What Drivers Can Learn From Children

Children walking/cycling to school ease traffic congestion

PETERBOROUGH, ON, Sept. 1, 2011 /CNW/ - As school bells peal this week, more families will fill the streets across Canada walking and cycling their children back to school. So drivers should beware and adjust their behaviour accordingly. Chloe, a grade 8 student, notes a common pedestrian danger; "there is one spot on the way to school where I have to listen and watch really closely before I can cross - the cars come around the bend so fast they wouldn't be able to stop if I was half way across. I think the littler kids have to be with a parent to cross safely."

According to Jacky Kennedy, Director of Canada Walks at Green Communities Canada, the lead organization for the Canadian School Travel Planning initiative, greater numbers on the streets leads to greater safety; "When drivers see more children walking and cycling, their natural reaction is to slow down. The larger the group of children, the slower vehicles will travel. When our streets are sparse of walkers and cyclers, driving behaviour becomes more dangerous to the few who do walk. We need to learn to share the road with all users; especially children who are most vulnerable to road dangers."

The great irony is that many of the cars that endanger walking children are actually carrying fellow students on the way to school in a family vehicle. The largest Canadian household survey concerning school transport, recently conducted by Green Communities Canada, found that the car was the most common way children got to school nationally (43% driven versus 34% walking). Parents also reported several safety concerns about vehicles in the school zone with observations like, "I've been close to being hit in the parking lot," "[Drivers] do not stop at stop signs," and "[Drivers] do not respect the school zone areas or the cross walks."

However, more and more people are supporting a change in car culture across Canada and around the world. The United Nations has named this the Decade for Action on Road Safety - and globally, countries and communities are responding with policies and charters that recognize that motor vehicles are dangerous to people who walk or cycle, especially to children and seniors whose independent mobility depends on active travel.

More children are hitting the pavement for the trip to school as municipal and provincial governments take steps to change car-centric road policies and school boards support those measures. Surrey, BC, adopted a Walking Plan earlier this year that will help make walking a safe and convenient choice for citizens and visitors. In Waterloo, ON, school boards recently signed an Active Transportation Charter to ensure that walking and cycling to school are safe, comfortable and convenient. And in Nova Scotia, a province-wide legislation change has been announced for this fall that will reduce school zone speeds from 50 km/h to a safer and easier to navigate speed of 30 km/h.

"(Walking to school) has been one of the greatest things that we've done over the last couple of years" says Bruce Krentz, a father in Thompson, Manitoba. "It's really some special time together and it also starts to get people out and get them moving and it shows your kids that it's okay to walk; that you don't always have to take a car to wherever you go."

Mélyssa Brochu of Sherbrooke, Quebec, says, "(My daughter), who used to complain that 1.1 km was too far to walk, is now a walk-to-school champion."

Drivers, beware. There will be more champions on the streets this year - could you be one of them?

About Green Communities Canada

Green Communities Canada is a national association of non-profit organizations that deliver innovative, practical environmental solutions to Canadian households and communities. For more information, visit www.saferoutestoschool.ca/schooltravel.asp. The current STP project is funded by the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer through its CLASP initiative, with additional funding support from the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Image with caption: " Special programs urge more families to walk and cycle to school, resulting in less congestion on the streets, increased physical activity and improved air quality in our communities (CNW Group/LC Writing Services)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20110901_C7833_PHOTO_EN_2741.jpg

SOURCE LC Writing Services

For further information:

For more information or to find an Active and Safe Routes to School champion in your region, contact:

Jacky Kennedy, Canada Walks, Green Communities Canada, Toronto, ON,
Ph: (416) 992-5496

www.saferoutestoschool.ca

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