Cycling with purpose – volunteers wanted!

004What motivates you to be physically active? Is it enough to know that physical activity has extensive health benefits? That it has a low environmental cost and a high fun factor? Apparently these benefits are not convincing enough to an increasing number of school children.

Since the 1980’s, the number of children walking and cycling to school in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area has been steadily declining, accompanied by accelerating rates of childhood obesity and vehicle congestion. To tackle this issue, St. Mary’s high school, in collaboration with Metrolinx and Hamilton Public Health, is starting up an after-school cycling program for its students in September.

Cycling-to-school initiatives are important components of planning for sustainable transportation and transforming the way a region moves. School programs designed to encourage cycling (and/or walking) present a meaningful and consistent opportunity. They combine physical activity with travel, and contribute to students’ transportation preferences – behaviours that can be carried on into adulthood. Factors that promote cycling to school include physical and social support, ongoing involvement of teachers and community partners, opportunities for new experiences, and the perception of cycling as normal behaviour.

The new program that is being organized for St. Mary’s is adding to the existing movement among schools and communities, encouraging more active transportation. At St. Mary’s, many students live too far to cycle to school, but cycling may be a viable option in their own neighbourhoods and in their school community. To help students gain the skills, confidence, and comfort to ride a bike for transportation, the team is looking for McMaster student volunteers!

DSC02556Are you interested in helping plan and implement cycling activities in the new school year? There will be a meeting at lunch on June 25th to discuss ideas and create a rough timeline of events. Exact meeting time is TBD,  and the location is St. Mary’s Secondary School – a 10 minute walk from McMaster. Ideal candidates should be interested in cycling, working with youth, and developing their own leadership skills. One or two students would have more of a coordinating type role, while volunteers sought in September would work more directly with specific events, such as leading group rides along trails.  For more information email

-Written in collaboration with Katie Wittmann.