Commuters may notice more students and school staff heading to class by foot or bicycle this week.
Bike and Walk to School Week runs until Saturday (Oct. 6) and at least six elementary schools, three high schools, the secondary distance learning program and Vancouver Island University are trying to get as many participants as possible.
The event is a joint effort between the city, the Greater Nanaimo Cycling Coalition, Sands Funeral Chapel and VIU.
Deborah Beck, the city’s recreation coordinator, said the city and the GNCC already organize a Bike to Work Week in June, but VIU students were missing out because spring session classes end in April.
The event in June focuses on employee groups, while this event targets students and school staff.
“Our plan is to instill some of these great habits while they’re young,” said Beck.
“The weather is still good and kids are just getting back to school. I’m hoping it will become an annual thing that kids will look forward to.”
Bike and Walk to School Week kicked off with a bike rodeo event at Nanaimo North Town Centre Sunday.
It wraps up Saturday (Oct. 6) with a party at Georgia Avenue Elementary School from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The party includes a free lunch hosted by Nanaimo Foodshare and Quality Foods, bike safety checks and a bike polo demonstration courtesy of Hub City Cycles, bike decorating, a parade and prizes.
Grand prizes are a bike from Hub City Cycles and dinner for two at VIU’s Discovery Room restaurant.
Beck said Nanaimo’s shape as a long, spread-out city presents some challenges to commuting, but most neighbourhoods have an elementary school and the city is working on connecting areas better for pedestrians and cyclists.
For example, the Walley Creek Trail takes students to Frank Ney or Hammond Bay elementary schools, allowing them to take trails instead of roads for some or all of their commute.
The city is also offering bicycle riding and road safety courses for kids this fall through its Parks, Recreation and Culture department. Beck said the week-long event is about trying to make a healthy, environmentally friendly commute a habit for students.
“I remember growing up, our bike racks were full, but nowadays I see more and more parents dropping their kids off,” she said.
David Grey, chairman of the Greater Nanaimo Cycling Coalition and teacher sponsor for Woodlands Secondary School’s environmental club, said Woodlands has run a commuter challenge event on and off since 2000 and last year, the bike and walk to school challenge went district-wide, coinciding with Bike to Work Week.
The elementary and secondary schools with the highest participation rates get a trophy, he added.