EDITORIAL: Bike to school offers benefits

NANAIMO: Initiatives to teach children to get out of vehicles and walk or bike will only help in the long term.

Youngsters are on the streets, sidewalks and trails as part of bike and walk to school week, which concludes Saturday (Oct. 6).

Thousands of Nanaimo school district students are forgoing the gas-guzzling SUV of their parents’ morning commute to get to school.

The habits created during the week can only lead to good things down the road – exercise leads to better health and fewer cars on the road leads to less greenhouse gas emissions and congestion on city streets.

But it’s a little sad that what used to be a daily occurrence for most children is now relegated to one week out of the year.

Just a generation ago, a parent dropping a child off at school was out of the ordinary. Now the vehicles are lined up down the block.

Parents argue that schools are further away from homes than in the past, which poses safety concerns around traffic and predators – both animal and human.

Bike and walk to school weeks are supposed to provide the catalyst and connections so that those issues can be addressed.

There’s safety in numbers – students learn who lives in their neighbourhood and who they can join on the morning walk to school.

Parents can divide up the week’s schedule so that supervision is provided for groups of children walking to and from school.

And drivers on their way to work can get used to seeing students walking and biking, adjusting their driving habits to accommodate them.

Traffic and congestion in our city will not lessen in the coming years.

Initiatives to teach children to get out of vehicles and walk or bike will only help in the long term, both for the health of the students as they grow and the state of the environment.