September is an exciting time for families. I remember how excited I was as a child every time a new school year started, and I saw that same excitement in my own children when they were school-aged. The start of a new school year is a time to grow, change, and try new things. We should embrace this way of thinking when it comes to how children get to and from school as well.
For too long getting to school has meant getting in the car. As a mom of four myself, I know the pressure of a busy morning. But the reality is getting in the car isn’t benefitting children or the community. More cars — on quiet residential streets — destined for schools only increases congestion, speeding, and frustration for everyone. These conditions make driving an inefficient, costly, and at times an unsafe way of getting around.
The only way out of this problem is to embrace active forms of transportation.
There are so many reasons to change how children of all ages get to school. Walking, transit, or cycling reduces stress, improves physical and mental health, connects children to the community, improves air quality, and typically costs less than driving. Further, fresh air and exercise means that children arrive at school alert and ready to learn. During drop-off and pick-up times, active transportation can even be faster than hopping in the car.
Teaching children how to ride the bus and navigate the community independently is an important milestone in their development. Planning their route to school is a great place to start.
School day mornings are a busy time for families… believe me, I know. But we should challenge ourselves to reimagine schedules and consider how we can do things differently to support children and ourselves to live happier, healthier lives. If you ask school-aged children, I think you would be surprised how many would prefer to ride a bike or walk to school, especially with their friends.
So let’s start by re imagining how we move around the community and start the school year off fostering better habits that support children’s health, safety, and the environment.
Need help figuring out how to get to school safely? Parents and students in the City can use our Best Routes to School Maps that has recommended walking and rolling routes, as well as locations of crosswalks, crossing guards, and traffic signals.
Together with North Vancouver School District, the City’s Safe and Active School Travel Program encourages safe and healthy school travel habits through outreach and improvements to the transportation infrastructure around schools. Go to www.cnv.org/SASTP to learn more and create your family’s safe and active school travel plan.
Have a fantastic new school year!
Linda Buchanan is Mayor, City of North Vancouver.