Healthy Living in the North

Cars and bikes and joggers, oh my!

Dog sitting on road

Our long summer evenings provide a great chance for all of us (including our four-legged friends!) to get outside! Walkers, joggers, cyclists, drivers, and others are all road users and we all have a responsibility to keep our roadways safe!

Summer is in full swing and I am headed outside every chance I get. With our long summer days, I spend a little longer out walking the dog in the evenings and my kids are constantly asking if we can get out and ride our bikes in the neighborhood or, better yet, on the local trails.

I admit, when I am driving home from work, I sometimes do not give much thought to road safety. Yes, I pay attention to the road, drive the speed limit, and slow down for playground zones, but otherwise I am just enjoying the warm sunshine filtering through my sunroof as I drive along, feeling safe and enclosed in my car.

When I’m walking the dog with a couple of children who are blissfully unaware of potential hazards, though, I find myself acutely aware of road safety. I keep an ear open for an approaching car and am checking each driveway to ensure there is no one about to back out. People who walk, jog, and ride their bikes are road users. Vulnerable road users. Even people who ride motorcycles are considered vulnerable because they do not have an enclosed vehicle for protection. In Northern Health, people who ride motorcycles and those who choose to walk are at the most risk for hospitalization or even death in the event of a crash with a vehicle.

I learned several interesting facts in the Provincial Medical Health Officer’s report: Where the Rubber Meets the Road.

Did you know?

  • A person walking has a 90% chance of surviving a crash with a car if the car is driving 30 km/hr.
  • A person walking has a 20% chance of surviving a crash with a car if the car is driving 50 km/hr.
  • Children who are struck by a car were most often not playing in the street and were usually struck mid-block.
  • Older adults walking our roadways are the most vulnerable and have the highest rates of injury of all age groups.

Walking, cycling, and jogging along our northern roads is part of the reason we all love to live in the North. We love to get outside and enjoy the long summer days with our friends (and good old dogs!). All of us in our many roles as road users have a responsibility to keep our roadways safe.

Keep in mind:

  • Older adults may need a little more time than the crosswalk light provides.
  • Playground speed limits save lives. Slow to 30 km/hr or slower between dawn and dusk.
  • Families may be out walking so take the time to double check before backing down the driveway.

Together we can all have a fun and safe summer in the great outdoors!

More information

Natasha Thorne

About Natasha Thorne

After many years in southern B.C., Natasha was drawn back to her hometown of Prince George in 2006 by the lure of extended family, sub-boreal forests, and raising her babes exploring the backwoods of her own childhood. Whether nose in a book or in real life, Natasha is an aspiring world traveller planning overseas vacations so she and her husband can give their two children a wider perspective of living in today's global community. As the full time Regional Nursing Lead for Injury Prevention for Northern Health, Natasha is committed to the north and is passionate about supporting the health and well-being of northerners.


6 tips to stay safe while biking to work

Two cyclists with bikes and helmets in front of workplace.

Biking to work is a great way to be active every day and reach the 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity that adults need every week. Follow a few safety tips to ensure that your commute is both fun and safe! Are you biking to work this spring and summer?

It’s Bike to Work Week all over northern B.C. and I’ve had a great time logging my trips as part of a team of cycling commuters from Northern Health!

It’s also been an eye-opening experience to see how easy and accessible cycling to work can be! To think that I’m staying active, reducing my environmental footprint, and arriving at work and at home energized without significantly adding to my commuting time is amazing! I’m thinking that this may continue well beyond just this week!

To help me and my fellow riders stay safe this week and into the summer, I chatted with Shellie O’Brien, a regional injury prevention coordinator with Northern Health. Cycling is the leading cause of sports-related injury so to make sure that I can take part in this great activity as safely as possible, Shellie provided some great safety tips!

Why is safe cycling important?

When done safely, cycling is a great way to get active and decrease environmental emissions. Following safe cycling practices, such as wearing a helmet and having a properly adjusted bike, means you and your kids can be safe on the road.

What can drivers do to keep cyclists safe?

Drivers should actively watch for cyclists – including shoulder checking before turning right and watching for oncoming cyclists when making left turns. Remember to always scan for cyclists when you’re pulling onto a road, like from a driveway or parking lot.

When you’ve parked, remember that opening your door can be a hazard. Watch for cyclists before you or your passengers open a door.

Bike to Work Week has great tips for drivers.

How can cyclists like me stay safe?

