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Active transportation

Active transportation refers to any kind of human-powered transportation and is a great way to fit physical activity into your day

Healthy food, credit to Brook Lark, Unsplash

What is active transportation?

Active transportation refers to any kind of human-powered transportation, including walking, running, cycling, rollerblading, skateboarding, using a wheelchair or pushing a stroller.

We all have to get around. Luckily, there exist many options to get us from place to place. Each option has its good points and bad points. There are several great reasons to opt for active transportation and make it a regular choice, whichever form it takes:

  • it enhances your fitness and overall health
  • it’s good for the environment
  • it’s economical
  • it can be efficient
  • it builds social capital: the degree of citizen involvement in a community

Research has found that active transportation can also be a stepping stone to other forms of physical activity, such as a regular exercise routine.

Of course there are also drawbacks. For a person to choose active transportation they need to see it as worthwhile:  the benefits outweigh the barriers. Overcoming the barriers can help a person make the active choice. See below for ideas on how to overcome a few common barriers.

Walking

Walking is easy, cheap and always available. All you need is a comfortable pair of shoes and clothing appropriate for the weather. For enhanced health benefits, walk at a brisk pace.

One barrier to walking is the distance. If your distance is too long, consider walking some of it and using powered transportation (i.e. car, metro, bus) for the rest. For example, instead of taking the bus from home to the Metro, walk instead. Also, it is not uncommon for a person to wait 10-15 minutes for a bus. Start walking and meet the bus at a later stop. You might find the bus reaches you when you are almost at your destination. Why not just walk the rest?

Cycling

Cycling is enjoyable as a leisure activity and it can also be an enjoyable way of getting around. A study conducted by Statistics Canada found that 19% of cyclists say that their commute is the most pleasant part of the day, while only 2% of drivers feel this way.

Besides being enjoyable, biking can be efficient. In the city, if the distance you have to go is 5 km or less, a bike can often get you from door to door faster than a car. Sir George campus and Loyola are just over 6 km apart. A 5 kilometer radius from the Sir George campus extends to the St Lawrence river, Iberville St., and Jean Talon. From Loyola, 5 kilometers takes you to the St. Lawrence river out to 37th Avenue in Dorval and north to the TransCanada.

Montreal is a very bikeable city with more than 500 km of bike routes and paths on the island alone. Bike paths cross both the downtown and Loyola campuses.  An exciting part of the Montreal cycling scene is the BIXI bicycle system.  For a monthly or annual fee you can have access to 5,000 bicycles at over 400 self-serve stations.

Barriers to active transportation (and ideas to overcome them)

The weather

It is relatively rare to have torrential rain or heavy snow that makes it truly uncomfortable to walk or bike. However, unpleasant weather can make for an unpleasant commute. For light rain, bring an umbrella or buy a good waterproof jacket. For cold and light snow use a scarf, hat, gloves and good boots. Don’t get easily discouraged by the weather. Build your resilience.

A lot to carry

Get a solid backpack that fits you well and that can hold your regular load. Don’t overload your bag. If you can, split your load into a few trips over a couple of days.

Time

Using active transportation to commute often adds no extra—or a little bit extra—time. If it does add time, that time is well used. You are "killing two birds with one stone": commuting and exercising at the same time. This way, when you get home in the evening you can feel confident that you have done something to enhance your health during the day and can enjoy a relaxing evening.

 

For more information

Consult the website for the Countywide Active Transportation System (CWATS) in Ontario that includes information on:





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