Conquer the Mountain: Cycling Safely to School, Work or Play

I signed up for Bike to Work Week last week but then a notice came home from my son’s school.  I had forgotten that this was the week for Bike/Walk to School as well.  Spurred on by the promise of ice cream and the chance to win a new bike, this year, my 8-year old son is determined to get off the bus and scooter  to school all week-long.    And of course I want to support my child to be active – there’s just one thing standing in the way… school road.  It’s not just any road and it’s not just any hill, it’s more like a mountain, a vertical climb from the ocean that rises up through the clouds to the entrance of our school (OK, maybe that’s just on foggy days but it is seriously steep and long).

bike to workYesterday, we set out to conquer school road.  I thought my son would whine all the way up and that would add to the torture of pushing his little brother up the hill in the stroller but I was wrong.  He chattered and scooted along happily while I huffed and puffed after him (unintended bonus: I was able to skip cardio at the gym).  And for all the foreboding, all it took was leaving a half hour earlier and calling out a few safety reminders.

There has been much attention on bike safety this year with the tragic collision on the Stanley Park Causeway.  As a parent, it is important to mitigate the safety risks by planning ahead and practicing riding and road skills.  By the time your child is going to school, hopefully he or she will have the basic road sense to navigate walking to school. Cycling can be a safe activity too but it requires practice to ensure good bike handling in addition to street safety skills.  Beyond the basics of a properly fitted helmet and bike, parents should accompany children on bikes until they are confident that their child has a good ability in bike handling and safety skills.  Children are permitted to ride on the sidewalk up to the age of ten (and there are calls for flexibility in the regulation to allow for less skilled riders over ten to stay on the sidewalk until they become more competent).  There are many great resources including tips, guides and courses for adults and children.

But don’t be daunted by the risks because all activities have risks and physical inactivity is one that we know is having an extremely negative health impact on children today.  There is still time to jump on the bike bandwagon; if you live in the Lower Mainland register here and for other BC Communities register here.

You may have your own version of a school road or other barrier to climb but I would highly recommend that you give it a go. Figure out what you might need to do in advance (leave earlier, coordinate with another family, choose your route, or…?) and then do it.  It’s such a great start to a kid’s day at school and you’ll feel good too!

Rita Koutsodimos
Manager, Advocacy and Communications
May 28, 2013

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