In Portland, there are some incredible active transportation statistics, but none quite as great as this: around 40% of kids bike, walk, or roll to school. That means that while just over 30% of kids start their day with a car ride, the rest take a more active route to their day of education. They bike with their parent or guardian, or walk, or wheel their way on skateboards, scooters, and push bikes.
The benefits are easy: adding to the daily total of exercise, getting a bit of that fresh outdoor air, and clearing minds for the learning and work ahead. Of course, those benefits cut both ways, giving parents and caregivers the same good bennies that the kids get.
Short morning timeframes and longer distances are the two main barriers that keep families from getting to school together under their own steam, says Janis McDonald of the Portland Bureau of Transportation.
Sometimes, though, adding just a single day when a family takes their commute out of the car can be sweet. McDonald, who administers Portland’s Safe Routes to School program, said there are few time-tested tricks for being able to bike, walk, or roll to school.
- Start small. As with a bike commute, a get-to-school commute doesn’t have to be all or nothing. McDonald suggests trying the route at least once on a weekend to figure out the exact time needed.
- Prepping makes perfect. Laying out clothes, packing lunches, planning breakfast, having wheels in working order. All these pre-trip tasks ease the way for less stress.
- Buy In. If kids are excited about the idea everything will be a lot more fun.
On Portland’s Safe Routes’ website the most commonly asked questions about getting an active route to school are answered. McDonald said the best support network is that of other parents and guardians who have figured out what works and want to share their tips.
Safe Routes to School is a decade-old national program, and has had success helping more families find ways to make the morning and afternoon trip more active.
Get ready – the National Safe Routes to School Day is October 7th. We’ll have selected styles of Street and Little Nutty helmets on sale starting next week, so check back.