by Courtnay Epp
Active transportation can be defined as any form of human-powered transportation including, but not limited to walking, jogging, cycling, in-line skating or skateboarding. The benefits of active transportation are numerous, but unfortunately the proportion of journeys to school made by car has increased considerably in the last several years. Since most people know that staying active is part of a healthy lifestyle, why aren’t more kids doing it?
Active transportation is accessible to everyone and can positively influence and promote social interactions. It provides an opportunity to be physically active on a regular basis and it can reduce road congestion which also makes it an environmentally friendly option. Active transportation saves money on gas and parking which is great for parents and kids seem to enjoy and actually prefer it even though many of them are getting rides.
The reasons why more children don’t travel actively to school are complex. These days, parents tend to drive their children everywhere and claim they don’t have time to walk their kids to school. Schools are getting farther away; the built environment may not be conducive to walking; children might not have bike paths to follow; Canadian weather can be challenging; common family structure and lifestyle is changing; and some parents may even fear for their children’s safety.
But interestingly, driving your kids to school could actually pose a potential danger in itself. Nearly everyone who spends their day at a school aims to arrive and leave within the same two, ten-minute periods each day. And when 42 per cent of children are driven to school (according to The Active Healthy Kids Canada 2011 Report Card), this causes chaos and slowed driving times for cars and dangerous situations for children who use active school travel. In fact, 50 per cent of collisions involving children involve children being hit by cars driven by parents of students.
As for convenience and time, parents argue they don’t have the time to walk or that it’s simply more convenient to drop off or pick up their child on the way to work. However, distances up to five km are traveled more quickly door-to door by bicycle than by car, and it takes a person who walks at medium-speed about fifteen minutes to walk a full kilometer. Allowing your children to actively get to school can leave them feeling energized and ready to take on the day- parents should consider making time for this in their busy schedule.
With so many benefits, active transportation is an excellent, healthy habit to encourage everyone of all ages to take part in. The school year is fast approaching and October is International Walk to School Month, with October 4 being International Walk to School Day.
Courtnay Epp is a Health Promotion Facilititator with Alberta Health Services. She can be reached by e-mail, [email protected]