Car Free Wednesdays: active fun for kids, efficient for families, safer for schools

October 25th, 2016

By Jaime Akiyama, GreenUP Coordinator, Transportation & Urban Design Programs

The first few weeks of school have flown by and now students are settling down into new routines. This is a perfect time to establish active modes of transportation into your family’s daily lives.

Active and Safe Routes to School Peterborough is again encouraging students and families to integrate active and efficient transportation to and from school through the Car Free Wednesdays challenge by walking, running, cycling, skating, or bussing to school each Wednesday.

A crossing guard helps children safely cross a busy intersection in North end Peterborough, on their way to school. Walking to school or dropping children off a block or more away from the school, allows children increased daily activity, more social time, a greater sense of independence, and allows them to get to know their community.

A crossing guard helps children safely cross a busy intersection in North end Peterborough, on their way to school. Walking to school or dropping children off a block or more away from the school, allows children increased daily activity, more social time, a greater sense of independence, and allows them to get to know their community.

Car Free Wednesdays has numerous benefits for the health of students and their environment. Active transportation helps reduce the congestion in school zones, which improves air quality and also increases students’ daily physical activity.

It can be difficult to work physical activity into a busy day. Establishing routines for active transportation to and from school is a great way for students to get a little bit more exercise and reinforce positive habits for an active lifestyle.

The 2015 ParticipACTION Report Card identified that only 9% of 5-17 years olds meet the Canadian activity targets of 60 minutes per day. Students that walk, run, cycle, or skate to school can gain on average 10 – 40 minutes of activity per day.

Unfortunately, in Peterborough nearly 35% of elementary school students are getting a drive to school, many of which live in walking zones or on a school bus route. These students are missing out on an opportunity to increase their daily physical activity. Car Free Wednesdays would like to see all students have the opportunity to benefit from active transportation.

In situations where a student has to be driven to school, it is recommended that they Park and Stride, as a great way to add a bit of activity into their routine; Park and Stride encourages drivers to park a few blocks from the school, allowing children to walk the rest of the way. This method of transportation is included in the Car Free Wednesdays challenge.

Park and Stride or short walks to and from the bus stop, will contribute to daily physical activity and can boost students’ energy before school. It also allows kids to meet friends along the route and can be beneficial to the amount of play and independent time that a student gets each day.

Studies show that a walk to school can help prepare students for their day of learning; morning activity increases focus and improves behaviour. Teachers and parents who have participated in previous Car Free Wednesdays report that students arrive more alert and ready to learn.

School zones are very busy places during drop off and pick up times where traffic congestion can be a safety concern. Depending on the school zone, students may be able to access their school more safely when on foot or bike, without having to go through congested car areas. Participation in Car Free Wednesdays helps reduce traffic congestion in the school zone improving student safety.

Schools that have previously participated in Car Free Wednesdays have also observed that students who use active transportation become more familiar with their community, develop better road sense, and have greater experience with traffic and bicycle safety.

Schools can participate in Car Free Wednesdays by using the Active and Safe Routes to School promo packages that remind students to walk, roll, or bus every Wednesday. Schools can also register for prizes by completing quick monthly surveys that track student travel choices.

For more information and to register for Car Free Wednesdays, please contact Jaime Akiyama, Coordinator of Transportation and Urban Design Programs at GreenUP at 705-745-3238 ext. 210 or by visiting the Car Free School Days and Active and Safe Routes to School pages on peterboroughmoves.com

Active and Safe Routes to School is a partnership between GreenUP, City of Peterborough, Peterborough Public Health, Student Transportation Services of Central Ontario, Crossing Guards of Peterborough, Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board, and the Peterborough Community Police.

Posted in Uncategorized