Niagara Falls and Fort Erie students learn about commuting between the lines

·3 min read

For some students, learning about their commute to school is very important.

For the eighth year in a row, the Niagara Region, the municipalities of Niagara Falls and Fort Erie, Niagara Student Transportation Services (NSTS) and Ontario Active School Travel have come together to teach students about road safety in their daily commute to and from school.

Between the Lines: Safe & Active Travel for School is a program offered by the partnering bodies that comes in the form of in-class, interactive presentations for students in kindergarten to Grade 3.

The aim of the program, according to Julie Ellis, school crossing guard co-ordinator for the City of Niagara Falls, is to promote active and environmentally friendly methods of transportation to children, encouraging them to walk, ride or scoot to school in a safer manner.

At the Stevensville Memorial Hall on Saturday, a presentation of the program was attended by parents, elementary school students from the area, as well as Niagara Falls riding MPP Wayne Gates of the NDP and Wayne Redekop, mayor of Fort Erie.

The presentation, hosted by Ellis, took students through an interactive team game that saw students learn about street signs, traffic, the role of crossing guards and tips for being a good pedestrian.

Also included in the presentation was Blue the butterfly, the mascot from the original joint program between the Niagara Region and NSTS.

Ellis, herself a mother of five, said that when her children were younger, they had no choice but to walk to school because at the time, the family only had one vehicle that her husband used for work.

“So there really was no choice in the matter, but there were so many benefits that came from that walk to and from school every day,” she said, listing involvement in their community and awareness of their surroundings as two of the major ones.

Redekop said he believes the Fort Erie and Niagara Falls communities are safe, but until the parents are convinced, they will be hesitant to send their children to school via active transport.

“So this type of program helps to reinforce the fact that it is a safe community,” he said, adding that encouraging kids to walk, especially with mechanisms such as crossing guards in place, will ensure parents’ comfort as well as make the community at large more aware of students walking or riding to school.

He said more children using active transportation is not only good for their exercise, but it reduces the number of cars on the road during school transportations hours as well.

“We're eliminating that conflict between student pedestrians and cars and we're also benefiting the environment as the program has indicated that fewer cars travelling for those short distances is better for the environment,” he said.

Lori Bailey, a parent who attended the presentation with her children and took part in the game, said “I'm a big fan of road safety and teaching the kids right.”

She said that her children were always out and about in their community and that for that reason learning to commute safely in the community was important, especially in the case of her son who has recently asked to start biking to school and though she has not yet agreed, she said she’d eventually let him, “one day.”

Moosa Imran, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grimsby Lincoln News

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