National Bike To School Day  

Posted by Big Gav in

The SMH has an article on the unfortunate decline in children walking or riding to school - Letting kids ride to school doesn't make you a bad parent.

Early this month, and quite suddenly, our roads got busy. The reason was simple: school went back and overnight once-quiet streets were invaded by vast, urgent fleets of cars delivering children to class in the morning and picking them up again in the afternoon.

This twice-daily school-gate rush hour is now the norm but it wasn't always. Forty years ago 80 per cent of Australian children walked or rode a bike to school, and felt comfortable doing it.

But in little more than a generation we've seen a precipitous decline so that today it is thought that less than 20 per cent of children get to school under their own steam. All this despite the fact that most kids still live within two kilometres of school: they are not travelling further, just covering the same distance in the back of a car. Sadly, it has become absolutely normal for children to be driven short distances to school, many every day.

Putting aside the congestion and pollution issues, the impact of an increasingly sedentary lifestyle on these children – our children – is profound. Visit any schoolyard and it's not hard to see firsthand that obesity is no longer the exception. Type 2 diabetes in children, once almost unheard of, is also on the rise.

Spot the connection? Our children aren't moving as much, aren't burning up as many kilojoules, and it's making some of them sick. Health experts say children need at least one hour of physical activity each day for good health and many just aren't getting it.

And it turns out that it's not just their young bodies that are affected by the way they are being allowed to live their lives. Research completed by the Australian Council for Education Research found that children who travelled to school by car had a remarkably narrow view of their community. When researchers asked car-borne kids to draw pictures of the way they saw their world they drew abstract, isolated images of neighbourhoods where the car and the road were the central theme. Traffic lights, road signs, office buildings, shopping centres and fast food outlets dominated.

Researchers contrasted this alarmingly stunted vision with that of children who rode or walked to school. Their drawings were dominated by green spaces and people doing things; trees, grass, people playing sport, riding bikes, walking dogs.

It is hard to image a more contrasting world view.

And from this springs the obvious question of why, why are we allowing many of our children to become increasingly (alarmingly) inactive? It's a complex question with as many potential answers as there are flabby kids and the irony is that at least part of the remedy might be very simple; we need to encourage kids to walk, ride or scoot to school.

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