Is there a way to get teenagers to change their transportation choices?
Bike Calgary has completed its Pilot Project at Dr. EP Scarlett High School in SW Calgary. Because of Covid, the work has been on-again and off-again as in-school classes started and stopped, but we got there, and were able to organize the Bike to School day on June 4th!
About 50 students and teachers rode to school – a five-fold increase from a normal summer day where just 10 bikes are in the racks. One Grade 10 student rode from Sunnyside, another youth pedaled in from Silverado – in just 37 minutes! A group of nine teachers rode in a convoy from the west side of the city. Only three had ridden before.
The comments we received on the comment board ranged from “Sweaty”, to “Exhilarating” to “Exhausting but Exhilarating”.
“I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised that so many of our students wanted to give it a try,” said Assistant Principal Randy Lewis. “It’s been such a hard year for them, that I think many are just trying to get through one more week of classes. To see so many try something new was fantastic. This is a great place to build from for next year.”
With help of our partners EverActive Schools, City of Calgary and Youth En Route , we were able to purchase drinks and snacks, and made it a bit of a celebration. Students who rode got fancy bike lights from the City and swag from our partner HLC. Students were able see maps and consider their transportation options, and talk to their peers, many of whom rode from surrounding communities.
“The key now is to figure out how to convert these one-time riders to more regular ones,” said Laura Shutiak, who is now the executive director and founder of the new organization Youth En Route. “Now that EP Scarlett is in our program, we will continue to work with them to create resources, build up an active transportation culture, and break down the barriers for students.”
Changing school culture
Principal Shari Goodfellow said some of the riders she spoke to planned to try it more frequently next year and the school will have a celebration of biking every year. “This will be one of the legacies of this project.” The school, with the support of a parent fundraising society, is working to install new, permanent bike racks.
But we know it will be a long-term project. Until some bike path connections are made and routes are safer for students, it will be harder to change the choices students make.
YouthEnRoute is a newly formed dedicated group of volunteers, focused on working with students and student leaders across Southern Alberta. One of the benefits of this group is that it will be a resource for schools and the larger community, collecting data and tracking student transportation choices over time.
There were many Bike Calgary Volunteers and board members that worked to make this pilot project work, and set the framework for the new group to continue this process. They created maps, videos, moved bike racks and rounded up donations. Thanks to Doug, Bill, Michael, Dana, Gary, Garry, Pete and the rest of the board. Bike Calgary and Youth En Route will continue to work in getting more students on bikes, and create safer and better routes for Active Transportation.
Follow Youth En Route on Twitter at @youthenroute and watch for an expanded social media and web presence soon!
If you feel you can help make a difference to communities through cycling or improve safety and cycling experiences, reach out to us on firstname.lastname@example.org or through our many social media sites. This includes community engagement, infrastructure improvements, advocacy or helping us campaign or fundraise!