Editorial: Program a good step to get school kids out of cars

Children, families must feel confident in ability to walk or roll to school safely

Willows elementary is getting regional support in the bid to get more students out of cars and onto their feet during their daily school commute.

The Capital Regional District’s Active and Safe Routes to School project encourages students and families to walk, bike, bus or roll to school more often during their commutes to school. Willows is among 20 schools participating in the program.

A travel planning facilitator will engage students, teachers, parents, school board, municipal transportation planners and engineers, public health and local law enforcement agencies to address traffic and transportation challenges.

“We’ll find where the problem areas are and identify the safety issues and work together to solve them,” notes Oak Bay Coun. Michelle Kirby.

For students, that may mean maps of the best routes, park-and-walk stations, bike skills courses, skateboard repair workshops and walk-to-school days, among others. In addition to infrastructure, the program explores behaviour, enforcement and education.

Safety goes hand-in-hand with instilling in children early the value of moving about on their own power. If children don’t feel safe – or their parents don’t feel it’s safe for them – the likelihood of getting students out of the car is minimal.

Children must be confident in their ability to navigate both route and traffic, which these days includes more and more cars, bikes, skateboards, scooters and others.

But the value of doing so reaches beyond the immediate physical and mental health benefits of the program.

The measure sets the foundation for a life-long attitude shift toward the importance of exercise, not to mention the environmental payoff of having fewer cars making the loop to school morning and afternoon.

And that’s good for everyone.