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A Simple Six: Test Riding to School

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Test Riding to School

Brent ponders the problems of getting the children to school.


The Challenge of Getting to School
It's been a good slow summer for us over all. I made a list of things for us to work on over the break and we accomplished or tried most of them. Now, here we are a week from starting a new academic year and my biggest concern is how are we getting the children to and from school? They are attending Our Lady of Fatima Parish School for their second year in a row. Our academic journey is a long one and best saved for another blog altogether. Because it is a private school, there is no busing. Last year we drove them to school and drove them home. Some afternoons they would get a ride with a neighbor. Toward the end of the year, we biked a couple mornings to school and walked home many times, even in the rain.

The Problems
This year we have several new obstacles. Avery will be going to school for the first time. This mean that all three of the children need to go in the morning and all three need to get home. That third child, who doesn't bike independently and who weights near 45lbs, adds, literally, to the trip. Even if someone could pick up our children, two extra car seats and three children is a strain on most anyone who is in the area, as they all have three children of their own.

Our second challenge is Oliver. He can stay home with a parent in the morning, but will need to go to school for pick up.

The last challenge is that we (mostly I) don't want to drive our vehicles for the first two and a half weeks of school. If we can overcome this challenge in a simple way, we will stick to our solution, but if it is as complicated as it is looking to be, we will resolve to drive in the morning and flip a coin in the afternoon. Some days a walk is wonderful, others it might be cumbersome.

Solution Options
A few of the options we have considered and some of the foreseeable issues:

Mornings
  • Walking to the nearest bus stop on Charleston Avenue, about fifteen minutes away, and riding the bus for ten minutes directly to the school. One parent, three children.
    • The three routes we can walk to the bus stop are either a) heavily trafficked, b) extremely steep downhill with one way traffic behind us and no sidewalks, c) a rocky run off behind a retaining wall that is not meant for pedestrians, only water, that ends in a parking lot that we would then have to proceed down to the heavily trafficked street.
    • The bus ride would cost us $3 each day
  • Walking to school. One parent, three children.
    • We would need to leave by 7:05am to beat the 8 o'clock tardy bell. That's usually when we are getting up. While this is not a huge problem, or an unsafe one, it's a personal routine issue that we have tried fighting before and have always failed.
    • In rainy weather, we would be more susceptible to getting soaked just due to being outside longer.
  • Biking and jogging to the bus stop on Charleston Avenue, and loading two kid bikes and a stroller onto the bus and riding to school. One parent jogging with Avery in the stroller, Elliot and London riding. The bikes and stroller would remain at school till pick up.
    • See the issues with walking to the bus stop above.
    • There may not be room in the bike rack for two bikes.
    • I haven't practiced converting the bike trailer into a stroller or collapsing it yet, so it may not even be reasonable to do this everyday. There may not be room for the stroller on the bus.
    • There are no bike racks at school.
  • Biking to school. One parent with Avery in tow, Elliot and London independent.
    • It's 70% uphill to school from our house.
    • The roads to school are riddled with difficulties and dangers. There are some blind intersections, some very fast roads, lack of side walks, several one way streets, some extremely steep inclines, many allies and drive ways.
Afternoons depending on Morning methods
  • Walking to school with Oliver and riding the bus back to the stop and walking everyone home.
    • The walk would take 45minutes to get to school with Oliver in the backpack carrier or a stroller.
    • It would cost $3 a day to ride home.
    • The walk home from the bus stop would be more treacherous than the walk to the stop because of going up hill and against traffic.
  • Walking to school with Oliver and walking everyone home.
    • It would be more than two hours to complete a pick up using this method. I think of those people who did this everyday, back in the day.
  • Walking or biking to the bus stop on Charleston with Oliver, riding to the school, then doing one of the two above.
    • Same issues as the morning and above.
  • Biking to school with Oliver and biking everyone home, if they got to school on their bikes, or walking everyone home and walking the bike.
    • If I had to walk the bike home, Oliver would have to sit in the bike seat as I couldn't carry him, hold his hand and the bike or bring a backpack on the bike. Assuming the children and the trailer didn't go to school in the morning.
    • Same dangers and difficulties as mentioned for biking in the morning.
Can you see why driving would be a lot more simple and sane!

What to Do?
I was not about to give up on this problem. Brent and I were both concerned about finding the safest and most reasonable way to transport the children. It was looking to us, like walking or biking round trip, would fit the bill. Tonight we took London and Oliver out for a test ride to school. We came across some interesting options (driveways that connect to allies to avoid steep hills and dangerous intersections) and some good advice from our Critical Mass organizer Joel (whom we happened to pass and delay in order to get the scoop on an alternate to Norway Avenue). Tomorrow we are going to give it another try with new directions and further map exploration.

Trial One 

View Larger Map

A rough outline of our route today. 
Hills are so hard to photograph. This is climbing up Wiltshire Blvd.
Looking back down Wiltshire.


We stopped by a friend's garden to pluck some produce.


The okra were tough to break off, we should have brought a knife.

Turning right onto Woodland.

Climbing Roland Park hill. London had to walk it.

Deciding to turn down Walnut to our left instead of climbing more of Roland.

Walnut was fun to ride down after that haul up Roland.

Turning right onto Norway from Walnut. Very unsafe to ride this road, we took the sidewalk.

We thought we could get off Norway by turning right on Gallaher, but it was up up up and there were no streets that seem to cross toward the school

See, it's up, up, up!!

We ended up turning around and going back to Norway all the way to school. Long drink breaks and another contemplation about what route would be more safe.
Coming down Norway, the wrong way on a one way, we stayed on the sidewalk. This is a gravel wash out that was trick to ride through. London wobbled a lot.

This is another busy and dangerous intersection in front of Gallaher Library. Norway continues to the left, toward our home.

We sat here for a while discussing whether getting on the street (Norway) in line with traffic was safer than getting on the sidewalk on the left side of the road. We took the sidewalk.

There was another gravel wash out area in front of the Fire Dept on Norway. If we choose this route I might ask them to clear this. It was there in the spring when we were going by too.

We turned up Fairfax, it was short climb up, then downhill. This is where we spotted an alley that would cut back toward Woodland quicker.  Shortly afterward we saw Joel and got information about another route to try tomorrow.

When we got home I looked up the maps and directions and set to work on trial two!

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