Laura Robinson, author of Cyclist BikeList: The Book for Every Rider, attended On the move in the community! in Montreal. Here are some of her thoughts after the conference.
Laura Robinson: Imagine a place where all planning decisions put the right of children to live in a safe place where it was easy to ride their bikes, run around or skateboard first. Where doing business was not more important than having fun. Impossible? Traffic engineer Leah Bisutti from Burlington, Ontario says that is how we must design planning guidelines. Bisutti was speaking at a panel entitled, “Safe Routes to School—Canada’s Best Practices” along with her colleague Jennifer Jenkins, who is a public health nurse with the City of Burlington, at the “On the Move in the Community” conference in Montreal on June 3, 2010.
Velo Quebec organized the conference. They are an amazing non-profit cycling advocacy organization that employs 80 full-time staff and another 30 building up to this conference and their spectacular Tour la Nuit, which I am riding in tonight, and the legendary Tour de l’ille, which happens on Saturday, June 5 when tens of thousands of cyclists will converge on the city and ride to their heart’s delight.
Tour de l’Ille started in 1985 with 3,500 cyclists braving cool, rainy weather. In 2009, when they celebrated their 25th anniversary, 35,000 came out! Tour la Nuit was initiated in 1999. Last year they had 13,000. Of course because this is Montreal, a festival is a real festival. I will report on what the start and finish areas are like, but I know one thing for sure—this isn’t a race—but a super fun time on a bike.
Things were a little more serious yesterday when experts like Leah Bisutti and Jennifer Jenkins talked about what it takes to get kids out of their parent’s cars and onto bikes or sidewalks. The weird thing is, every survey of kids shows that they LOVE riding their bikes. It is decisions by adults—parents and politicians—who decide life outside of the confines of the automobile is just too dangerous. How ironic given that it is the automobile that makes going to school far more dangerous than it has to be for children. Experts from across Canada and Europe showed how much safer the environment is, not to mention cleaner, when parents DO NOT DRIVE THEIR CHILDREN TO SCHOOL. Instead, parents and Safe Routes to School advocates, along with kids do a “walkabout” in their neighbourhood and decide what needs to be fixed (more signs that say kids are around, more crossing guards, signage that shows kids where the least car infested streets are, lower speed limits and traffic calming devices), and then they plan their walking school bus. Everyone has a blast and arrives at school ready to learn. Every study completed recently shows that kids learn better after engaging in cardio-respiratory exercise. But even if this does happen, riding a bike is a blast, and so is walking to school with friends and that is reason enough to do either activity.
The Leah and Jennifer team are going to work on getting kids on bikes for transportation to school for next year. So leave the car at home whether you are ensuring a child gets to school or if you are on your way too work or play. Get your running shoes out or your bike or both and have a blast.