Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Riding your bike to school is cool

For the month of October, my daughter's school is participating the a competition with another school in Vancouver as well as schools in London and Shanghai to see who can get the most students walking to school. The competition is called Beat The Street, an initiative started by Dr. William Bird from the UK, and is aimed at getting more children walking or riding bikes to school. The idea is that if more kids get to school by means other than a car, they are getting some much needed physical activity, which can, in turn, help battle the childhood obesity numbers we are seeing these days. I think it's a fantastic program, and am amazed and proud at how many of the students at the school are so excited to participate, many of them going out of their way to collect points. At the midway point, Coralie's school is in the lead, with 58% of the student body walking or cycling to school. Read more about the program here:

The success of the program inspired me to write a post about how riding a bike with your kids to school can be such a good thing! Two summers ago, my husband and I made it our mission to encourage our eldest to learn to ride on her own so that she could ride to school when she started kindergarten. It was a slow process, and I will admit that the first couple weeks of school, we didn't ride every day. But one year later, it's almost like we feel guilty when we don't ride to school! We are very lucky in that we live 0.5 kms away from Coralie's school, but even a kid living 5 kms from school can get on a bike and ride to and from school every day.

One of the two full bike racks at Laura Secord
Elementary, not to mention the ones locked up
The biggest thing is make riding to school fun, instead of a chore. Encouragement is key here. We frequently tell Coralie how great she's doing when we go on our long bike rides. Of course, there are time when she doesn't want to hear it and wishes she could get in our bike trailer with her brother, but the fact that she doesn't have a choice means that she has to push on. One of Coralie's friends started riding without training wheels just a couple of weeks ago, and I can see a similar slow but steady start to her riding as my own daughter had. What amazes me, though, is that I can hear things we said to Coralie to encourage her when she was just starting coming out of my daughter's mouth to encourage her friend. I have a feeling in the not so distant future those girls will be racing each other to get to school on their bikes!

Something I would love to start here in my neighbourhood that has been done in place like Portland is a Bike Train, which is a bike to school program where parents ride around neighbourhood picking up kids along the way. Check out the 2 minute mark: This creates a safe group atmosphere and encourages kids to join the group. We constantly teach our kids to not follow the crowd, or do something just because their friends are, but let's be honest, if your kid saw all their friends riding their bikes to school, I'm sure they'd be asking you to do it, too. I think that's a trend worth following.

The Velo Children riding home from school this fall

We, as parents, have a responsibility to lead by example. We all know that exercise is good for our bodies and our minds, and whether it's walking or biking to work, daycare, school or any other activity, we should do our best to try and get out of our cars and using our legs to get us from point A to point B more often. Things will get tough as the rain continues here in Vancouver, and weather turns cooler elsewhere in the world, but I will keep trying to ride to school with Coralie, even after the competition is over. Good habits start early, and this is one habit I want my kids to have for a lifetime!

More Reading about the competition:
The Epoch:
The Vancouver Sun:

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