Parents put brakes on driving children to school

Despite the cool weather, these Alberta children enjoy their walk to school.

Peterborough – Parents in communities across Canada are reducing driving trips to and from school in favour of active travel for their children. It’s a choice that highlights the many links between health and environment – especially for our younger generation.

Green Communities Canada, an association of non-profits focused on practical environmental solutions, is reinforcing this deeper sense of community by offering resources and guidance to help parents plan for their child’s safe trip to school.

The School Travel Planning project encourages healthy school communities, but also works on the municipal and provincial/territorial level to promote policies that support design and retrofitting of urban environments that provide for the use of active modes of transportation.

According to the Canadian Institute of Child Health, children are more susceptible to air pollution than adults. Research shows that traffic density near homes increases risk for leukemia and other childhood cancers and that children living with poor air quality may have reduced lung function growth that places them at risk for future respiratory illness. That’s a risk parents are unwilling to take. Plus, the health benefits of active commuting will stay with kids for the rest of their lives.

Alana Bresson of Dominion, Nova Scotia, sees the walk to school as an environmental and health teaching opportunity. “It teaches them to get out and be active and you’re showing them that active travel is part of their lifestyle,” she says. “They don’t have to drive everywhere.”

Ottawa Dad Rick Keller reminds us that the morning active commute is especially important: “I walk to work or bike to work and I know from experience it’s a great way to think through what is ahead of you in the day.” Similarly, a twenty minute walk home is perfect for breaking up sedentary time between school and home and lends an opportunity to decompress from a busy school day.

Over half of Canadian children aged 5-17 use only inactive modes of transportation like riding in a car or on the bus to get to and from school . This sedentary time compounds with hours spent sitting at school, doing homework (often as soon as they arrive home), and acquiring screen time.

There are many great reasons to make walking and biking to school a part of your child’s daily routine. Will you?

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