“Walking to school is a simple, hopeful, powerful act. It is an indicator of what we believe and what we value. Of the health of our children, the health of our environment and the health of our communities.”Jennifer Keesmat, former Chief Planner, City of Toronto
What is school active transportation and what are the benefits?
School active transportation means getting to and from school (or part of the way) by walking, cycling, or scooting. There are many reasons for students to use their feet to get to school:
- Health: Walking to school is a great way to promote physical activity. According to the 2020 ParticipACTION Report Card, only 39% of Canadian children (ages 5-17) are getting the recommended 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day. Being active has many benefits such as improving physical and mental health, increasing attention span and academic performance, reducing anxiety, and building self-esteem.
- Safety: Active transportation reduces road congestion in the school zone, making it safer for everyone in the community.
- Community: Using active transportation helps people get to know their neighbourhood and builds a sense of community. As families walk to school or to the bus stop, they build relationships with each other and the neighbours that they see along the way.
- Air Quality: by not using a car to get to school, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in the school zone are reduced. This contributes to helping meet Ontario’s target of 30% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030.
- Lifelong habits: Studies show that children who walk, cycle, or ride a bus for transportation, at least some of the time, are likely to grow into young adults who walk, cycle, and use transit. By walking to school, children build positive attitudes toward active and sustainable transportation – benefiting themselves and the planet!
EnviroCentre’s school travel planning services
As part of our commitment to advancing active and sustainable transportation options for Ottawa residents, EnviroCentre is proud to deliver School Travel Planning services to local schools. These services are delivered as part of the School Active Transportation Program, on behalf of the Ottawa Student Transportation Authority (OSTA) and the City of Ottawa, and in partnership with Ottawa Public Health.
EnviroCentre uses a model developed by Green Communities Canada, called School Travel Planning. This model is used across the country and addresses the five E’s of transportation planning:
Holding Walk-to-School days, walking field trips, enhancing communications efforts, and friendly classroom competitions.
Working with the City to identify infrastructure improvements, crossing guards, signage changes, and other measures to enhance walking and wheeling to school.
Coordinating enforcement blitzes to encourage safe behavior in the school zone.
Conducting student and family surveys to track changes over time.
Increasing rates of active transportation
Approximately 21% of 5- to 19-year-olds in Canada typically use active modes of transportation. The goal of the School Active Transportation (SAT) program is to increase these rates, and recent survey data shows that schools involved in the SAT program have higher rates of walking to school!
The 2021 OSTA Transportation Survey Report summarizes data about how families from the Ottawa Carleton District School Board and the Ottawa Catholic School Board travel to school. Survey results show that 33% of respondents from schools that have graduated from or are currently engaged in the SAT program walked all the way to school compared to 20% of respondents from schools that have never participated in the SAT program.
School Active Transportation Resources
- Ontario Active School Travel
- School active transportation overview
- Tips for setting up school active transportation
- Tips for reporting traffic and safety concerns
- Quick facts about school active transportation for school principals
- Walk-a-Block maps for Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre-Est (CECCE)
- Walk-a-Block maps for Conseil des écoles publiques de l’Est de l’Ontario (CEPEO)
Watch this fun, engaging video that describes why school bus drivers are environmental heroes!
Active transportation has many benefits! Learn about them in this educational video.
The Top 5 Benefits of Active Transportation Infographic
This great new resource, highlighting the benefits of active transportation, is available in the ten most commonly spoken languages in Ottawa, including English, French, Arabic, Mandarin, Spanish, Cantonese, Farsi, Vietnamese, Somali, and Russian.
Download a copy (or copies) to share with your school community!
Hop! A bilingual app that makes walking to school fun
Hop! is an app created by EnviroCentre and the Ottawa Student Transportation Authority (OSTA) to encourage elementary students to walk to school. Students can use the app to log the distances they have walked and see the positive impact walking has on the environment. Hop! tells students how much greenhouse gas they’ve averted by walking instead of driving and its group challenges and milestones keep students motivated to choose active transportation.
Hop! is free and available for download by anyone at www.123Hop.ca. Schools are particularly encouraged to use it in their active transportation initiatives.
Additional Hop! Resources
Flyer about Hop! (Created by OSTA in English)