Pound the pavement before hitting the books – it’s Walk to School Week

When I was a kid I only remember getting a ride to school a handful of times.  But aside from those rare exceptions, I walked to school everyday, in the fall, winter and spring no matter the weather – uphill both ways! (well, ‘the path’ did take us through a ravine).  Even when a bear was spotted on the path, the Moms in the neighbourhood organized a rotating patrol and we kept on walking. Nowadays walking to school seems to be the exception and driving the norm.  International Walk to School Week aims to reverse that trend and get more kids pounding the pavement before hitting the books.

Nearly two thirds of Canadian children do not walk to school today and that’s unfortunate because walking or biking is a major predictor for whether children get their required daily physical activity. Currently only 7% of children get their 60 minutes of activity a day.  Small communities are also challenged by lower densities, which means that a greater proportion of children have further to travel to get there (Although, in our case, we walk two blocks to the bus stop and then all the kids play soccer while waiting).

BCAHL has been a vocal advocate for health-promoting schools – for instance, the siting of schools, programs such as the walking school bus/ active and safe routes to school, and supports for active travel such as bike parking and traffic calming around schools. Education and awareness-raising events are also important – we both advocate for and have funded events that raise awareness and build skills.

Seven years ago I had a conversation with a prominent leader in the US Active and Safe Routes to School movement – she said something that really stuck with me – we have one generation to turn this trend around while there are still people who remember when walking was the norm – if we don’t, then it becomes something “from the olden days.” My hope is that with so many health, environmental and children’s organization working together with concerned parents and educators that we can reverse the trend, so that in the future getting driven to school will seem like an relic from the past.

What’s your norm? Leave a comment about how you get your child/ren to and from school, and if your school is taking part, we’d love to hear about it.

Rita Koutsodimos
Manager, Advocacy and Communications
October 2012

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