Self-propelled kids in Calgary told to make way for drivers when CBE letter should have said: DRIVE LESS!
The letter below should have began with:
WATCH OUT FOR GROUPS OF KIDS ON FOOT AND BIKE! PLEASE DRIVE LESS OR AVOID DRIVING ON THE SIDE-STREETS AROUND SCHOOLS
My son has been a self-propelled commuter to school and back all his life. When he moved schools in grade 5 he changed from walking to cycling since the school was further away. I have blogged and videoed about his bike gang and they have been written up by Tom Babin in the Calgary Herald. Last week his school sent the letter below to the school community and handed it to some of the kids who bike. This letter was about “bike safety”. And before I dissect this letter, I want to say that I think the administration at my son’s school are excellent. They have been very supportive of kids biking and walking. The principal sends weekly reports and always starts off with telling drivers to stop dangerous behaviour. However, the bike safety letter they sent home is a reflection of our society’s belief that cars should always have the right of way. I agree that cyclists need to be safe and cautious since any altercation with a car and cyclist will end badly for the cyclist, however, I wish the letter would have told the drivers to avoid driving the side streets around the schools, especially in the winter when roads are narrow and cyclists may be in the middle of the road.
THE BIGGEST SAFETY CONCERN FOR KIDS WHO WALK AND BIKE ARE PARENTS WHO DRIVE AND DROP
The parents who drive and drop their kids every day and who clog the streets around every Calgary school are the biggest threat to children living active lifestyles. Not only are the kids who are driven missing an opportunity for some fresh air, exercise, independent exploration and time with their friends, but the parents who drive make the streets unsafe for those kids who are walking and cycling to school. And it is not just parents of children, but many Calgarians expect to zip through Calgary’s side-streets in their car at anytime of day or in any season. My son’s school had complaints from the parents and the community about children cycling on the roads. If we want kids (and adults) to be adopt healthy habits like incorporating physical activity into their days though walking and biking, skate-boarding or scootering, then we need to change our approach. We need to encourage kids to walk and bike, and to tell drivers to stay away from the side-streets around schools. It is the cars that make these side-streets unsafe.
ARE WE DRIVING OUR KIDS TO UNHEALTHY BEHAVIOURS? WE SURE ARE.
The irony is that most parents won’t let their kids walk and bike because they are afraid the kids will be hit by a car. So the parents drive their kids, thus becoming the problem, another car on the streets around the school. Active Healthy Kids Canada’s report on kids and active transport found that in Canada, although 58% of parents walked to school when they were kids, only 28% of their children walk to school today. The report also stated that: “While rates of walking are declining, the percentage of adolescents who take all of their trips by car has gone up over time. This trend leads to more car traffic in school surroundings – and a sizable proportion of this traffic comes from parents whose children live within a reasonable walking distance but are nevertheless driven to and from school. Parents may feel that they are keeping their children safe by driving them to school. Ironically, they are contributing to increased traffic volumes around schools (and thus the risk of road accidents) for children who use active transportation, creating a vicious circle. In this context, it is an uphill battle to promote active transportation to individuals who are in the habit of taking most trips by car.”
DRIVERS NEED TO CHANGE BEHAVIOURS FOR KIDS TO ENGAGE IN ACTIVE TRANSPORT AND BE SAFE
Instead of telling kids to get out of the way of cars, we need to tell the cars to stay out of the way of kids who are walking and biking. And yes, there could be big groups of kids crossing streets and biking on the road. This makes driving difficult so choose another route to drive. And just in case you are not sure why living actively is so important, make sure to check our Dr. Mike Evans Youtube video called 23 1/2 hours. You’ll be hanging up those car keys in no time.