Cycling to school can be safe for your kids

There is a widespread public perception that it is not safe for children to cycle to school — although the evidence suggests differently.

There is a widespread public perception that it is not safe for children to cycle to school — although the evidence suggests differently.

As the natural instinct of a parent is to protect, many young children are now being driven to school to keep them safe. This is often convenient for parents with busy lives and sometimes seems like their only option.

However, it can cause havoc around schools when a high number of cars arrive at the same time, ironically putting children and other pedestrians at more risk.

There is a growing generation of “backseat children” who may be — in the long-run — being put in more physical health danger than they are being protected from.

By reducing the number of cars taking children to and from school, there is less congestion and pollution, and less potential for accidents outside school gates. Walking and cycling also provide everyday exercise, encouraging children to be more active and healthier.

Physical inactivity is now a serious threat to our collective health.

“Preliminary data suggests that a sedentary lifestyle is one of the ten leading global causes of death and disability.” World Health Organization, Move to Health, 2002(1).  Health, Report on Obesity, 2004.

Young people rarely suffer directly from heart disease, strokes and diabetes. However, they are increasingly demonstrating the early signs of all these potentially life threatening illnesses, putting them at serious risk in adulthood.

Safe routes to schools where children can walk or cycle is a highly effective way of addressing these and other conditions — such as obesity, cancer, osteoporosis and depression— that compromise young people’s health.

By promoting safe routes, the entire school community can benefit from young people enjoying not just a healthier, happier childhood, but a healthier future, too.

If your child is going to cycle or walk to school the first thing you should think about his/her route.

Though some roads between home and school may seem too busy or too fast, there may be an alternative route that is more suitable. As a parent you could ride the route with your child to point out the correct way to ride it, and to point out intersections which require extra caution.

It is important to remember that helmets are a safety aid, not a guarantee of safety, and there is no substitute for careful and responsible riding. Visibility is important and a reflective vest will fit over clothing at minimal cost to increase your, and your child’s, safety.

Cycling Education — the CV Cycling Coalition is offering Safe Cycling Rodeos at many of Comox Valley elementary schools.  These rodeos teach your child the rules of the road and help to keep them aware, alert and safe.

Please ask your child’s principal about these courses. Adult courses are being offered at no cost to coalition members and only $20 to non-coalition members.

Please check the website or e-mail cvcycleskills@gmail.com.

Safe Cycle Routes — the CV Cycling Coalition is strongly encouraging local city councils and the Ministry of Transportation to address the development of clearly marked cycle lanes and routes on our roads forming a network of routes to enable children to cycle to school and adults to cycle to work and to do errands with greater safety.

Please contact your local council to let them know that you would like to see this infrastructure put in place to encourage the increased use of alternative forms of transportation.

Margaret Harris, president of the Comox Valley Cycling Coalition, writes Shifting Gears. It appears every fourth week.

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