What is Active Transportation?
Active Transportation is any form of human-powered (non motorized) transportation such as walking, biking, scootering, skateboarding.
Walking or wheeling to school has a variety of benefits that directly affect students including improved physical and mental health.
Benefits of Active Transportation
- Children arrive alert and ready to learn (their power of concentration is increased for up to 4 hours after a 20 minute walk!)
- Children accumulate daily physical activity. ParticipACTION recommends children under 17 get several hour’s worth of light movement throughout the day. More than half the body’s muscles are designed for walking; it is a natural movement.
- Children who actively commute find joy in nature and connections with people along the way
- Daily walking decreases the chance of chronic illness over time. Each km per day decreases the chances of obesity by 5%
- It’s eco-friendly. Up to 25% of the morning rush hour traffic is attributed to the school commute. Walking to school cuts down car traffic and reduces carbon dioxide in the neighbourhood, especially near schools.
- Safer School Zones – Students that choose active transportation on a regular basis directly improve school zone safety as vehicle traffic is immediately reduced. Walking and wheeling to school provides students an opportunity to improve their traffic awareness and pedestrian safety skills and increasing their sense of independence.
Responses to Parent Concerns
“It takes too long”
- An average kindergartener can walk 800m in about 13 minutes
- An average elementary school student walks 4km per hour (and so would cover 1.6km in about 22 minutes)
- The World Health Organization recommends at least 60 minutes of daily physical activity for children. The walk can help them reach or exceed that goal every day.
- Look into the possibility of using walking buddies, or a walking school bus, which would share the time parents spend leading children to school. Check with your school to see what programs or strategies they offer.
“It’s too far”
- Walking daily builds stamina.
- Walking distances are shorter now than 25 years ago (how far did the parent walk to school?)
- Try using a bike or scooter (if your school allows scooters)
“It’s too dark”
- Use reflective gear or reflective tape on backpacks, shoes, rain boots, and coats for overcast days.
My child has to walk alone
- Students in grade 5 and up are typically capable of traveling without parents on a populated route.
- Accompany your younger children, you might enlist a parent in the neighbourhood to share duties.
- Have you tried finding a walking buddy? Your Principal may be able to help you.
- Walking school buses can address some of these problems and you can approach your Principal with the suggestion.
My child will get lost
- Walk the route with your older child a few times until you’re comfortable. This can take place before the school year begins or on weekends if you do not have the ability to accompany your child on school days.
- Look into the possibility of using walking buddies, or a walking school bus, which would mean your child will always be accompanied.
The weather is bad or its too cold!
- We are blessed in Windsor/Essex with a temperate climate most of the time.
- Most weather issues can be addressed with warmer (or water resistant) clothing and/or the use of an umbrella.
- Sending them prepared for the walk means they’re prepared for the rest of their outdoor time, including recesses.
Sidewalks (or other infrastructure) are missing or inadequate
- Lack of sidewalks does not equate to eligibility for transportation. However you can call your municipality to notify them of missing infrastructure.
Sidewalks/trails have too much snow
- If snow clearance is an issue, call your municipality. Describe the problem and the spot.
There are dangerous strangers on the route
- It is important to have conversations with your child(ren) regarding safety.
- Walking buddies and groups help mitigate risks.
- Walking and cycling to school presents an opportunity to develop traffic awareness skills, active travel skills, and independence in a graduated manner.