Active and Safe Routes to School is a set of programs coordinated by Green Action Centre that aim to reverse the decades-long trend of children being driven to schools. Programs like ours are in place in all fifty states, the UK, Denmark, New Zealand, and elsewhere. We are proud to have been the first to introduce the concept in Manitoba.
According to the United Nations, “Sustainable transport is essential to achieving most, if not all, of the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Although sustainable transport is not represented by a standalone SDG, it is mainstreamed across several SDGs and targets, especially those related to food security, health, energy, infrastructure and cities and human settlements.” In other words, the way we get around directly impacts our overall quality of life.
Benefits of Active Travel for Kids
Study after study confirms the benefits of active travel over motor vehicles:
1) Improved health through physical activity Canada received a grade of “D” for active transportation in the 2015 ParticipACTION Report Card, with only 24% of Canadian children regularly walking or biking to school. Children who walk and bike to school have higher physical activity levels throughout the day, helping them meet the recommended 60 minutes of activity daily. This level of activity helps prevent childhood obesity and supports healthy bones.
2) Cleaner air; Air quality around a school suffers when dozens of parents sit in idling cars while their children jump out. Air pollution has contributed to childhood asthma rates doubling between 1980 and the mid-1990s. Asthma rates remain at historically high levels and cause 14 million missed school days every year.
3) Improved safety; safety benefits are threefold: fewer cars means less likelihood of collision in the area around the school, more people walking and biking in the streets helps deter criminal behaviour, and according to the 2015 ParticipACTION report, “Canadian children are eight times more likely to die as a passenger in a motor vehicle than from being hit by a vehicle when outside on foot or on a bike.”
4) Better learning as studies have shown that students who walk or bike are able to concentrate better; a MASS experiment in Denmark in 2012 showed that students who walk or bike to school displayed an “increased power of concentration, and the effect of this ‘exercise’ lasted all morning”
5) Reduced Carbon emissions as less vehicles are on the road, helping to combat climate change, and reduce the adverse effects that correspond with a changing climate.
6) More inspiration and opportunity for outdoor play: As children are able to explore and become comfortable in their community, they are more likely to find inspiration in the outdoor spaces in their community that they might otherwise miss while travelling in a vehicle.
- “… the STP process was a springboard in our community for a larger Active Transportation movement that has lead to a community bike shop and the growth of our multi-use pathway network.” — STP Facilitator for 6 schools in Thompson, MB.
- Woodlawn School in Steinbach began implementing their school travel plan over the 2011/2012 school year. By 2015, the principal said that active travel is a part of the culture of the school and division to the point where the planning document is no longer used.
- Dalhousie School in Winnipeg formalized a walking school bus, allowing pre-K children to get to and from school on foot.
While a formal school travel plan is great to have, they can sometimes take time to develop, and there are things we can do right now to promote active travel for kids. Our events make it fun to try new modes of travel, our resources help you to bring active travel into the classroom, and we can present to your school, parent council, or community group to help get you started.