Healthy Living in the North

Bike rodeo preps local kids for back to school

Kids working on bikesI’m starting to hear some “back to school” chatter. Some of it is filled with dread and sadness (“…How is the summer almost over already?”), while some is of another variety (“…How many more days to go?”).

Hopefully, you’ve managed to get out and enjoy the great outdoors this summer in spite of the many wildfires burning around the province. I’m doing my best to take advantage of any day (or portion of the day) without smoke in the air to get outside and be active, and get as much out of our short summer as I can. I’ve cycled more this year than any other year, not only recreationally but also as a form of transportation to work.

Earlier this year, I wrote a post about Bike to Work & School week, but today I want to encourage you to bike to work & school more often (as weather allows). As you prepare for the return to school, why not start the year off right by riding your bike (or walking) to school as much as possible before the inevitable snow flies? You’ll arrive at school feeling more alert and happier from the blast of fresh air, not to mention it’s a great way to fit a little more physical activity into your day.

Parents, does the idea of sending your kids off to school on their bikes make your heart skip a beat? If you are currently in Prince George, you have an excellent opportunity available to you TOMORROW, August 18 at the PG Public Library! The Prince George Brain Injured Society is hosting a FREE Bike Rodeo there from 1-3pm for kids aged 5-9 along with their parents. What is a bike rodeo you ask? It’s an event where participants learn bike safety skills and rules of the road. This is perfect timing to get you and your kids up to speed and ready to fill those bike racks in the school yards! You may even be inspired to be a trendsetter and start your own Bicycle Train/Walking School Bus with other kids in the neighborhood.

If you’re not in Prince George, don’t lose heart! Bike rodeos happen all over the province at different times of the year; just keep your eyes and ears peeled so you can take advantage of one near you! In the meantime, get out there, have fun and ride safe!

For more information on active transportation to school, check out the Active & Safe Routes to School website.

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.

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In Consideration of the Slow Bicycle

Slow biking

Riding your bike has a lot of health benefits. Will you ride this year?

When you live in the north, things are different. Bicycle riding is a case in point. In the south, people ride bicycles year round. They develop a way of being that incorporates their bike. In the north, with the exception of a few diehards, the bicycle is a seasonal thing. Garages, garden sheds and basements throughout the region harbor our bikes usually from the first snowfall until the roads are once more clear. Sure signs of spring are not just the return of robins to our yards but the return of bicycles to our streets.

To mark this emergence from the cold season, we in the north celebrate and promote Bike to Work Week each year. It may be a provincial event but in the north it is one of our harbingers of spring. This year Bike to Work Week is May 27 to June 2.All over the north people are getting out their bicycles, cleaning and adjusting them, getting ready for the week. Many are organizing teams and issuing challenges to others.

For some, this event is important because riding a bicycle is good exercise. They look at bike riding as health promotion. It certainly is because exercise reduces many health risks:

  • It is good for your heart
  • It lowers blood pressure
  • It increases your overall fitness
  • And bike riding is a solidly low impact pursuit that most people can do

However, there is much more to it than that. Bicycle riding is an experience in itself that means something unique to each individual. For many people the idea of biking has some clear associations. For some bicycles seem to be a part of childhood: “Yeah, I rode a bike when I was a kid. Then I got my license.” In that case, riding might have an element of nostalgia, a return to a simpler time. For others biking has taken on a defined culture hallmarked by riding shoes, flashy helmets, carbon fiber components, lycra and spandex. Bicycle riding for some is about speed, competition and high tech equipment. I do not mean to be critical of such things. To each his or her own, but where does that leave those of us that ride in jeans and street shoes or those who ride bikes scrounged at garage sales and serviced with duct tape and WD40?

An emerging movement that may be of interest is something called the “Slow Bicycle Movement.” Slow Biking is all about the journey. It’s about riding peacefully, leisurely, about being comfortable and enjoying the world around us as we move from place to place. The slow bike is designed for comfort. The slow biker is a person making their way through their life on two wheels, going to work, going to play or going shopping. Whatever you do in the course of the day can be made more interesting more pleasurable and healthier by making a bicycle a part of it.

We live in a world that builds stress. We have schedules to keep, agendas to fulfill, commitments and conflicts to manage throughout our daily lives. Taking the time to ride provides more than cardio. It provides an opportunity for mindfulness. A slow-paced comfortable ride makes it possible to notice things. For me, getting my bike out of the shed and taking those first rides of the spring involved seeing the first crocuses emerging along the Heritage Trail and dodging the snowy patches hanging on in shady areas. It involved people watching in my neighborhood, waving to the elderly man on the corner preparing his yard for spring planting. It involved consciously considering purchases in the grocery store in light of what I could carry in my backpack. A casual ride in the evening gives me time to reflect on the events of the day and to plan for tomorrow as well. Later on, sitting in my chair I felt clear-headed and at peace. There was a gentle ache in muscles underused over the winter. For me that ache felt good.

Will you participate in Bike to Work Week this year? What does bike riding mean to you?

Andrew Burton

About Andrew Burton

Andrew is a Community Integration Systems Navigator for Northern Health’s HIV and Hepatitis C Care team and works to support healthy living practices in communities across northern B.C. Andrew is developing positive activity and diet practices for two reasons: to deal with his own health concerns, and to “walk the talk” of promoting healthy living. Building on his training and experience in creative arts therapy, Andrew founded and runs the Street Spirits Theatre program promoting social responsibility among young people. This work has been recognized nationally and internationally as a leading method of social change.

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