Alabama Students Walk to School to Protest Gas Prices

alabama_students.jpg
On their way to class, Brooks High students brave the shoulder along route 72.

Perhaps taking a page from their peers in New Jersey, students at Brooks High in Florence, Alabama are ditching their cars in favor of walking to school. The Times Daily of northwest Alabama reports:

Students began wondering how much they could change gas prices by
getting the whole student body to walk to school. Without involving the
school or the administration, approximately 50 classmates were
recruited during a meeting last week. The students drew maps and
planned for two groups to walk from Killen and Center Star to school.

The students have been walking to school all week. There is much to commend here: The civic-mindedness, the willingness to walk a not-insignificant distance (along a route so hazardous that cops have to check in on them), and the tacit understanding that reducing VMT can reduce dependence on gas. The students even had to work around parade rules that could have put a crimp in their protest plans. And the organizers anticipate that high gas prices are not going away anytime soon:

The group will continue its protest until the last day of school on May
29. Simbeck and McCutchen said they also plan to continue the protest
next school year as seniors.

That said, and this may just be a matter of how the reporter chose to word the story, this high school protest appears to be more of a cry for help at the pump than an assertion of pedestrian and cyclist rights. Then again, who wouldn’t turn to pedestrian advocacy after a week of walking, with no sidewalk and apparently no trees, along traffic-dominated, sun-scorched U.S. 72?

Photo: Times Daily

  • Tony

    Perhaps they should have biked instead…
    Go bicycles!!

  • laurel

    There must be something about Alabama. This is the third high school “gas price protest” i’ve heard of. The previous two had the students on bikes.

    The first i heard of was in Eclectic; the second in Glencoe, 100 miles to the north. Florence is another hundred miles north and west of Glencoe.

    There are also hints that while this may be triggered by prices, it may not be entirely a price protest, but a dependency protest. Which to me is much more interesting!

    -Laurel

  • I think this is great– it shows just how silly it is that there are no sidewalks!

  • This is the generational divide– our elders who created this built environment have left us on the median, on the edge of the road without any options.

    I can’t get over the fact that their parents are in the cars whizzing by.

  • moocow

    It does seem like a price protest, not a “Dependency” protest. American teenagers protesting that gas is too expensive is obnoxious, and I hope that is not what is happening here. The ruckus in NJ is about not being allowed to bike to school, a worthwhile subject to make a stink about. I hope I have it wrong with these Alabama students, and wish them strength to keep it up.

  • James

    It’s good to see this. Generation Y gets this, but older folks seem to be taking longer to make the connection, and the oldest among us will probably never make the connection. The horrible land use patterns that predominate over vast swaths of the US are going to become everyone’s worst enemy as we adjust to the “new normal”. And I’m less than surprised to see that the local school district had only a limp, bureaucratic response to offer, rather than doing something to facilitate the students’ initiative.

  • Um… here’s a crazy idea, take the school bus. I seemed to have gotten back and forth to high school (as did most of my peers) on the bus. Crazy as that might seem; granted, it was the 1980s so it was lawless and wild like that.

  • Charlie D.

    Generation Y very much recognizes that our parents’ dream of a big house on a cul-di-sac in a leafy suburb is not a dream that we want.

    I can’t help but notice how young people are repopulating and reinvesting in neighborhoods in cities and older suburbs that were all but given up on by the older generation. Having a lot of land, a big house, and plentiful parking is just not what’s important for Gen Y.

  • cw

    why don’t people protest crappy-fuel efficiency rather than high gas prices? If our cars got further per gallon, it wouldn’t matter how expensive gas is.

    gas prices are going to go up. people should quit whining about it, and start promoting a solution like greater fuel efficiency.

  • Josh

    CW, these students ARE promoting a solution by walking to school, which doesn’t use ANY fuel.

  • Mark Walker

    Whether it’s a gas-price protest or a dependency protest, it will have an effect. By establish people walking down the road as a daily occurrence, it will change the lives of the kids and everyone who sees them. This is a wonderful thing. And soon we’ll be seeing it all over the country. And it won’t just be kids. It’ll be everyone, all ages, all walks of life. And some of them will be on bikes.

  • On Sunday night, however, the students learned that an organized walk through Killen would require a parade permit that would take 45 days to acquire. The students said they were disheartened but did not give up.

    Every morning on Skillman Avenue in Woodside, hundreds of children and their parents walk to school. This is organized by the school in support of education. The NYPD has agents posted to check in on them at particular locations. It requires no permit.

    Seriously, why not just have them all walk to school, in small groups for visibility? They wouldn’t need a permit for that. We’re talking about distances of about three miles. Unless they live further and their parents dropped them off at that church.

  • Mark L

    I grew up in suburban Alabama and now live in NYC, so I’ve experienced both the car-dependent lifestyle that these students are struggling with now as well as the virtually 100% mass transit lifestyle that readers here are most likely familiar with.

    One commenter mentioned a 3 mile walk, but for me, it would have been a 10 or 15 mile walk…up a vicious hill…to get to my semirural high school. The sad sad thing is that so many American communities are literally set in stone (and asphalt) as car and road dependent, leaving no other viable options for transportation.

    Same old story, I know, but this one hit close to (my old) home for me.

  • gecko

    Protesting high gas prices is naive.

    Protesting public and government inability to act responsibly to the climate change crisis, ongoing environmental devastation, and serious global population issues would be a lot more mature.

  • christine

    Finally a cost effective solution to child obesity ..

  • Ace

    They are walking on the wrong side of the highway.

  • Amanda

    It isn’t new that most American kids couldn’t walk to school if they wanted to, but it is still scary and a little depressing. (and no, I don’t think that walking on a freeway shoulder is a reasonable way to get to school). By some accounts (http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/news/20050921/kids-who-walk-to-school-more-active-all-day) only 10% of American kids do walk to school.

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