Metrolinx has implemented a pilot project called ‘Stepping It Up’, which hopes to educate kids, teachers and parents on the benefits of active transportation, and help them to take steps to remove barriers to kids walking or biking to school.
Given the childhood obesity rates and the number of cars we see jammed in and around schools every day, this kind of initiative is long overdue.
When my son was going to school, we were fortunate that both his primary and high schools were within a few blocks of our house. However, his middle school – W.I. Dick – was nearly two kilometres away. And yet, because he had gotten into the habit of walking to school, he was very happy continuing to do so even when it became a much longer walk. He enjoyed the time to himself as it gave him the opportunity to listen to his music and see the sights along the way. On the rare occassions when I had to drive him (usually when he had music equipment to bring), I was shocked at the number of cars clogging the streets surrounding the school.
It’s even worse now. A survey done in the GTA and Hamilton regions discovered that about a third of children are being driven to school by a parent or carpool, and of those, nearly two thirds live within 2 km of the school. That same study noted that only 1% of children regularly bike to school.
Parents surveyed cited safety concerns as their reason for driving their kids, particularly the younger ones. However, the ‘Stepping It Up’ program hopes to alleviate those fears by organizing ‘walking school buses’ and other arrangements allowing kids to walk in groups, either with or without an adult. The program also encourages other changes to support active transportation, including bicycle safety workshops and the installation of bike racks.
Here’s hoping Milton can learn to ‘Step It Up’!