Originally published: September 2023
As your teen gets set for another school year, keep them moving with active travel—human-powered ways of going from one place to another.
Whether they’d rather walk, run, or wheel (with a bike, scooter, wheelchair, skateboard, or pair of inline skates), active travel is a great form of physical activity. It also helps teens build their independence and practice valuable life skills (like planning and time-management). Research shows that active travel can also reduce traffic congestion in school areas, lowering the risk of traffic-related injury. Here are some tips to support your teen with active travel this school year.
Encourage your teen to take charge of how they’ll get to school and the route they’ll use. Help them find digital mapping tools to mark the routes between school and home, taking care to avoid high-speed roads and areas with heavy traffic. Point out features that keep them safe along the way (like well-lit pathways and marked crosswalks). Help them think through how long it takes to get to where they’re going, building in extra time for activities like locking up their bike.
Get the gear
Let your teen take the lead in learning about active travel gear and show them how to check that it’s in good working order.
- If they plan to bike, remind them that wearing an approved helmet is the law for anyone under 18. Encourage them to take the bike helmet YES test to be sure their helmet fits properly.
- If they plan to scooter, skateboard, or inline skate, help them figure out which helmet they’ll need for which activity.
- Talk together about how to dress for the weather.
Build their active travel skills
Support your teen as they learn and practice the rules of the road. For example:
- Teach them to stay alert and avoid distractions when they’re on the move. Set an example by putting away your phone, headphones, and ear buds as you travel in active ways.
- Talk about expected behaviour on roads, sidewalks, and pathways (like being mindful of other pedestrians and cyclists, and using hand signals when turning).
- Encourage them to cross the road at marked crosswalks or intersections.
Step it up
Young people have a lot to say about the issues that matter to them. Talk with your teen about their ideas for making active travel more appealing, and help them get involved in local improvement efforts. For example, they could:
- Advocate for bike racks or shelters in public places.
- Volunteer for community clean-ups, outdoor art projects, and gardening.
- Lead or support active travel plans for their school or municipality (like students with the Pincher Creek bike rack project).
Remind your teen that active travel doesn’t have to involve long distances—even a short walk or wheel gets them moving and feels great. Try these ideas:
- If they drive or carpool to school, they can park a few blocks away and walk the rest of the route.
- If they ride a school bus or city transit to get home, they can get off a stop or two early and walk the rest of the way.
- If they need motivation, they can set goals and keep track of their progress. For example, they could aim to travel a certain distance over the course of the school year (like walking or wheeling 300km, the distance between Edmonton and Calgary).
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