School Active Transportation

“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: 

  • Improved health and academic performance: 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.  
  • Promotion of sustainable behaviour habitsStudies 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! 
  • Increased Safety: Active transportation reduces road congestion in the school zone, making it safer for everyone in the community. 
  • Improved air quality and reduction in greenhouse gas emissions: 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. 

Declining rates of school active transportation  

A report prepared by the National Center for Safe Routes to School found that in 1969 in the United States, 88.6% of students who lived within 1-mile of school walked or biked to school, which decreased to 35.2% in 2009 and continues to decline.

The declining rate of children walking and biking to school is similar in Canada. The 2020 ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth gave Canadians a score of D- for active transportation for travel to and from school.  Only 21% of 5- to 19-year-olds in Canada typically use active modes of transportation.   

EnviroCentre is working to increase these active transportation rates! 

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 of service is used across the country and address’ the five E’s of transportation planning:


Building skills with Bike Rodeos and pedestrian-safety workshops, sharing maps, tips, and resources with the entire school community to enhance active transportation.


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.

School Active Transportation Resources 

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 Schools are particularly encouraged to use it in their active transportation initiatives.

Additional Hop! Resources

One Pager about Hop! in English and French

Setting up Teams (for Teachers) in English and French

Hop! Challenges in English and French

Hop! Poster in English and French

Flyer about Hop! (Created by OSTA in English)

To find out how your school can participate in our SAT programs send us an email!

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