhaps feel more secure dropping them off at school. We also suspect some kids are just good at objecting to walking, with parents unwilling to wage war over the matter.

In the final analysis, Safe Routes is good for participants. Walking to school – or work – is good for anyone. But, again, a good idea and a healthy choice can mean little in the face of alternatives. Safe Routes has tried to cajole and encourage kids to participate. We suppose that’s a good campaign. It just doesn’t seem very effective.

Safe Routes is a volunteer-led program that doesn’t cost the school district any money. So cost isn’t an issue. The question becomes whether the program can be revamped or promoted in a new way to make it matter. Or whether the time and energy going into Safe Routes would be better spent elsewhere in the community.