That’s how long Youth en Route, a Calgary-based non-profit has been around. As we look to celebrate our incorporation date anniversary, we are looking back at all that we’ve accomplished.
Youth en Route formed after a successful pilot project at one Calgary high school. Founder Laura Shutiak realized creating a new organization allowed us to focus on our goals and provided direction for our work. We incorporated as 13008037 Canada Association, and registered to operate in Alberta. Governed by a volunteer board, Youth en Route’s mission is to champion and support active transportation to school and beyond.
We took what we learned in our pilot, and went looking for new schools and funds to support our work. At some schools, 11% of kids (age 15-18) tell us they don’t know how to ride a bike. At most high schools, only 55% of kids own bikes. We know what we are doing is empowering youth, giving them the skills and confidence to make healthy, sustainable transportation choices.
Our impact to date:
- We are working in 11 southern Alberta schools – including Lethbridge and Red Deer. Our projects are at various stages.
- We’ve surveyed 2,500 students and understand the barriers youth face to using active travel.
- We’ve received three grants, and expect more once our charitable status is approved.
- Our improved bike racks take old, wheel-bending school-style racks (seen in in the background of the photo) and make them functional. The old design doesn’t allow the frame to get close enough to lock with a standard U-lock.
With our welding partners and suppliers, and supported by a TAG grant, we have built prototypes that are at Bishop McNally and Henry Wise Wood. The Forest Lawn High School Welding shop has re-done four more, for their own schools and Lester Pearson.
Parent groups are now using our design to build racks at Riverside School.
- We have a Bike Shop in a Box , funded by an Emerald Foundation Grant, that we take to high schools so they can have bike fix up days or explore bike maintenance and repair with classes. Since it was purchased in December, it’s been to six schools, including one in Lethbridge.
- We’ve purchased our first U-Lock Libraries at Lester Pearson High School, Henry Wisewood. Forest Lawn, and Bishop O’Byrne high school. Kids can sign out a lock, and use it on the school racks, or take it to work, or home.
- We’ve helped Leadership students at Bishop O’Byrne High School improve their knowledge and riding skills, being bike ambassadors for four nearby elementary schools. Each week, they shared their know-how and enthusiasm about bike riding with Grades 4-6 kids. But more importantly, their short ride to the schools every Wednesday has empowered them to choose active travel for short trips. They’ll be the leaders that work to foster change at the school.
- At Winston Churchill in Lethbridge, we’ve supported Knowledge & Employability teachers to create a bike shop. These students are getting skills in bike repair, maintenance and customer service all the while learning about bikes. Every part of their learning this semester had a bike theme. Math with distances and speeds, science with gears and materials, even Language Arts reading was a story about a bike trip. YER has supported the class with PD for teachers, facilitating bike donations and parts and materials.
- We’ve supported donations of used bikes to schools – where they use them in PE class, and with English Language Learners to get students out in the community. Pearson’s Bike Fleet is at 30 bikes, Bishop O’Byrne has 20, and we’ve added eight bikes to Forest Lawn, bringing their total to 14. Our goal is to get three schools to a full complement of 35 before the end of the year.
- Our partnership with a group of seniors at the Greater Forest Lawn 55+ club’s Bike Shed has delivered 25 bikes to schools, and counting. The seniors collect bikes, from donations or salvaged with permission from Calgary landfills. They fix them, and we deliver to schools. We really want to do more of this! The need is so great.
- We’ve created a Student and Teacher handbook, 20 pages of resources and learning so teachers can start a bike course pretty easily. It’s also jammed with info that empowers students to consider riding. We’re improving it for version 2, and creating worksheets and tactics to evaluate knowledge.
- We’ve provided guest engaging speakers and in-class resources to help students learn about wayfinding, bike maintenance and repair, helmet safety and traffic safety.
- Professional development for teachers in the area of bike repair and maintenance is important to help them maintain their fleets and teach students in PE, Outdoor education or leadership classes.
- Alberta Education needs a course on bike repair and maintenance. We are working to create a one credit Career and Technology Services (CTS) course, approved by the province to drop into any high school course easily.
- At Lester Pearson, we’re working on a project with Sustainable Calgary, where a PE 30 class has learned about urban planning and then went about reimagining their routes to school. Stay tuned as we share their plans.
Engineering is key, too
And yes, we are working with municipalities on infrastructure. We were able to get a motion through Calgary City Council to prioritize Schools for future improvements to the 5A network in the city. It was passed unanimously in October, and again in November with the new council. We expect to be partners at the table as new funding and programming is approved.
But our biggest success story might be what happened in Red Deer with Lindsay Thurber High School students. We spoke to a leadership class back in November to get some help to test our student travel survey and get some ideas about what they think about active transportation.
Students talked a lot about the traffic jams and issues crossing the street right in front of the school. We spoke about solutions – many of the students had really great ideas of what would help not only cyclists and pedestrians, but help drivers – and their peers- understand vulnerable road users. As part of our work at schools, we would write an infrastructure report that outlines deficiencies and opportunities to improve safety for students. We suggested that their voices would be better than any report to influence change.
And they took it to heart. The leadership students called the City of Red Deer and set up a meeting with planners to discuss a crosswalk in front of the school. They receive a promise that it would go in when funds were available.
“The approval is a nice big step done and the kiddos are very excited,” wrote Assistant Principal Sheila Sillery in an email. “I am so grateful for you inspiring them to move forward and look for safety and support for students!”
We’ve been able to do a lot with only a few small grants and a small starter fund. We know that with stable funding, we can change lives, improve travel choices and build community for youth. We’ve applied to Revenue Canada as for registration as a Canadian Charitable organization. That status is currently pending.
Thanks to everyone who helped us get here
We want to take a second to thank all of the people who helped get us where we are – and there are many. From all the great people on the YER board, to partner organizations like Sustainable Calgary and Bike Calgary, our teacher champions and principals, to local bike retailers (Shout out to B&P Cycle, Ridley’s and Bow Cycle) and experts and others who have taken the time to support us, even with something as simple as a retweet.
We look forward to doing bigger and better things next year.
Follow along for the ride.