Petits Pieds, Learning to Walk Safe in Paris

If you have ever lived in or experienced city life, you know that there are other alternatives to owning a car. When I was younger, between the ages of 6 and 14, I was lucky enough to live in Paris, France. Needless to say, Paris is a busy city and many people walk to get where they are going.

As a child, I have fond memories of walking in Paris with my mother. Wherever she went, I followed. We enjoyed taking long walks on Saturdays. Usually on that day, the sidewalks were so full of pedestrians that I would grip onto my mom’s hand while she navigated our way through. Like most children, I emulated everything my mom did. When we encountered a crosswalk, we would stop and wait for the “green man” to let us go. That was usually when I would watch her. When it was time for us to walk, my mom would take a moment to look left, right and left again, and then would usher me across. She would do the same thing at every crosswalk and I would mimic her every move. Yes, Saturdays were cherished days, when I got to spend quality time with my mom and subconsciously learned to navigate the streets as a proper city girl.

Growing up, it wasn’t uncommon for children to ride the metro, the bus or to walk to school alone. I was one of the more fortunate ones. My school was located right across from my house; I could see my classroom from my living room. In the mornings, I would get ready then wait for the intercom to buzz telling me my best friend had arrived. Together we would take the short walk to school.

 Lunchtime was trickier. We had the choice to either eat lunch at the cafeteria or go off the school premises. My friends and I almost always opted to leave. It is interesting, how the habits that you cultivate with your parents almost instantly disappear when you are with a group of friends. At least, I would always forget my walking manners when I was with my friends. With hunger striking and the clock ticking, waiting for the signal to cross was never an option. We would run across the street, crossing against the signal, whenever we deemed it safe to do so. No one ever got hurt, but looking back I admit our behavior was foolish.

When you are younger you don’t always measure the severity of your actions. However, when it comes to walking you can’t allow yourself to make poor choices. One bad decision can have horrible consequences. That is why pedestrian safety can’t be overlooked. As International Walk to School Day is approaching, I can’t stress how important it is to teach children good safety behavior while walking to school.

My mother taught me how to walk by being a good example. Here are some tips you can use when teaching your children how to walk safely.

  • Talk to your kids about how to be safe while walking, it’s always best to walk on sidewalks or paths and cross at street corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks.
  • Teach your kids at an early age to be alert when they are walking with friends
  • Remind kids to make eye contact with drivers before crossing the street and to watch out for cars that are turning or backing up.