  1. Protect your head – wear a helmet. A properly-fitted and correctly-worn bike helmet can make a dramatic difference, cutting the risk of serious head injury by up to 85%. When fitting a helmet, use the 2V1 rule: 2 fingers distance from helmet to brow, V-shape around both ears, and 1 finger between chin and strap.
  2. Maintain your bike. Ensure it is adjusted to the recommended height for the rider, tires are inflated and brakes are working properly. The beginning of the cycling season is a good time to tune up your bike.
  3. Know the rules of the road. Use appropriate hand signals and obey all traffic signs. Always ride on the right side of the road, the same direction that traffic is going and stay as far right as possible.
  4. Use designated areas for riding when available. If designated areas aren’t available, choose to ride on streets where the speed limit is lower and where traffic is less busy.
  5. Be seen and heard. Wear bright reflective clothing. Ride in well-lit areas and use bike reflectors and lights if you’re planning to ride in low light areas. Ensure your bike is equipped with a bell to announce when passing, if not, use your voice!
  6. Be a role model. Staying safe is an important message to communicate with children. The best way to do this is to role model the behaviours.
Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog. (Vince no longer works with Northern Health, we wish him all the best.)


Safe Kids Week wrap-up: Safety tips for cyclists

The 2v1 rule ensures a proper and safe fit for helmets. Your helmet should rest a 2 finger distance above your eyebrows, the strap should make a V under your ears, and you should be able to fit only one finger between the strap and your chin.

The 2v1 rule ensures a proper and safe fit for helmets. Your helmet should rest a 2 finger distance above your eyebrows, the strap should make a V under your ears, and you should be able to fit only one finger between the strap and your chin.

Cycling can be a fun and active way to spend time with your kids. It’s even more fun when you’re doing so safely. Parachute encourages parents and caregivers to be role models for cycling safety by follow these important yet simple steps:

  • Protect Your Head, Wear a Helmet: A properly fitted and correctly worn bike helmet can make a dramatic difference, cutting the risk of serious head injury by up to 80%. Use the 2v1 rule for helmet fitting.
  • Check Your Ride: Ensure bikes are adjusted to the recommended height for the rider, tires are inflated and brakes are working properly.
  • Be Prepared: Get trained in bicycle safety and the rules of the road, use appropriate hand signals and obey all traffic signs.
  • Pick Family-Friendly Routes: Use designated areas for riding when available.
  • Ride in Well-Lit Areas: Be sure your bike has reflectors and lights if planning to ride in low-lit areas.
  • Pick the Right Side of the Road: Tell your kids to ride on the right side of the road, the same direction that traffic is going, and to stay as far right as possible.
  • Use Your Bell: Ensure your bike is equipped with a bell to announce when passing. If not, use your voice!
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.


Raise Children’s Grade, Bike to Work This Week!

A man rides his bike to work.

Embed activity into your day by biking to work!

You may have read about, or heard of, the recently published report which graded children around the world on their health in regards to physical activity.

Canadian children scored a D-.

But, you may be thinking, Canadians are doers! The more we can cross off the list, in the shortest amount of time, the better. This may sound like a recipe for energetic activity, but what it’s actually resulted in is a “culture of convenience.” Time is short, but my list is not.

Most of us drive everywhere to get everything on our list completed, even if being physically active happens to be on that list. We take a car, a truck, or a bus, so we can tweet and Facebook each other while we’re getting to where we need to go. Worse yet, this behaviour, this “culture of convenience,” is rubbing off on the children in our community, and we haven’t even added video games to the mix.

Don’t have kids? Well, imagine the average day for many Canadians. You wake up, go through your normal morning routine, then you get in a vehicle. You sit on your way to work; when you get there, you may be sitting for your entire work day before sitting in your car the whole way home again. Combine that with sitting for dinner, throw in a bit of evening television (which you’re sitting for) and voila! A sedentary lifestyle is born. It may feel busy, but that “busyness” isn’t physical.

Now consider this. Those who live a sedentary lifestyle are more likely to develop chronic diseases like diabetes or heart disease in their lives. On top of that, sitting for more than six hours a day can reduce your lifespan by as much as five years.

Studies show that being active every day is needed for health benefits. How often do you think this happens when it is just another item on a list?  It must be a regular part of our daily lives; it’s got to be normal.

So, on that note, take the steps to move more in your daily routine. The time spent on your way to and from work is a great time to introduce some physical activity to your day, and when better to start than on May 26th with Bike to Work Week! Across all of B.C., people will ditch their car keys in favour of bike helmets, improving their lifestyle in the process. Getting 30 minutes of physical activity a day can move you a long way towards reducing the risk of chronic disease and you’ll become a positive role model for the children in our community.

Let’s shoot for an A the next time our kids’ physical activity is graded in Canada!


Doug Quibell

About Doug Quibell

Doug Quibell is the northwest manager of public health protection, and the lead on Northern Health’s partnering for healthy communities approach. He first joined Northern Health in 1995. After stints in the Middle East and in Ontario, he and his family recently returned to the mountains and ocean they call home in Terrace. He stays active trying to get his daughter excited about skiing Shames Mountain and sailing off of Prince Rupert.