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On the way to schoolMaking walking to school kid-friendly.
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Teaching kids to ride is a beautiful, tender responsibilityTeaching kids to ride is a great way to hang out with them.
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I love biking with my kids.I love biking with my kids.
Day two of the Kickstand Sessions in Ottawa started with Angela van der Kloof of the Dutch sustainable transportation consulting firm, Mobycon, arriving at my house to join six-year-old Jasper and me on our walk to school. I invited Angela to join us after hearing how many kids in the Netherlands bike to school.
In our neighbourhood, there are lots of kids who walk with and without parents, but fewer who bike. Many families live within 1.5 kilometres of the school, so walking doesn't take very long. And lots of kids get picked up at the end of the day from an off site after school program, so having kid's bikes parked at the school can be akward. But I also find that biking to school is tricky because of parents parking close to the school and opening their car doors. So I was hoping Angela might have some ideas on how to make biking to school more inviting.
My daughter is 9 and walks to school with her friends. Every morning there's a delightful gaggle of girls who arrive at our back door and whisk her away. It's very sweet to see them scampering down the street together. By the time they reach the school, there are often as many as 13 kids walking along together. Now that there's a crossing guard at a four way stop close to the school where a lot of drivers weren't stopping or watching for children, many parents feel comfortable having the kids walk to school in a group.
We had a lovely walk to school. Jasper biked on ahead and stopped at the intersections and waited for us to catch up. Angela commented on how wide our Canadian roads were and how light the traffic was.
After dropping Jasper off, we walked over to the Kickstand Sessions which began with Angela presenting on Bike Parking, Bike Sharing and Cycling Education. Most of the discussions I've heard around cycling education focus on how to teach kids to bike safely within the context of school. Angela talked about cycling education being a beautiful part of the parent-child relationship and a special and significant way to relate to your children. "When I add up the amount of time I've spent biking with my kids and teaching them how to ride, it's easily over 1000 hours," she said.
These words brought tears to my eyes. Because really, that's what it's always been about for me. I love being close to my kids. When they were little I loved carrying them. And biking--with front seats, back seats, trail-a-bikes, long tails and tandems--is a natural extension of carrying your kids. When we walk together, it's lovely to hold hands. Biking side by side when we're out on the bike path together is a natural extension of moving through the world, connected. Now that they're bigger, they love biking ahead and then having me catch up. It's the push and pull of exploring the wide world and coming back home.
Angela's message was that having cycling education, skill development and traffic safety as part of the elementary curriculum is important for offering everyone the opportunity to bike, but if you have the time and ability to ride with your kids, enjoy it, even if it's scary sometimes while the kids are learning!
Kickstand Sessions and the Councillors
In the afternoon we rejoined our working groups from the day before, discussed bike programing we'd like to implement in the areas of our neighbourhood we were working on and planned presentations we'd deliver to the city councillors who were invited to join us later in the day. This turned out to be a session with lots of learning as giving presentations is beyond some of our comfort zones.
Mikael Colville-Anderson led us in a quick and interesting session on marketing and creating bike slogans to help us tell convincing bike stories so that our presentations to city councillors would be effective and compelling.
We learned to include a personal story, to keep the points brief, precise and clear, and to limit the presentations to five minutes.
Although I'm very comfortable talking to people I do and don't know in a lot of settings, I find public speaking challenging. My small group and the larger group were incredibly supportive, encouraging and offered helpful tips. The experience was still a little overwhelming. But I appreciated the challenge of stepping outside my comfort zone.
Our group introduced the concept of Complete Communities, an extension of complete streets. We wanted to build on the city's transitway investment and identified neighbourhoods across the city that are ready to become Complete Communities through an incremental approach. We asked councillors to limit speeds to 30km/hour so that people entering the neighbourhoods could enjoy them safely, to partner with Bixi Bikes or Right Bikes at transitway stops, to apply bold and creative intersection treatments that put pedestrians and cyclists first and to enhance existing parking opportunities so that more people can frequent the area businesses by converting on-street parking spots into clusters of bike parking.
Councillor Marianne Wilkinson, head of the city's Transportation Committee, and I had a great conversation after the presentation. She's already implementing or in the process of implementing many of our suggestions and wanted me to know that I could expect on-street parking to become bike parking in four select locations across the city in the spring. "I've been pushing for that for a while now, it just takes time," she told me.
After a warm reception, the Kickstand Sessions in Ottawa wrapped up. But not before there were lots of connections made, emails exchanged and promises of future shared projects and bike rides together in our wonderful city.