Healthy Living in the North

Ride into Summer with Bike to Work & School Week

Bike riding on a bike path

Bike paths separated from motor traffic encourage more cycling and improve safety for everyone.

Remember the good old days when your bike was not just your only form of transportation, but your ticket to freedom and independence? The summer would pass in a blink as you racked up countless miles riding anywhere and everywhere on your bike, rolling back home at sunset with “rubber legs” and giddy from all the fun had with friends. I can almost smell the warm summer evening just thinking about it.

Sure, times have changed. We’re adults now. We have jobs, time crunches, deadlines, and commitments. Regardless, we have an excellent opportunity to bring some of that old nostalgia and joy back to the season, as well as set the younger people in our lives on the path to creating their own summer memories: it starts with taking part in Bike to Work (& School) Week from May 29-June 4. I’m guessing once you’ve made a conscious decision to ride rather than drive as much as possible for a week, you will realize so many benefits to cycling that you’ll want to continue this healthy (but fun!) habit for the rest of the summer.

Here are just a few of the benefits:

  • Increased physical activity: Many of us struggle to find the time for physical activity; utilizing active transportation options automatically adds physical activity into our day, which of course brings its own benefits.
  • Increased productivity: The fresh air and adrenaline boost provided by your commute will help you show up at work or school alert, refreshed, and ready to take on the day.
  • Improved mental well-being: Taking the time on your commute home to clear your head and burn off some steam will leave you feeling much fresher mentally when you arrive home than you would be after driving.
  • Increased safety: Increasing the number of people who cycle decreases traffic congestion, increases active transportation user visibility, and makes the roads safer for everyone involved.
  • Financial savings: No fuel or parking fees (or tickets!).
  • Environmental benefits: Reduce your greenhouse gas emissions (Bike to Work BC will let you know exactly what your impact is as you log rides… how cool is that?)
  • Social benefits: Being on your bicycle allows you to connect with other cyclists and pedestrians you meet on your commute; the sight of your grinning face as you sail by may also inspire someone else to park their car and ride instead!

I must confess I have not always been a huge fan of cycling. I loved it as a kid, but as I grew up I became very nervous around traffic. And don’t even get me started on mountain biking! Let’s just say “what goes up must come down,” so I can’t see much mountain biking in my future (insert chicken clucking here). However, over the last year I have been rediscovering my love for cycling on paths and roads while being vigilant to protect my safety, following the rules of the road, keeping my eyes and ears on alert to the traffic around me, and riding accordingly. My confidence continues to grow with practice. I will be participating in Bike to Work Week on a Northern Health team for the first time (officially) this year, but it certainly won’t be my last!

Join a team today; you could be the lucky winner of a cycling trip for two on the Dalmation Coast in Croatia! Register here: – see you on the road!

Gloria Fox

About Gloria Fox

Gloria Fox is the Regional Physical Activity Lead for Northern Health’s Population Health team. She is a graduate of the University of Alberta’s faculty of PE & Recreation, and until beginning this role has spent most of her career working as a Recreation Therapist with NH. She has a passion for helping others pursue an optimal leisure lifestyle and quality of life at all stages of their lives. In order to maintain her own health (and sanity), Gloria enjoys many outdoor activities, including hiking, camping, canoeing, and cycling, to name a few. She is a self-proclaimed foodie and her life’s ambition is to see as much of the world as possible.


Back to school safety!

Young girl with backpack.

Northern Health staff member Bonnie’s daughter is very excited for her first day of school – are you and your kids ready to go back to school safely?

It’s that time of year when the hustle and bustle starts as we get our children off to school and back into routines! The moment the school doors open, the traffic increases, more pedestrians and cyclists hit the roads, children are excited, parents are adjusting to the new routine, and life just seems to quicken. With this increase in pace it is important to slow down and stay safe!

Here are some things to consider:

Traffic Safety

Does your child …

  • Cross at crosswalks or corners?
  • Look before crossing the street?
  • Know and follow traffic signals and rules?
  • Walk to and from school with a responsible person (until they are at least 8 years old)?
  • Make eye contact with the driver before crossing in front of a stopped car?
  • Know to stop and check for cars before crossing driveways, alleys and areas without curbs?
Young girl on school bus.

Does your child arrive at the bus stop early and stand back from the road while waiting? Shellie offers some great questions to ask yourself and your children as they get ready to go back to school!

Bus Safety

Does your child …

  • Arrive at the bus stop early and stand back from the road while waiting?
  • Make eye contact with the bus driver, take three giant steps ahead of the bus, and check for cars in all directions before crossing in front of the bus?
  • Wear bright or reflective clothing if they are walking to and from the bus in the dark?
  • Know what to do if they miss the bus (e.g., go back home, report to a teacher, etc. – but never accept a ride from a stranger)?

Car Safety

Does your child always …

  • Sit in a booster seat appropriate for their height and age?
  • Sit in the back seat until they are 12 years old?
  • Wear their seat belt low across their hips, not their stomach?
  • Wear a shoulder belt (when available) in the middle of their chest, not touching their neck?

Personal Safety

Does your child know …

  • Their full name, address and phone number in case of emergency?
  • The name and number of an emergency contact?
  • The numbers for fire, police and ambulance, or 911?
  • Not to accept rides or gifts from strangers?
  • To tell an adult if they or someone else was approached by a stranger?
  • That it is safer to play or walk with other children than to play or walk alone?
Child wearing backpack at school.

With all of the back-to-school excitement for students, teachers, and parents, it’s important to slow down and stay safe!

Bike Safety

Does your child …

  • Wear a helmet correctly every time they ride their bike?
  • Ride their bike in safe areas like biking trails or roads where the speed limit is lower and traffic is less busy?
  • Know how to check their brakes, make sure the seat is secured at the right height, and that the tires have enough air?


Does your child know …

  • About bullying, both physical (hitting, kicking, shoving, tripping) and verbal (mean words, threats, gossiping, name-calling, leaving someone out)?
  • Not to fight back but to be assertive, look the bully in the eye, and tell him or her “I don’t like that, stop doing that,” and to walk away?
  • To tell a parent or adult if they or someone else is being bullied?

You are probably not expecting your child to be injured today. In the words of, “Have a word with yourself.”

Injuries are predictable and preventable. When your child leaves for school, the number one priority is to make sure they get home safe!

A version of this article was originally published in the August 2015 issue of A Healthier You magazine.


Shellie O'Brien

About Shellie O'Brien

Shellie is an injury prevention coordinator with Northern Health’s population health team with a passion for health and wellness. She enjoys the outdoors, animals, recreational dogsledding, reading, and healthy living. When not at work, she can be found on her rural property with her family of happy, healthy huskies.