What is Active and Safe Routes to School (ASRTS)?
Active and Safe Routes to School is a set of programs and services coordinated by Green Action Centre. Our goal is 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 introduced the concept in Manitoba, and to have seen many positive changes since.
Why is ASRTS Important?
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 environment, our health, and overall quality of life.
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. We also know that active children are more likely be active adults, meaning that active school travel sets kids up with healthy habits for life.
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 CO2 emissions. Transportation is Manitoba’s largest single source of CO2 emissions. Non-motorized travel helps to reduce the impact of climate change.
6) Community interaction: With safer routes and more connected communities, children reap the benefits of getting around without requiring their parents. As children explore their communities independently, they are exposed to people and places that they might otherwise miss while travelling in a vehicle.
How do we help schools?
- Events to promote healthy transportation in Manitoba schools (International Walk to School Month, Winter Walk Day, Bike to School Month, and Clean Air Day)
- Bike Education and Skills Training (BEST)—In 2016, we began working with Bike Winnipeg, Seven Oaks School Division, Manitoba Public Insurance, and the WRENCH to introduce cycling education into Manitoba’s Physical Education curriculum.
- Presentations for classrooms and assemblies. We also help parents, teachers, administrators, and school boards get acquainted with active school travel programs.
- Resources that make it easy to integrate active travel into the classroom and to advocate for safe routes to school.
- School Travel Planning (STP), a holistic approach to addressing the barriers that keep kids from walking or wheeling to school. We work with schools and communities to identify barriers, then support them as they implement a multi-year action plan.
Visit our School Services page for a comprehensive list of how we support teachers and schools.
How has this helped schools?
- “… 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.
How can I increase walking and biking in my community?
Every school community has different needs, so they will take action to promote active travel in different ways. Some actions quick and easy to implement, while others, like school travel plans, are ongoing processes.
- Walking school buses and bike trains
- Coordinate an active travel event (International Walk to School Month, Winter Walk Day, Bike to School Month, safe transportation week…the sky’s the limit!)
- Invite our ASRTS team to speak to your parent council, school administrators, or community group
- Collecting data on student travel modes
- Parent and student surveys
- Community walkabouts to identify barriers to walking and rolling
- Creation of “safer routes” maps to school
- Traffic calming and enforcement on school routes
- Addition of new infrastructure (with municipal support)
- Rewards and incentives to encourage walking and rolling (collecting points, friendly competition among classes)