A week-long celebration of cycling for students of all ages returns to Metro Vancouver, as Bike to School Week returns for another year, next week.
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From May 27 to 31, over 120 elementary and middle schools will hold school-wide celebrations encouraging students and their families to leave their cars at home as part of Bike to School Week.
Started by HUB Cycling in 2013, the annual event focuses on supporting and encouraging active modes of transportation, as well as bringing to light the best way to get from one place to another.
“Ensuring that families know about the safest routes to school and new infrastructure being built in school areas is just one of the ways that schools and municipal staff are working together to make biking to school an attractive choice for families across Metro Vancouver,” said Jel Kocmaruk, Bike to School Week Coordinator.
One of those students planning to once again take part this year is Oliver, a seven-year-old student in North Vancouver, who has been riding and walking to school with his family since kindergarten.
And in addition to the health and wellness benefits, his parents say that using active travel has resulted in opportunities to teach him age-appropriate road safety skills and has allowed them to build new social connections in their neighbourhood.
“Oliver would never set off without his helmet and he’s street smart,” his mom Stephanie said. “He knows to watch for car doors swinging open, or cars pulling out and how to navigate junctions.”
Of course, there’s also a “lovely social aspect to bumping into other kids along the way.”
As an added bonus, Oliver’s bike route includes a long laneway that allows for some play along the way. “In the lane, Oliver rides ahead so he can circle back to get more riding in – we call it ‘double biking,'” his mom said.
Improving things even further is the fact that Oliver’s school provides maps and highlights travel routes based on traffic volumes and safe infrastructure.
His school is also a bike supporter of Bike to School Week, with parents playing a big role in the event.
“The PAC [Parent Advisory Council] creates a party atmosphere around Bike to School week – with morning dance parties, free fruit and energy bars, bike decorating supplies and they partner with a local bike shop to offer free bike tune-ups and advice,” his mom said.
Oliver’s family is also supported to use active travel to get to school on the work front. Stephanie’s employer, BCAA, has a wellness program that provides healthy lifestyle credits that Stephanie uses to purchase helmets and other bike safety accessories for the family.
Now with another Bike to School Week on the horizon, HUB Cycling is encouraging parents to find out if their child’s school is registered in Bike to School Week by visiting the event website.
Over 100 schools have already registered to participate in this year’s event, and there is still time to get involved. Parents, teachers and administrators can register their school until May 21st and receive a package in the mail.
HUB Cycling also offers support such as resources and event ideas, prizes for participating schools, and Bike to School Week packages to make tracking rides easy.
It is anticipated that together, students will take over 23,000 trips to and from school during the week.