By February, these snowy, cold, winter mornings have many of us thinking that it would be great to leave the car at home. Wouldn’t it be so nice to forego all of the de-icing, shoveling, windshield cleaning, and scraping? If only you didn’t have to bundle up the kids and stuff snow pants and puffy coats into back seats and seatbelts. If you are having any of these daydreams, then now is your chance to act.
On Wednesday (February 1) people across Canada were encouraged to grab warm winter mitts and toques and join Winter Walk Day. This national initiative embraces winter and ties in nicely with the local Car Free Wednesdays program, which promotes using active and sustainable transportation for trips to and from school.
Many children who live within the school’s walking zone or on a school bus route are still getting driven to school. In Peterborough, a typical morning drop off at elementary schools sees nearly 35% of students getting a drive.
Car Free Wednesdays aims to get kids out walking, biking, or riding the bus once a week, on Wednesdays. Shifting to active and sustainable transportation on any day has numerous benefits for the health of our community and the environment.
“Being active in the morning can have many positive impacts on the health of our bodies and minds, too,” says Lindsay Stroud, GreenUP’s Manager of Transportation and Urban Design, “For instance, adding in a walk to school is one way to easily increase daily physical activity levels — and we know kids need it.”
Stroud is referring to the fact that only 14% of children aged 5-11 meet Canadian activity targets of 60 minutes per day. Students can gain, on average, 10-40 minutes of activity each day by walking, biking, or riding their scooter to school. Studies also show that a walk to school can help prepare students for their day of learning, as morning activity increases focus and improves behaviour throughout the day.
Of course, being active in the morning is not just for kids. Adults can get their daily dose of activity with their commute to and from work to experience similar benefits. Next week, on Friday, February 10th, it’s your turn to leave the car at home and choose a healthier, more sustainable mode of transportation on International Winter Bike to Work Day.
Forego the windshield scraping and the warming of the car — it’s time to give winter cycling a try.
If all you have is a helmet and a bicycle, you’re well on your way. If you are used to dressing up warmly to shovel your driveway or to walk the dog, you likely already have all the clothing you need to get out on your bike, too. A couple of winter layers, some light snow pants, and a good pair of gloves will keep you warm and dry atop your bike.
You might think that winter cycling is only for the daring, adventuresome, or flat out foolish, but with the proper preparation, winter cycling is an outright fun and efficient way to get around.
“Riding my bike is still the best transportation option in the winter,” explains GreenUP’s Coordinator of Transportation and Urban Design Programs, Jaime Akiyama.
“I can drop my kids off at school and roll off to work without worrying about getting caught up in the traffic congestion around the school.”
And by riding bikes with her kids, Akiyama is helping to reduce the amount of air and noise pollution around the school. This makes schoolyard safer for everyone.
Peterborough has many routes that include paved trails and bike lanes for easy navigation on two wheels. Akiyama suggests that it is helpful to plan ahead and carefully consider your route by choosing one that includes as much bike-friendly infrastructure as possible. You can access maps and other resources at www.peterboroughmoves.com/maps-resources.
Anyone with a bike can participate in Winter Bike to Work Day. Every pedal we make towards more sustainable transportation in our lives is better for our health and the environment.
Planning to ride on February 10th? Register yourself and your workplace at winterbiketoworkday.org. Let’s get Peterborough on the map so we can see how we measure up with other cities across the globe in this friendly, international competition.