Hundreds of Vernon students are embracing the concept of getting some exercise while getting to school.
During October, the City of Vernon partnered with four elementary schools to celebrate International Walk and Wheel to School Month (iWalk/iWheel), an annual global event that promotes the benefits of active travel to school.
Students who walked, biked, or scootered to school won prizes at celebration stations hosted at Ellison Elementary, Harwood Elementary, Okanagan Landing Elementary, and Ecole Beairsto Elementary.
A total of 547 students chose active transportation to school during these events.
“The celebration at Okanagan Landing Elementary was particularly successful with nearly half the student body walking or cycling to school,” says a City release. “In 2011, when the City first undertook school travel planning with Okanagan Landing Elementary, only 9% of students walked or cycled to school.”
Brian Smith, principal of Okanagan Landing Elementary, says despite wet weather, they had overwhelming participation, with over 70 students biking to school and about half of their total student population participating.
“We even had one student bike all the way from Coldstream to the Landing. As a result, we noticed much less traffic in our parking lot and students were more alert and ready to learn when school started.”
Canadian children are less active than a generation ago. The 2016 ParticipACTION Report on Physical Activity for Children and Youth gave Canada a D grade in active transportation with only 24% of Canadian children walking to school. The City of Vernon began school travel planning in 2010 to increase the number of children walking and biking to school in our community. At that time, all participating schools fell below the already low national average for active transportation.
Walking and cycling have benefits beyond physical health: students who walk to school are more alert and attentive in class, are less stressed, and have stronger connections to their community. Teaching safe walking and cycling skills reduces families’ reliance on vehicles and supports the transition to a sustainable multi-modal transportation network.
“We are thrilled with the results of this year’s International Walk and Wheel to School Month events” says Angela Broadbent, Active Transportation Coordinator with the City of Vernon. ”Every school that participated saw a significant increase in walking and biking. This goes to show that events like iWalk/iWheel can trigger a behavior shift that will have a lasting impact on our community.”
For more information visit www.vernon.ca/iwalk.