We live in one of those gated neighborhoods which are very common in the Tampa area. I’m not a snob, and I have no illusions that the gate does much to keep bad people out. There are paths on either side of the gate, so you can freely walk into my neighborhood. And all you have to do is wait for a car who has the coded sticker on their window or a driver with the right code, and follow them in. This just happens to be where I found a house in our price range, big enough to comfortably fit us, and available when I needed it. The gate was not a factor in determining which house to rent.
Because of the gate, the school bus doesn’t come in. Students get dropped off at one entrance or the other – one about a half mile down the road from the other. If you made a complete loop through the neighborhood, including the outside bit along the public road between the two gates, you will have done a 5k – convenient for those of us who run, or wish to run.
By this calculation, the farthest any student would have to travel from their home to the bus stop would be under a mile and a half. Every time I go out in the afternoon to take a kid to something or run an errand, I see a dozen cars or more parked at the entrance, waiting for the bus.
I realize that, like me, some parents need to rush their kids off to after school activities or on errands. Or they need the kids to come home quickly to do homework before rushing off to activities. Or maybe sometimes the weather is bad (afternoon thunderstorms being very common this time of year). Or maybe a kid is injured or has some other condition that prevents them from walking. And maybe that kindergartener who lives all the way in the back of the neighborhood would have a hard time trudging that full distance.
But is it possible, even likely, that most of these parents just think it’s too much for their children to walk home? Or too dangerous to walk down the sidewalk in a gated neighborhood? I know that in some communities (on military installations, for example) an 11 year old would not be permitted to walk home alone (and I think that is ridiculous), but must they be picked up in a car? Surely, not all these children live clumped at that mile-plus section of the neighborhood. I’m sure they are spread out – a half mile or three-quarters of a mile away instead.
We have NYC outlawing soda in large quantities in the fight against obesity. I think the problem isn’t the food we eat as much as it is the reality that we just won’t exercise, even when it’s the natural and necessary thing to do.