Only two out of ten students ride or walk to school with greater use of cars, concerns about safety and convenience cited as reasons children are not walking and riding to school as much as they did.
In comparison, if you were a kid in the 1970s or 80s, it’s likely you “actively travelled” each day with an astonishing eight out of ten students riding or walking to school.
“In the past 40 years we’ve unfortunately seen a steady decline in active travel to school. More people own and use cars, family dynamics are different, and our lives seem busier,” said Associate Professor Stephen Corbett, Director of the Centre for Population Health at Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD).
“When COVID-19 forced us into restrictions and more time at home, we saw people venturing outside, riding their bikes in our local parks and walking in their neighbourhood.
“Getting children out of cars and into active transport is a good way to continue what we started during COVID-19 restrictions. We can improve children’s levels of physical activity, reduce the number of cars and parking problems, which lead to safer, healthier local environments and communities.”
WSLHD is encouraging students to try a walk or ride to school this Friday 19 March with National Ride2School Day.
An initiative from the Bicycle Network, the day aims to make “active travel” normal for students, and hopefully build up to at least an average of 5 out of 10 students actively travelling to school.
“We know physically active students are healthier, happier and more socially connected. Not only does actively travelling to school improve physical activity, students who walk, ride scoot or skate to school arrive awake and alert. This can improve their focus in class and ability to be more engaged in what they are learning,” said Associate Professor Corbett.
Local parent and WSLHD Health Promotion Officer Elizabeth Leece walked and rode to school days in the 1980s and hopes other children today can experience the same.
“Back then, all the kids in my street used to meet up ride or walk the 20 minutes to and from school every day. We’d head through the local park, meet up with other groups of kids and chat with the lollipop lady at the main road crossing,” she said.
“It was a great way to make friends with kids who lived nearby, even ones in other grades so you always had someone you knew to walk with.”
You can join more than 350,000 students across the nation who will ride, walk, scoot or skate to school on Friday 19 March 2021.
Local schools can register at www.ride2school.com.au.
For more information about children’s active travel, visit the NSW Health Healthy Eating Active Living website.