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Physical Activity Foundation

Information for Families

Benefits of Riding or Walking to School

Health Benefits

Cycling or walking are simple ways for children to incorporate physical activity into their everyday lives. Children and young people need to participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate physical activity each day to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Social Benefits

Supervised riding or walking to school in early primary school years can develop the confidence and skills to independently travel in higher primary years. Children can also interact with parents and other students walking or riding the same way home.

Educational Benefits

Research shows that children who ride or walk to school are more likely to arrive at school alert and ready to learn.

Environmental Benefits

Riding and walking to school provides environmental benefits to the broader community through:

  • Reducing traffic congestion
  • Reducing noise and air pollution       
  • Reducing greenhouse emissions         
  • Creating safer environments with less cars around schools

Why Ride or Walk to School?

Our research tells us that kids want to ride or walk to school – when we surveyed over 300 year 6 students the vast majority preferred active travel over being driven to school.

Less than half of children aged 5-12years in Canberra are getting the recommended 60mins of physical activity each day.  Enabling children to ride or walk to school not only saves parents time in the morning it also adds to children’s daily physical activity and this has positive benefits on their health and wellbeing.

  • Bike riding is the easiest way to get healthy: It is recommended that children get 60 minutes of physical activity every day to maintain their health and riding a bike to school is an easy and fun way to make sure they are hitting this target. It’s also a great way for parents to spend quality time with their children.
  • It improves physical activity rates: In the 1970’s 80% of all school children rode or walked to school but now more than two-thirds go by car. Thanks to the Ride or Walk to School Program that trend is reversing – schools that participate in the program report 49.6% of students used active travel as their usual mode of transport.
  • It helps build confidence: Riding, walking, skating or scooting to school will make your students feel more self-sufficient, build resilience and helps them to develop an awareness of road safety and the environment around them.
  • Students perform better in class: A Danish study has shown that children who walk or ride to school display improved concentration for 4 hours longer than those who are driven.

Preparing Your Child to Ride or Walk Safely to School

We know that parents often have concerns with allowing their children to travel independently and the convenience of dropping children at school, often on the way to work, gives parents peace of mind. Here are some tips to prepare your child to ride or walk safely to school:

  • Practice, practice, practice – Ride or walk with your children to school during the week or on the weekend. Make sure they can find their way to and from school. You may want to set some challenges for them along the way, such as identifying three landmarks or signs along the way. Alternatively, if your children’s school has Active Streets pavement stencils leading to the school, encourage your children to identify and use these routes.
  • If your child is riding, take the time to check over their bike to make sure it is safe. Have they got a helmet that fits properly? Can they do some basic bike maintenance if needed?
  • Prepare a plan in case something goes wrong, who will they call, what will they do?
  • Talk to your child/ren about safely riding or walking to school. Understanding common hazards and how to navigate them.
  • Start with Part-Way – You may have no option but to drive to school, you can still engage in active travel. All you have to do is find a part-way point and either walk with your children or allow them to independently walk the rest of the way.
  • Talk to other parents in your community to see if your children could travel to school together, or perhaps see if the adults could take turns to travel with children.

Safe Cycle for Families Course

Safe Cycle is an Australian Curriculum aligned classroom resource that aims to increase the confidence and skills of students to travel actively to and/or from school.

You can find an online Safe Cycle for Families course, which has tips and information to get families riding and walking to school here.

Participating Schools

Is your child’s school participating?

Find a list of schools and their personalised maps to help discover a ride or walk to school route.

Does it Work?

A full evaluation report on the Ride or Walk to School program can be found here. The highlights include: