Image: Andy Fang —

UTown@UBC Gets Walking and Rolling!

UTown@UBC residents take part in the "walking school bus" during Walk 'n Roll to School Celebration Week.
Image: Andy Fang —

Did you notice a sea of yellow hats and t-shirts taking the campus by storm last week? They marked the return of Walk ‘n Roll to School Celebration Week! 

While yellow may not be my best colour, planning this week-long celebration of active, sustainable transportation is without a doubt one of the best parts of my job! I can't think of a better way to start the day than a brisk walk with the sun shining (uncharacteristically warm and bright for October), the leaves changing, and kids laughing and chatting as they made their way to school. It was a pleasure to have the opportunity to connect with members of the UTown@UBC community, many of whom graciously woke up extra-early last week to provide the students of UHill Elementary School with a safe, sustainable way to commute to school!

One of many joint projects between the UNA and UTown@UBC, our first Walk ‘n Roll to School Celebration Week took place last May, to help kids and parents feel more comfortable and confident walking or riding to school.  This year, the celebration went global, as October 7-11 also marked International Walk to School Week! Students in the UTown@UBC community joined millions of walkers in 42 different countries around the world in choosing active transportation to get to school.

We kicked off the week with students taking the Walk ‘n Roll Pledge, promising to be safe cyclists and pedestrians. Bike safety checks (courtesy of our friends at More Bikes), got everyone ready to roll, while some pretty sweet swag (including yellow Walk ‘n Roll shoelaces and reflective zipper pulls) helped ensure students would be visible when walking and rolling the following week. Over at University Hill Secondary School, the bike experts at the AMS Bike Co-op got students up to speed with a Biking 101 workshop, and our team of teen Walk ‘n Roll Ambassadors talked to their peers about walking and riding to school and participating in our My Walk ‘n Roll Photo Contest. Students were given a Walk 'n Roll Passport, and could collect a sticker for each day they walked or rode their bike to school, before turning it in at the end of the week for the opportunity to win prizes. We capped the week off with a Celebration Rally on Friday morning, with healthy snacks provided by Save-on-Foods and a prize draw where a very lucky Walk ‘nWalk 'n Roll swag included reflective zipper pulls and stickers to help kids stay visible in poor weather conditions. Roll Passport participant took home a brand-new bike! (Consolation prizes included lots of Menchie’s gift cards, another great treat).

Although there were lots of fun events throughout the week, my favourite part of Walk ‘n Roll to School Celebration Week was well…the walking and rolling, and I think lots of kids would agree! It was incredibly cool to see dozens of yellow-clad kids and parents marching along Chancellor Boulevard on their way to school, choosing to walk and ride to school instead of driving or taking the bus. The walking school bus not only provided a safe, sustainable alternative for commuting to school, it was also a great opportunity for community-building, as parents and kids had the chance to connect with neighbours and residents from other parts of campus (sometimes for the first time). On top of that, Walk ‘n Roll to School Week also helped students start the day off right with a bit of physical activity. A recent Danish research project showed that children who actively commuted to school exhibited better concentration in class and performed better when tested, and I definitely agree that I felt very refreshed starting the day off with a walk!

Huge thanks to my co-planner extraordinaire Qiuning Wang, (Community and Volunteer Engagement Coordinator at Old Barn Community Centre), for working so tirelessly on this event, and especially, for recruiting our incredible Walk'n Roll volunteers! Qiuning and I would like to thank our wonderful Walk ‘n Roll sponsors and supporters who helped make this event such a success, as well as Val Coopersmith (Principal) and Ankie Carswell (Vice-Principal) and the amazing teachers at University Hill Elementary School for their help in promoting the event to their students. Most of all, we’d like to thank the dozens of students and parents who laced up their walking shoes, jumped on their bikes, scooters and skateboards, and walked ‘n rolled to school!

I’m extremely proud to say that during Walk ‘n Roll to School Celebration Week, 121 University Hill Elementary School students logged 522 trips to school, as part of our official Walk ‘n Roll to School Passport program! Although Vancouver’s notorious rain may sometimes put a damper on walking or riding to school (literally), I am very hopeful that many of the kids will continue to “walk ‘n roll” to school, and can’t wait to start planning the next Walk ‘n Roll to School Celebration Week!

Check out our Walk 'n Roll gallery below for some photos from the events!