It’s not every day that you meet a principal willing to dye his hair green to promote active transportation, but that’s what Jacob Sol did. Former principal of McBride elementary school in New Westminster, Sol saw the volume of traffic at his school, and realized that the rushed drivers posed a safety risk for his students.
As McBride students travel from across the city, there exists an actual- as opposed to perceived need for many students to be driven to the school. Sol didn’t allow this to deter him, rather challenged his students to walk more, even if that meant walking the last block or two. The motivation of seeing their principal with green hair was enough, and the students won their challenge by logging over 2,400 days of active travel in a single week!
Sol found that the excitement of the students transferred to the parents, who were then more receptive to changing their habits. Parents who were concerned with the safety of their children realized they could watch as their child walked the last block to school, allowing the children to develoli>their independence while the parent retained their peace-of-mind in knowing their child was safely at school.
Through this process, Sol noticed the need to address alternative methods of transportation. In addition to the need to store bikes, students also arrived at school on skateboards, roller blades and scooters, all of which came with helmets and other safety equipment. Sol addressed these needs by designating space within the classroom, however suggests that where space is an issue, lockable bins might be a feasible alternative for daily equipment storage. He encourages other schools to embrace sustainable transportation, and to “think in terms of a long-term project.” Knowing that long-term change happens incrementally, he celebrates the successes along the way!
Each year thousands of children in the Central Okanagan come together for an exciting event put together by Traffic Safety Officer, Dave Gibson.
As Regional Traffic Safety Officer, Gibson runs Bike Rodeos, working with his team to ensure that the children in both the city of Kelowna and the Region of Central Okanagan have the knowledge they need to confidently operate their bikes and navigate their routes safely. Hosted in anticipation of Bike to School Week, 2012 saw 2093 students attend the rodeos which were held at 12 schools across the region.
As Traffic Safety Officer, Gibson’s work extends beyond the rodeos. He coordinates with BCAA and the RCMP to manage the student traffic safety patrol, which oversees grade 5 students taking on the role of crossing guards to help walking students safely cross streets as they transit to and from school. He also works with teenagers, where his focus shifts to road safety, looking specifically at the dangers of texting and driving. Gibson stresses the importance of developing traffic awareness at a young age, saying, “Start them early, and they will learn.”
Reducing traffic congestion around school is often a concern for parents and community members. “The value of walking school buses,” states Gibson, “and bike trains is often overlooked by parents.” For those who need to drive, he suggests using drop spots, “Instead of showing up at the school, drop them off down the street from the school, at the church yard, or at the recreation centre. There are sidewalks and crosswalks to the school, and it’s only 800 meters away.”
Seeing students put what they’ve learned into action is rewarding for Gibson, as is the energy which is ignited when the community buys into the idea of active transportation and begins to work together to support their children in this.
HASTe BC’s School Travel Champion series of profiles is a new feature for our website. All profiles were written by HASTe intern Kristi Hendricks, and new profiles will be posted regularly on our blog during the school year. If you know someone who is making an impact on school travel behaviour and safety in your school community, please let us know.