Walk or ride to school
School mornings can be hectic—packing bags and lunches and getting everyone out the door on time. Jumping into the car can seem like the easiest transport option, but relying on car transport comes at a cost—more traffic congestion, more pollution and cost. In most states, nearly half of all school children travel to school by car. If you measure the distance of your commute to school, you might be surprised to find that these trips are less than three kilometres—an ideal distance for walking or cycling.
Walking or cycling to school not only saves energy, but will make a significant contribution to the recommended 60 minutes exercise children need each day. Physical activity has a number of rewards: it helps maintain a healthy weight, builds stronger bones and makes children less prone to anxiety or depression. Inactivity is a huge contributing factor for disease and disability.
If your children are at primary school and you live within walking distance, you could find out if your school has a walking school bus. This is where a group of primary school children walk to and from school with two adults, one 'driving' and one at the back. This is a fun and safe way for children to get to school each day. Socially it's great because they mix with other kids they'd ordinarily only know by sight and make new friends around your neighbourhood.
If your school doesn't operate a walking school bus, you could start your own with other parents. There's lots of information to help get you started:
- Walking school bus - A guide for parents and teachers TravelSmart Australia
- TAS Walking bus Hobart City Council
- VIC Walking school bus VicHealth
- WA TravelSmart to school Department of Transport
States and territories have a range of other resources to support active and safe travel to school:
- ACT Ride or walk to school ACT Government
- NSW Road safety education NSW Department of Education
- NT Active transport Northern Territory Government
- QLD TravelSmart Queensland Government
- SA Way2Go
- TAS Travelling to school Department of Education
- VIC About Smart Steps Victoria Walks
- WA TravelSmart schools Department of Transport
Look out for and participate in the annual Walk Safely to School Day which takes place throughout Australia.
Cycling to school is also a cost-effective means of transport which reduces pollution. Cycling will also build children's skills and confidence as well as provide the opportunity to learn road safety and develop a healthy routine. Talk to your school about participating in the national Ride2School Program. Their website has practical advice about riding to school and a range of resources for parents, kids and teachers.
If you can't ride or walk, public transport is more efficient and has lower costs than individual car travel.
If reducing reliance on car travel isn't feasible, consider sharing the trips to school with other parents by car pooling. It's much more efficient to drive a full car and may take a little pressure off when it's your day 'off'. It will also reduce congestion around school at peak times—a time when accidents are more likely to occur.
Whether travelling to school by foot, bicycle or by public transport, make sure children are aware of safety issues and give them safety tips so they know and stick to relevant road rules.