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Do you remember biking and walking everywhere when you were young? Much has changed since then. Many of these changes can seem like barriers to getting around on foot or by bicycle.

For example, many communities have grown in size. Our streets have become wider and busier. It may not seem as safe to cross them or ride our bikes along them.

Many new communities are designed in ways that make it difficult to get around. Neighbourhoods with dead-end streets and loops have replaced the older grid pattern.This design means that we lack direct routes to where we are going. Our homes, schools and stores are also now much more spread out.

The result: most of us aren't as active as we should be. What can we do?

This article:
  • defines active transportation
  • explains the personal, economic and environmental benefits of active transportation
  • offers tips on ways to make active transportation part of your day

Active Transportation: What is It?
Active transportation means using human power to get around. This kind of transportation includes walking, biking, skateboarding, rollerblading or even using a pogo stick!

If you have to go somewhere, stop for a moment and think. Is it really that far? Could you walk instead of drive? If it's a bit far to walk or you'd rather get there faster, could you ride your bike?

All it takes is a bit of planning. Why not take a bit of time right now to make a list of places you usually drive to and the places you could get to using people power?

The best time to decide isn’t when you’re hopping in your car. Cars get you places faster (you may not have time to get there using another way if you decide too late).

But if you always plan to go to certain places on foot or on your bike, you’re less likely to just jump in the car.

Personal Benefits
Being active on a regular basis reduces your risk of high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, colon cancer and depression (and helps you stay at a healthy weight).

Walking or biking can be a fun, relaxing way to get places. If you can use your bike to go to work or run errands, you’ll find it’s much more relaxing than the stress of being stuck in traffic.

Walking to and from places gives you time to think and enjoy the outdoors in any weather. Impromptu splashes through puddles, snowball fights or dashes through sprinklers can be exhilarating!

Environmental and Economic Benefits
Walking and biking is not only good for you, it’s good for the environment too! Fewer people driving means less air pollution. You’ll be doing your bit to reduce urban smog and climate change.

Leaving your car at home results in safer and calmer neighbourhoods with less traffic congestion. Reducing the number of cars on the road decreases the need for costly road repairs and parking. Green spaces can stay green instead of getting paved over to become roads or parking lots.

While it may not be realistic to walk or bike everywhere, each car trip not taken still saves you money. For example, you’ll need less gas and you'll pay fewer parking fees.

You’ll save money on vehicle maintenance too. If you drive less, your tires, brakes and motor will last longer.

How to Use Active Transportation
Walking/cycling school bus. Instead of driving your child to school, why not organize a walking or cycling school bus in which students walk or bike to school while under adult supervision?

Just like a school bus, the group stops at planned spots along the way to pick up children as they walk or ride their bikes to school. Adults ensure all the children obey traffic signs and arrive safely.

Family outings to local stores. If you have stores close to home, make running errands such as going to the grocery store, drugstore or video store a family outing.

You’ll have lots of time to talk along the way. And each person could take a knapsack to carry things back.

Biking/walking to work. Could you bike or walk to work? You may have to leave earlier and will need to have a place at work where you can lock your bike and change your clothes. However, you will find that it's a refreshing option to driving.

Choose an evening or weekend to find a route and do a test run to find out how long it takes.

Another option to consider is taking the bus part of the way and then walking the rest of the way.

Help from cities, employers and developers. Cities can help by making sure there are safe bike lanes, walking trails and bike racks on buses.

Employers can help by providing bike racks and shower/change facilities for their employees.

Developers can help by designing new subdivisions suitable for walking and cycling. Laying out sidewalks and roads that allow easy access to many areas makes it more likely that people will walk or bicycle.

Active Transportation is the Smart Choice for Our Health and Environment
Active transportation can give you enough physical activity (at least 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more.) to:

  • benefit your health
  • help control your body weight
  • help with traffic congestion and pollution
  • save you money in parking, gas and vehicle maintenance

Leaving the car at home to walk or cycle is an easy way to make physical activity a part of your daily routine.

Learn More
SHAPE Alberta
Includes information on the walking school bus and safe routes to school.

Bikeability Checklist
Find out how bikeable your community is.

Active Transportation Hot Topic
A background paper from the Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance of Canada.

Transit Pass Tax Credit
Information on using transit passes for tax credits.

Walkability Checklist
Find out how walkable your community is.

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