Car Run Over

Athena did not want her stuffies to get Car Run Over

Athena did not want her stuffies to get Car Run Over

When Athena was three, she came into the kitchen to show me the sorry state of the stuffed bear she received for her birthday. She had been doctoring Angel Bear with toothpicks and black hockey tape. There were “bandages” over every inch of the bear’s body, the black pieces obscuring her favorite stuffy’s eyes, nose, and mouth.

Angel Bear looked uncannily like a preemie in the neo-natal ICU. These babies, small enough to hold in the palm of your hand, are on so many life-support systems that their tiny bodies are dwarfed by black wires and plastic tubes.

But Athena had never seen a photo of a preemie or visited a NICU. She conjured up her baby’s bandages, and the accident that led Angel Bear to suffer so much, from her own imagination.

“What happened?” I asked.

“She has nursemaid’s elbow and Car Run Over, that’s a really bad one,” Athena answered solemnly.

“Car Run Over?”

“She was lying in the street resting and a car runned over her with its wheel. She got up from the street and ran onto the sidewalk, and she killed every single car except that one.”

Content that this explained all of Angel Bear’s ailments, Athena ran back to her room to administer a silk-scarf ice pack and baby powder ear medicine.

Car Run Over is actually a catastrophe that I fear. My three older children, Baby Leone, husband and I walk and bike as much as we can. We tool around town on our own power – the kids walking on walls and skipping across benches, the baby looking pensively at the world from her perch in the front carrier when I face her out or snuggled against my chest when I face her in.

We use our car so little that when the battery spluttered and died, James walked clear across town with Etani, who was the baby then, in our green running stroller to buy a new one.

“Want me to bring it out to your car?” the mechanic asked him, smiling at the baby in James’s arms.

“Sure.” James threaded the baby’s foot into the back carrier, jiggled him into place, buckled the straps, and followed the mechanic outside. “Here we are,” he said pointing to the green running stroller. Baby on his back, battery in the stroller, James trudged home.

Why not bike or walk with your kids, instead of drive?

Why not bike or walk with your kids, instead of drive?

Our family is anomalous, even in the small town where we live. Although people here in Ashland, Oregon pride themselves on forward thinking, they get in their cars to go everywhere. Our town is only three square miles, but every elementary school in town has a long line of drivers idling their engines waiting to drop off their children. Drivers don’t stop at the crosswalks, and they gun through yellow lights or speed in the school zones. The kids often bolt ahead and I find myself panicking and shouting, “STOP at the corner!”

I imagine a driver taking a turn too sharply and running over one of my children.

“Why don’t you ever drive?” a mother at preschool asked me as I buckled Athena into the bike trailer. She sounded both mystified and judgmental.

Our car is so small that the kids’ car seats used to tremble when you close the doors.

You know the stories you hear of parents soothing their newborns by taking them for a drive?

Forget it.

My firstborn hated the car so much and screamed so loudly that I would intentionally veer towards potholes because the jolting of the car would startle her into silence for a split second.

Besides, I hate cars and I’m terrified of global warming. Once you get out of the habit of relying on them, you realize how expensive, loud, polluting, obnoxious, aesthetically unappealing and confining cars are. Driving is the single most polluting activity most of us do. Cars emit three totally toxic pollutants into the atmosphere: hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxides, which are responsible for generating harmful ground-level ozone, acid rain and poor quality water, among many other nasty things.

We all know that weather patterns are changing globally, with New York having springtime weather in the middle of winter, France being bizarrely chilly in the middle of July and overwhelming floods in Georgia. There are front-page reports in the New York Times of work by scientists who are gathering evidence that shows that disasters like Hurricane Katrina are becoming more frequent as glaciers continue to melt. The very real possibility that we will pollute ourselves out of existence, like most of the cyanobacteria did when their waste product oxygen proved toxic to themselves, scares me and keeps our family out of the car.

