Saturday, Jul 2
Happy Canada Day!

A child shall lead them

With school just around the corner, it seems appropriate to talk about the kids.

Too often, I’ve heard this answer when asking someone if their children ride: “I won’t let my kids ride their bikes around here, it’s not safe.”

My response is usually, “Do you ever ride with them?”

At this point, I usually get a blank stare.

Kids absorb what they see around them. Our obsession with driving and cars becomes the legacy they grow up with. We have to change this.

When the Pedestrian & Biking Master Plan was being shown publicly one of the members of the Kelowna Area Cycling Coalition asked the question, “Why can’t we use the measure of how many kids bike to school to gauge success?”

I thought that was an idea worth pursuing.

Studies have shown that kids aren’t getting enough activity. Can we use biking to fix this? Studies show that we can.

According to the plan that the city put together, there is a 20-year timeline set up to increase the number of trips under five kilometres.

Children in primary school will be adults in 20 years. If they start cycling now, when they are adults there is a much greater chance they will still be riding as adults.

Face it, we adults love cars because it extends our reach.

That is exactly the same reason that kids love bicycles. It changes a boring walk that would take forever into something easy and fun.

The other day, I suggested to my daughter that we ride our bikes to pick up some cat food. The response was less than keen. “I’m too tired.”

I cajoled and prodded, eventually we rolled our bikes out the door.

For the next hour we rode. I never heard her mention being tired again.

The new school year starts next week. The weather will be good. How many bikes will you see in the bike racks at school?

Schools can do any or all of three things:

  • provide crossing guards
  • provide bike racks
  • provide promotional material.

Motorized vehicles aren’t going to go away, that’s the reality. Crossing guards make it safe for kids to get to school by active means, either walking or cycling.

This requires either adults or older children who are trained in making sure the communication occurs.

If a student rides to school, but finds there are no spaces left on the bike racks then they won’t ride next time. Bike racks need to be front-and-centre, this provides safe parking by being very public.

They act as a reminder that fellow students are riding.

Promotional materials can be something as easy as a map. Put together with traffic measures that show low-volume traffic and slow-traffic routes.

When kids get comfortable riding, when they learn the skills to ride safely; when they gain the freedom that enhances their self-esteem, everyone wins.

If your children ride more, don’t you think you might think about riding more?

Becoming a teenager and getting our licence shouldn’t be the end of riding our bikes. It should be seen as an extension of our reach.

Bicycles aren’t childish things, but if we treat cyclists as children, we’re going to continue the same pattern that has created untenable traffic, horrible air quality, and an inactive population.

I want to count the number of kids riding to school not just on my fingers and toes, but I want to use yours and yours and yours.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


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About the Author

As a youngster on two feet, a teenager on two wheels, then a young adult on four wheels, Landon has found that life is really about using all modes of transportation. Currently a cycling advocate with the Kelowna Area Cycling Coalition he tries to lower road rage on both sides.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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