Take the back-to-school challenge and walk, bike, or bus instead of driving

Four ways to help your family make transportation choices that are better for your health, school safety, and the environment

Active and Safe Routes to School Peterborough is challenging families to walk, bike, or bus to and from school this year. Planning ahead to make time for disruptions as you walk with your kids can make time for meaningful family moments and new relationships with neighbours and crossing guards. (Photo courtesy of GreenUP)
Active and Safe Routes to School Peterborough is challenging families to walk, bike, or bus to and from school this year. Planning ahead to make time for disruptions as you walk with your kids can make time for meaningful family moments and new relationships with neighbours and crossing guards. (Photo courtesy of GreenUP)

Active and Safe Routes to School Peterborough would like to see all students have the opportunity to walk, bike, or bus to and from school.

Each year, we work with local schools to implement programs that encourage students to do so. We challenge families to start this school year sustainably by using methods of transportation that are better for your health, your school’s safety, and your community.

Many people already recognize the benefits of active transportation to and from school. We know that it is both physically and mentally better for adults and children to use active transportation. It’s also better for the environment, and it reduces congestion around schools.

Despite all those benefits, we can still struggle to make biking, walking, or busing part of our routine. Parents often comment that it is easier to just drop their kids off on the way to work. How can you fight the lure of reaching for the car keys when things get busy or complicated?

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A good recipe for overcoming the perceived convenience of driving your car is to combine a bit of commitment, routine, and planning.

Here are my four tips to successfully take on the challenge of walking, biking, or busing to school.

 

1. Plan out your route

The best intentions do not always make for the best plans. Figure out which route to school works best for your family by considering what infrastructure is available.

Are there obstacles? Are there paths or safe shortcuts? Is there a route that allows for meeting up with friends?

Practise your route ahead of time. Preferably test your route around the same time of day that you will be travelling to and from school so you know what commute conditions to expect.

Seek out paths and shortcuts through parks when planning your active route to school this year as they can be a faster and safer alternative to roadways.  (Photo courtesy of GreenUP)
Seek out paths and shortcuts through parks when planning your active route to school this year as they can be a faster and safer alternative to roadways. (Photo courtesy of GreenUP)

Track your travel time so you can plan when you have to leave the house, remembering to add a few minutes. Breaks might be needed along the way, and if you plan for disruptions then you will have the time (and mindset) to enjoy them as meaningful family experiences.

Often, the direct route might not be the one that is best for your family situation. You may require a more complex travel plan, but we encourage you to try!

For example, I walk my kids to school with my bike on days where my daughter has after-school activities, drop them off, and pedal to work. If I stop to do a few errands after work, I’ll continue home to off-load. Then I take the car and park it about two blocks from the school. Using Park n’ Stride, I pick up the kids, walk back to the car, and zoom off to my daughter’s activity.

This plan allows my family to get a bit of physical exercise and avoid the congestion of the school zone — all while only minimally using a car.

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2. Add preparing for travel into your prep-for-school routine

There are multiple sources providing tips about how to establish a smooth morning routine that helps families.

Often, these tips suggest preparing the night before by packing backpacks, making lunches, and laying out clothing as part of your evening routine.

Preparing the night before school for active travel as part of your prep-for-school routine can help make sure you are committed to active travel and warm enough as cooler weather approaches.  (Photo courtesy of GreenUP)
Preparing the night before school for active travel as part of your prep-for-school routine can help make sure you are committed to active travel and warm enough as cooler weather approaches. (Photo courtesy of GreenUP)

When applying these tips, consider adding travel planning as part of your routine. Check the weather. Is your bike ready to ride? Do you have your lock?

Being prepared in the morning will make the active commute easy and fun.

 

3. Get the kids involved

Discuss the benefits and importance of active transportation with your kids.

Let them contribute to planning the route — provide opportunities for them to point out their areas of concern or interest.

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Depending on their age, tracking the travel time will help them schedule their own morning routines. This inclusion will also allow kids to take some responsibility in shaping their morning routines and help build a foundation for future independent travel.

Promoting walking, biking, and busing to school is a family-wide commitment.

Families need to decide when children are able to walk or bike to school independently. Walking and biking with your children when they are young helps develop safe travel skills that lead to confident travellers.

 

4. Take the challenge

If more people commuted to school using active transportation, it would help alleviate the vehicular congestion common at schools during the beginning and end of the day.  (Photo courtesy of GreenUP)
If more people commuted to school using active transportation, it would help alleviate the vehicular congestion common at schools during the beginning and end of the day. (Photo courtesy of GreenUP)

Set walking, biking, or busing as a priority for the school year.

Start with one day a week and go from there. Challenge yourself to recognize the benefits of walking, biking, and busing to your health, the environment, and your school zone and community.

We promise it’s worth the effort. Enjoy!

Active and Safe Routes to School Peterborough would love to hear about your challenges and successes. Tag @ptbomoves on Instagram or email jaime.akiyama@greenup.on.ca for support or to share.

For more information about Active and Safe Routes to School Peterborough programs, contact Jaime Akiyama at 705-745-3238, ext. 210, or visit peterboroughmoves.com.

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