Active Transportation for Kids: Walk or Bike to School

This page is an evolution, a growing collection of thought and science behind why we should be promoting active transportation for our youngest generation by getting kids to walk or bike to school. Here you will find a reading list (books, articles, discourse) as well as actionable items (i.e. what you could do):

Why?

For me, it’s a three-pronged approach: health & well-being of our kids; cost to society (both in terms of cost to a city for enforcement and accident/injury liabilities, but also the stress on health care at the provincial level in Canada, at least); raising an independent and capable generation.

Because children’s overall health & well-being is suffering!

  • Delving into the health data shows that Canadian kids aren’t all right
    [The Globe and Mail, 5 Sep 2018]
    “…as parents load their kids into cars and on buses, or send them off on foot or bikes for the daily round trip to school or daycare, it is worth underscoring that the single biggest danger in a Canadian child’s life is the car.”
  • Quarter of world’s population ‘not active enough to stay healthy’
    [The Guardian, 4 Sep 2018]
    “greater risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, dementia, and some cancers” from The Lancet
    “physical inactivity ‘a global pandemic'”
  • The Link Between Kids Who Walk or Bike to School and Concentration
    [CityLab.com 5 Feb 2013]
    “survey looked at nearly 20,000 Danish kids between the ages of 5 and 19. It found that kids who cycled or walked to school, rather than traveling by car or public transportation, performed measurably better on tasks demanding concentration, such as solving puzzles, and that the effects lasted for up to four hours after they got to school.”
    “‘The results showed that having breakfast and lunch has an impact, but not very much compared to having exercised,’ Egelund told AFP.
    “‘As a third-grade pupil, if you exercise and bike to school, your ability to concentrate increases to the equivalent of someone half a year further in their studies,’ he added.”
  • Why every child should walk or wheel to school every day
    [Participaction.com 15 Feb 2017]
    “Canadian children are less active than they should be – only 9% get the 60 minutes of heart-pumping physical activity they need each day.”

 

Because damage from cars is expensive for the tax payer!

 

Because we are doing a disservice to the next generation chauffeuring them everywhere based on fear and perceived convenience

  • Fewer Canadian students walking or cycling to school raises concerns
    [The Globe and Mail 16 May 2018]
    Prof. Buliung, who walks his eight-year-old daughter to school, worries that there is a generation of children who have been chauffeured around by car to almost all their activities, and, as a result, may not have enough knowledge on different methods of getting around a city.
    “‘At the end of the day, there are things that are good for children and right to do,’ he said. ‘One of the outcomes [of walking to school] may be an improved ability to concentrate.’
  • Kids Who Get Driven Everywhere Don’t Know Where They’re Going
    [CityLab.com 7 May 2012]
    “‘We’ve seen a dramatic decrease in fatalities,’ Appleyard says. ‘But we’ve also seen abandonment of the streets. Parents see too much traffic. What is the rational thing for a parent to do? Your choice is to drive them. It’s a multiplier effect – parents are driving because there’s more traffic, and then there’s more traffic.’
    “Children who had a ‘windshield perspective’ from being driven everywhere weren’t able to accurately draw how the streets in their community connected, whereas children who walked or biked to get around produced detailed and highly accurate maps of their neighborhood street network.
    “In sum, as exposure to auto traffic volumes and speed decreases, a child’s sense of threat goes down, and his/her ability to establish a richer connection and appreciation for the community rises.”
  • The Decline of Walking and Bicycling [American]
    [SafeRoutesInfo.org]

 

Bottom up: How?

The citizen activist. The school council. The neighbourhood organizations. These are essential entry points for addressing issues in urbanism.

  • A Tactical Urbanism Primer
    [slowottawa.ca 17 March 2015]
    Empathy entails putting one’s self in the shoes of all potential stakeholders in the proposed urban improvement. Definition entails identifying and researching “opportunity sites,” often places that are “underperforming” in critical respects. Ideation (a fancy term for brainstorming project ideas) entails public consultation; the development of “actionable metrics”; and deciding whether or not to seek permission. Prototyping entails putting ideas rapidly into action by enlisting a wide range of project partners; developing a project schedule; obtaining essential permits; and finding materials. And Testing is a version of the build-measure-learn feedback loop articulated in Eric Ries’ Lean Startup (2011).”
  • Toronto’s road safety ‘vigilantes’ take grassroots approach to building safer streets
    [CBC.ca 4 Sep 2018]
    So when he noticed drivers kept zooming through the area a couple years back, he flagged his concerns with the city. When that didn’t lead to speedy action, he took matters into his own hands.
    “And that means plunking down … pylons.
    “Cars need to slow down, and sometimes it just takes a big orange pylon,” the fedora-wearing west-ender says with an impish grin, before strategically lining up a few brightly painted cones along the roadside.

 

Top down: Advocating for change at the municipality level

Enacting a paradigm shift at the school level is just one piece of the puzzle. Effecting change at the level of your municipality to help build appropriate and safe infrastructure for children to get to and from school is also essential. Here is a primer on how to effect such change at the citizen level — it was written with Calgary, Alberta in mind but I have been told that the process is more-or-less the same globally.