by Kristi Hendricks
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!