Cars are also moving death machines. According to reports by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 37,200 people were killed in highway crashes in 2007 in the United States (more than 100 people a day) and 2,346,000 people were injured.

It’s not that my family doesn’t drive on the highways – we do.

But as much as I can, I want to keep my kids safe, and that means choosing to walk or bicycle over choosing to drive.

I don’t want to die.

I don’t want my children to die in a car crash or as victims of Car Run Over.

So the next time you’re in your car and you see a pedestrian crossing at the corner – maybe a mom and her three-year-old daughter carrying a very beat-up and bandaged bear – I hope you’ll take a minute to cede the right of way.

And maybe next time you have errands to run, you could leave your car keys on the hook by the door and dust off the bicycle that’s been sitting in your garage, or simply walk instead of drive.

It may seem like a small gesture but if we all leave our cars parked more often we just might be saving the world.

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15 thoughts on “Car Run Over”

  1. One thing I love about working from home is being able to avoid the commute. We still HAVE two cars, but mine hasn’t been driven in a year and last I checked the battery was dead. Unfortunately, there have been a rash of cyclists run over and killed in NZ in the last few months, including Frugal Man’s doctor. Auckland is NOT a cycle friendly town.
    .-= Frugal Kiwi´s last blog ..First Thursdays =-.

  2. You are fortunate to live in Oregon. There must be very forward-thinking city officials in Ashland, but such places are way too few and far between. Cambridge, MA has bike lanes, for instance. It’s a shame more flat cities do not offer this option. I wish Americans treated the environment with greater respect, the way people do in Germany or Denmark. Germany has amazing recycling and everyone rides bikes in Denmark. Where I live on Cape Cod, it is not possible to live without a car, but I do try to think ahead and plan local trips to maximize outings both for reasons of economy and environment.
    .-= Alexandra´s last blog ..High-Court Corporate-Money Decision On My Mind =-.

  3. Even though Oregon has some bike friendly places — especially Portland — the vast majority of people in our small town take the car. I think that driving has become a cultural habit, even when there is no reason to drive.
    .-= Jennifer Margulis´s last blog ..Don

  4. I’d be so happy if I lived in a place that was both bike-friendly and easy to get around on a bike. I’d never get into my car. But in Connecticut, the hills are impossible, the roads narrow and dangerous, and the drivers a bit too impatient for the likes of bikers.

  5. I live within walking distance of the bank and post office, but to get there I would have to cross a major street with no light or crosswalk anywhere near by. We used to cross the street with our bikes when we took rides with the kids but it was so dangerous and terrifying we stopped going that way.

  6. I joke with my carless friend: I don’t have to own a home but I do need to own a car. I love the freedom & the flexibility.

    That said, I’ve owned three in my life (I’m 45 & have been driving since 16!), I’ve work from home for more than 15 years, and I’ve had my current car for 12, a fuel-efficient Honda with really low mileage. So I feel reasonably cool about my carbon footprint…except for that small matter of those annual pilgrimages back to the mother country, 13 hours away by air…

    Anyhoo, for another perspective on life sans car, I point you to my pal Margaret’s entertaining blog:
    .-= sarah henry´s last blog ..Michael Pollan Talks Food Rules in San Francisco =-.

  7. Nobody NEEDS a car: some people choose to live too far from work/school, shopping, etc., and are too lazy to think about getting things done without cheap fossil fuel subsidizing their lifestyle. Everybody in America 100 years ago did it all without a car

  8. Great topic, Jennifer! I miss living in Japan, where we biked everywhere – it’s a really common form of transportation and you often see mothers taking kids to school with one child in the back and one in the front. Walking, too, is much more common than it seems to be here – there are no school buses for public schools so kids walk or take public transportation. Our children walked about a mile each way to school.

    I now live in a town where there is snow all over the ground and I can’t imagine how to bike to get groceries, etc. Any suggestions? It’s so much easier to put a baby on a bike than into a car seat!
    .-= Christine´s last blog ..Pine cone tree craft =-.

