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How do you keep kids riding to school all year long?
At the start of every school year, bike racks at school and on campus are overflowing as students who spent the summer riding with friends aim to hold on to those joyful moments a little longer.
Inevitably, by mid-October the number of bikes locked up starts to dwindle, until eventually the racks stand almost unused. The question is: how do you keep kids riding all year long?
A key component to any trip to school on a bike is a planned, safe, and easy-to-follow route. Sticking to quieter streets and bikeways – or routes with clearly defined and controlled intersections – is a good way to ensure even an accompanied kindergartener is comfortable on their way to school. When routes link up with those of their friends, this becomes a surefire way to keep kids enthusiastic about getting on the saddle to get to school. My daughter, Coralie, and her friends enjoy riding to and from school because they get time to socialize before settling into schoolwork or shuffling off to one of their many programs.
Most children also need motivation. Pointing out that bikes are faster than walking is a great way to do this. Adults know it takes more exertion to ride a bike than to walk, but for some, the fact that it takes longer to walk makes riding a bike more convenient. Our son, Etienne, even when he first started riding only a year ago, would prefer to ride in the rain to daycare than walk because, in his words, “walking takes too long!”
It is also becoming common knowledge that regular exercise increases brain activity. Studies continually demonstrate that a 30-minute walk or bike ride to school greatly increases a child’s ability to focus in the classroom. My own daughter, now in grade 3, told me that on days when we ride to school instead of walking, even with a short 10-minute ride, she feels energized and ready for her day.
Riding a bike to school can be a simple and easy way to keep kids active, healthy, and on the way to independence. According to both of my children, all you need is a good backpack and a bike you love to ride, and any kid can be all set to get to school by bike. The better we prepare them when they are young, the more likely they will follow the pattern as they grow into young adults – setting them up for success for years to come.
CORALIE’S 5 TIPS FOR BIKING TO SCHOOL
1 Choose a bike that’s comfortable and easy to ride so you’ll want to use it every day!
2 Combination locks are a great way to keep your bike safe while not worrying about losing a key. Just be sure to pick a code you can remember easily.
3 Wear layers or pack extra clothes so you’re ready for any kind of weather. An extra pair of gloves is always handy for colder days.
4 Plan to meet up with friends on the way to make the ride fun!
5 Don’t rush! The best part of riding a bike is enjoying the journey.
Melissa lives in Vancouver, BC with her husband and two young children. The family has been living car-free since 2010 and together with her husband, Chris, they share stories, images, and expertise through modacitylife.com. When not busy writing and working, Melissa enjoys spending quality time with her family bike riding through their city together.
This post was originally published in 2014 and has been updated.