Active School Travel Peterborough: local solutions with benefits.
October 1st, 2020
By Jaime Akiyama, GreenUP’s Coordinator of Active School Travel Peterborough
As a parent of two elementary school-age children, we recently rode the emotional rollercoaster of choosing to attend school in person. For our family this was the best choice.
With one decision made, it was time to start planning, and part of this planning was how to travel to and from school. Full disclosure, I am the Chair for the local Active School Travel Peterborough (AST Ptbo) committee so I am deep into the research and work of active transportation benefits. My kids don’t get much choice: they usually walk, wheel, or bus to school!
I am strongly committed to active travel. I understand and value the benefits, but I also recognize that in the moment walking or wheeling may not always seem like the easiest options. We are busy people, with work and activities that influence our travel decisions. Yes, I occasionally do disregard the benefits and opt for driving. (Shhh – don’t tell anyone.) Even then, I worry about contributing negatively to traffic congestion and compromising safety in the school zone. Instead, I opt to do my own park and stride.
What is Park and Stride? I’m glad you asked because it is a program that AST Ptbo is strongly promoting to schools this year. If you must drive to school, keep the school zone for kids not cars. Park a 5 to10 minute walk away from your school and walk the rest of the way. Families get the benefit of walking to school and the school zone is reserved for the buses and those that might need accessible parking. Win-win!
When my children started school, I needed support to plan a safe route to school. It took me a while to realize there was a back gate to the school yard and a side street that allowed me to avoid a busy intersection. To support families, AST Ptbo is bringing back a popular tool for active school travel: the Route To School Planner. This planner offers a school-specific map or resource that visually identifies the infrastructure, routes, estimated walk times, and parking options that help families make informed travel decisions.
Perhaps Park and Stride or a Route To School Planner would support your family. Maybe you have an idea for a different tool? AST Ptbo welcomes school staff and community members to reach out, engage, and contribute!
AST Ptbo has been active in Peterborough for over 20 years, promoting the use of active and sustainable transportation for the daily trip to school, addressing health and traffic safety issues while taking action on pollution and climate change.
Each year, we work with local schools to implement programs that support students to walk, wheel, or bus to school. Has your child ever talked about Car Free Wednesdays? Maybe your child has taken a chartered ride on a transit bus with the On The Bus program, or participated in Pedal Power, the cycling skills and road safety course. Your child may have received a free transit pass for the March Break. These are examples of some of our AST Ptbo programs. Our goal is to help provide the skills and encouragement needed to make active travel choices.
AST Ptbo is not alone in our work. A quick google search will show you that active school travel is a movement with organizations throughout the world. Ontario Active School Travel supports numerous local organizations just like ours doing like-minded work throughout Ontario. This network is important for sharing of ideas and information.
A large part of our work is encouraging active school travel, and this often includes communicating the benefits. Many of the active school travel communications will highlight that walking and wheeling to school help build community, add physical activity, decrease stress, improve mental health, advance climate action, and increase safety with less cars, all while allowing children to arrive at school alert and ready to learn. That’s a lot of benefits.
Like I mentioned above, I think all the benefits are very important and I know that they are backed with solid evidence. But, as a parent, I also understand that knowing the benefits does not always help people in the moment of decision making.
Sometimes families need more support. AST Ptbo understands that changes to the built environment as well as new skills and knowledge are also needed. This might mean that schools need to collaborate with partners to tackle road safety concerns in their school zones, or build pedestrian and cycling education to increase students’ knowledge and skills for traveling on neighbourhood streets. AST Ptbo can provide this kind of support.
After running Pedal Power, our grade 5 on-bike cycling education program, I was thrilled when a parent contacted me to say that after that program her daughter and friends were excited to bike to school. Importantly, the children felt confident and enthusiastic about their ability to ride safely, and parents felt confident to let them.
Travel options are a personal choice, influenced by lots of different factors. With my daily rush, I have to remind myself to look at the bigger picture. Active school travel might not always be the easiest choice, but in the long-term I want my kids to grow up with a healthy lifestyle filled with physical activity and connections with the neighbourhood. I want their school to have cleaner air and fewer safety concerns. I want school zones for kids not cars.
As the AST Ptbo Chair, I also want to support your family’s efforts to enjoy the benefits of active school travel. Let’s talk! For more information on AST Ptbo visit peterboroughmoves.com or contact me by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted in transportation