  9. I really agree with you!!!

    i was so chocked when coming to montreal to realize that cars DON’T stop at chrossovers (as i come from belgium where you can loose your driving licence for that!). in europe everything is so different from north america. cars are so small because it’s so hard to park, and parking is so expensive. public transportation and bicycle and walking paths are so much more developped. We are going absolutely nowhere with this burning of all the world’s precious oil. we have to do something, ourselves… one small step at a time!

    being able to do everything with my chariot carrier behind the bike, or by bus or metro is one of the reasons i love to live in montreal.

    also, cars is the single most polluting activity we have… eating a lot of meat is also… but that’s another big debate, even if the ecological reasons for being (semi)vegetarian are not very known.


    .-= Joanna´s last blog ..Top 10 ! =-.

  10. We certainly are a car culture here in America. My friend married a Danish man and apparently in Denmark people just bike everywhere, people of all ages, in all seasons, just because that’s how it’s done (and of course gas is way more expensive).

    I am great about leaving the car at home in summer, but in Colorado wintertime with two young kids who can’t walk all that far, we certainly do use the old Subaru most days.

    That’s a great education you’re giving your kiddos.
    .-= 6512 and growing´s last blog ..What it takes for two Mamas to go skiing =-.

  11. Christine, I think you should walk to get groceries, which is what we always do in the snow. We bring either a wagon (a bit hard on the back) or a stroller (and carry the baby on your back or front). Sometimes I’ll just carry the baby on my front and bring a big empty backpack on my back and load up on as much as I can carry. The store is 1.3 miles away (I’ve clocked it). It’s something of a trek but I think of it as quality time with the baby and my older kids, a great excuse to be outside, and a good way to get exercise without even noticing!
    .-= Jennifer Margulis´s last blog ..Peter Ferry Came to Ashland =-.

  12. We’ve recently moved to a house just blocks from a small town and I’m absolutely loving it. I can send the boys to the grocery store to pick up milk, we walk to the library, to the park, and to the youth center. Vastly different from living in a rural area that demands vehicles for every little thing.
    .-= Kris´s last blog ..Coconut Bay Resort & Spa =-.

  13. I totally fear “Car Run Over,” from both sides. Here so many people bolt out in the street that I’m terrified of some person who’s just not paying attention straying into my path during that one moment that I sneeze or yawn. Ugh, I’m giving myself a panic attack just thinking about it.

    I try to walk to the store as much as I can over the past few months, but with the torrential downpours we’ve had over two weeks, it’s hard! (I know, whine whine 😉
    .-= Stephanie – Wasabimon´s last blog ..Winner of the

  14. We used to live overseas where walking really wasn’t an option (1-2 hours either way, on highways). However, my husband worked for the embassy and the kids ‘carpooled’ by a bus. Some kids were dropped off, but most of those who lived nearby walked, biked or rode a scooter. The bike racks were overflowing.

    We moved to Northern CA last year and had to rent, but found a house just about a mile from the elementary school. We walked most days (unless really late/running errands) and it was wonderful. This year, my older daughter is in a different school and we carpool (much further, but working on biking confidence…drivers are somewhat scary). Was so glad to find a walking buddy for my youngest, and they were doing so well…until the father rescinded permission and said his child was ‘just too young’. They are seven!

    So, now we are back to square one and trying to rebuild her confidence on walking alone. Why? No one else walks (maybe one family, once in a while). Kids who live 1/4 mile from the school are driven to and from school. Even those who walk (maybe 10 that live 1/4 mile away or further) have to be accompanied by parents…yes, while walking in groups of 9 or 10. Even funnier? I am known as “the walking lady” because we walk to and from school “so much” (though not as much as we should).

    It is so sad, as if more kids walked, the parents would not have to be so scared…but they just seem to get the correlation!

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