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Why most Canadian children are now driven to school

A month after City of Brampton staff stripped the crosswalk paint off the road in front of a Sikh private school, they’re back to install a new crosswalk, school-zone signs and a crossing guard – the same basic safety measures public and Catholic schools in the city have always enjoyed.

J.P. Moczulski/The Globe and Mail

Once upon a time, we walked to school.

No longer.

Nearly three of four children aged 5-14 are being driven to schools in Canada, according to a small survey conducted by Parachute Canada for FedEx.

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As top reasons for preventing their kids from walking or cycling, parents cited:

  • speeding cars and traffic (75 per cent),
  • fear of abduction (38 per cent),
  • maturity level of their children (36 per cent),
  • social concerns such as bullying (31 per cent), and
  • lack of sidewalks and bike lanes (27 per cent).

Approximately 350 parents across Canada, divided by two age groups (5-9, 10-14) of their children, and representing the country geographically, responded to the survey. The parents of both age groups expressed equal concern about speeding cars and traffic, and street design.

That parents express significant concerns about abduction and bullying is likely the key difference between this generation of parents and Baby Boomers. The survey didn't plunge into that subject area.

Parents said they would be more comfortable with their child walking with a friend (44 per cent), walking with an adult (39 per cent) and with installation of traffic calming measures such as speed bumps (20 per cent). Parachute Canada says children will respond to modelling behavior of their parents; that is, how to properly navigate the streets on foot or bike.

"We want parents to continue the important job of showing their children safe pedestrian practices," Louise Logan, Parachute's president and CEO, said in a release. "And we are asking drivers to reduce speed and focus on keeping pedestrians safe. By all working together, our kids will be able to walk safely to and from school this spring."

According to the survey, children most often use a school bus (34 per cent), are driven by a parent or in a car pool (32 per cent), and walk (28 per cent). Public transit and bicycles are used 4 per cent and 1 per cent of the time. Urban children (38 per cent) walk to school significantly more those in suburban (23 per cent) or rural (20 per cent) areas.

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