Bicycle Network: About R2S
Active Journeys, Active Minds
Active Journeys, Active Minds
In the 1970s, 80% of school children walked or rode to school. Arriving at the school gate by car was a rare occurrence. Today, the statistics have reversed, with 80% of children being driven to school and only 20% walking or riding. This reliance on the car not only reduces fitness, but unnecessarily deprives children of social and developmental benefits.
There are proven benefits of walking and riding for a child’s independence because they develop a better understanding of road rules and general safety compared to children who underestimate the dangers of road travel. Being allowed to walk or ride to school empowers the child with a feeling of personal capability, and demonstrates that a parent has trust in them. This feeling of being responsible and trustworthy makes the child more likely to behave with these attributes as they develop.
Walking or riding to school allows kids to build an active relationship with their local environment. Children who ride or walk to school can remember details about their neighbourhood such as directions, landmarks and people. They can remember their entire journey, whereas children travelling by car usually only remember the start or end of their journey - engaging with the same grey interior everyday rather than the changing wonders of their local environment.
Getting some physical activity in before school has benefits within the classroom as teachers frequently tell us students who walk or ride are the most focused and best able to concentrate.
When surveyed, children who are driven said highlights of their journey included ‘petrol stations’ and ‘traffic lights’, but children who got to school under their own steam remember moments such as ‘meeting up with a friend’, ‘running over bumps’ and ‘seeing Mrs Woods riding’. It is clear that the children who get to experience the world beyond the car window have a much more interactive relationship with their local environment.
There are many ways for parents and carers to encourage riding and walking to school. The family environment plays a huge role in child behaviour which helps form lifelong habits. Young children like it when parents participate, so a parent could initially join in the ride or walk to school. After a few practice runs both parent and child will feel confident enough for the child to ‘go it alone’, or with friends! They might find it is a quicker, easier and more fun way to spend their journey to school.
Schools - get involved!
Schools have a vital role to play in supporting the development of active travel habts. Schools that are a part of the Ride2School program have access to great resources to help create an a culture of active travel. Conducting monthly HandsUp! surveys help create a 'social norm' as students see their peers putting their hand up which encourages them to get in on the action.
We find it is common for parents to worry about their children walking or riding alone. To address this concern, schools can implement ‘Part Way Is Ok’ where children are dropped off at designated drop off points, and then walk or ride the remaining distance to school with friends or a teacher.
Check out the ‘Great Ideas’ section on our website for more suggestions like these!
Cold weather is responsible for 77% of discouragement to ride or walk to school, so take advantage of the current Spring weather to implement new habits which can last all year!
Download as PDF
• Hume, C., Carver, A., Timperio, A., Salmon, J., Crawford, D. What influences whether children walk or ride to school? Deakin University Press, The Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research.
• Veitch, J., Cleland, V., Salmon, J., Hume, C., Timperio, A., Crawford, D. Children’s and adolescents’ physical activity during the critical window. Deakin University Press, The Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research.
• Walk to School. Backseat Children: How our car dependent culture compromises safety on our streets, 2008.