The Danish Cancer Society recently published a new manual on how to make Danish school roads more bicycle friendly and thereby increase the level of physical activity among school children.
By Henriette Jensen, The Danish Cancer Society
The Danish National Board of Health recommends 60 minutes of physical activity per day for children. The activity must be at moderate to high intensity. If the activity is spread along the day, each period has to be continuous for a minimum of 10 minutes. Active transportation that exceeds 10 minutes, such as cycling to school, counts in the daily 60 minutes of physical activity.
Changing inactive children’s habits to encourage them use the bicycle to go to school involves a significant health benefit. Children who ride their bike to school also use the bike for the remainder of the day, thereby being more physical active than children who do not.
Based on recent years of experience with cycling, The Danish Cancer Society found the need for a manual pointing out best practices for structural measures, aimed towards active transportation to school. The purpose of the manual is to guide public officials and politicians in municipalities by demonstrating a series of best-case structural measures that have motivated other children to cycle to school.
Easy and fast measures with good results
Having safe routes to school is a critical precondition for more children to walk or cycle to school on their own. The initiatives collected in the manual are efficient and inexpensive, and each is described so they can be implemented with ease – and results. The initiatives were selected because they represent realistic and effective solutions. There is no reference to expensive construction projects; on the contrary, several of the solutions are inexpensive and can be readily implemented in many places.
The health effects of cycling instead of taking the car is visible in a reduction of the health costs and increasing life expectancy, which benefits the society and the individual cyclist. Overall, an investment in bicycle-friendly roads to school has a payback time of a few years, because the one-time expense often replaces current expenditure on transportation and health.
Transport and health go hand in hand – also in the municipalities
Municipalities should strive to work across departments, so that the municipality’s ongoing work on infrastructures is seen in connection with its multifaceted interests in safe routes to school for children who are healthy and ready to learn. Compiling the many interests of a municipality ensures the biggest benefit for the citizens.
The Danish Cancer Society hopes that the municipalities, with the help of the manual, will target the bicycle as the obvious choice of transportation when children are going to school. It is a proven fact that physical activity prevents lifestyle diseases, including cancer. When more children are using a bike daily, it creates a basis for healthy habits that, along with other things, prevents cancer.
Download the manual “Healthy and Bicycle-Friendly School Roads” here: www.cancer.dk/bike.
 Collection of Cycle Concepts 2012 p. 17