Wednesday, October 03, 2012
Middlesex-London Health Unit
Identifying Risks Key to Encouraging Kids to Walk and Bike to School
Walking or riding a bike to school is a great way to start the day. Physical activity is not only an important way to stay healthy and achieve better physical fitness, but it can also help students prepare for their day in class. While there are clear benefits to getting to school using human-powered methods of transportation, many families still choose to drive their children to school. With the start of Walk to School Month, some school communities are taking a closer look at the challenges that may be preventing people from walking to school.
Representatives from the Middlesex-London Health Unit, London Police Service, City of London, Block Parents, Thames Region Ecological Association (TREA), and transportation officials from the Thames Valley District School Board walked through the neighbourhood around south London’s Cleardale Public School today to identify risk factors in the area that could influence whether or not students will walk or bike to school.
“Taking a stroll along the routes children will follow through the neighbourhood shows us first hand what they will experience on their walk to school,” says Lori Fellner, Health Promoter with the Middlesex-London Health Unit’s Chronic Disease Prevention and Tobacco Control team. “It’s key to find where the safety concerns are in the neighbourhood, or where traffic volume and speed are excessive, so that the safest walking or cycling routes can be identified. We want children and families to be able to walk or ride to school as safely as possible.”
Today’s walkabout is part of Cleardale Public School’s process to develop its own School Travel Plan, a school-specific document which identifies and outlines parent and student concerns as well as risk factors in the vicinity of the school that influence active transportation to and from school. Several catholic and public elementary schools in the Thames Valley region are currently taking steps to develop their own School Travel Plans.
School Travel Planning is a component of Active and Safe Routes to School, a national movement supported by organizations and agencies which promote human-powered transportation to school as a means of improving health, happiness and promoting physical activity. A tri-county steering committee, with representation from municipalities in Middlesex-London, and Elgin and Oxford counties, as well as school boards, police, public health and environmental sectors, oversees the development of local active transportation projects and facilitates the implementation of School Travel Plans in local neighbourhoods.
Other steering committee projects include: I Walk days, Walking/Wheeling Wednesdays, and Walking School Buses, where children meet at designated stops along a walking route and walk to school as part of a supervised group.
Communications Manager, Middlesex-London Health Unit
519-663-5317 ext 2469 or 519-617-0570 (cell)