Canada Walks gets kids walking to school

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Peterborough – New data from Canada Walks shows that a whopping 41 percent of children were driven to school before the group took aim to reduce that number by increasing the rate of walking and cycling for the school journey.

A department of Green Communities Canada, Canada Walks started its After School Travel Planning projects to improve street infrastructure, increase awareness of the benefits of active travel and establish walking and cycling groups. Since it began, the project has seen a 1 percent shift toward children using active transportation. As more improvements are made, that number is expected to increase. The data also revealed that more than 1100 of the nearly 7000 families who responded in follow-up surveys have cut down their driving for the trip, reducing traffic congestion by as much as 28 percent around some schools.

Bruce Krentz, a parent at Westwood School in Thompson, MB, likes what School Travel Planning has done for his children. “Having them walk and bike when they can to school has been excellent for them in terms of getting a little bit more activity every day,” says Krentz. “I think they’re happier when they get to school and even when they get home. I know when they walk it’s a great feeling for them.”

Convenience was cited by parents as the topmost reason for driving children to school, followed by weather and traffic safety. But many Canadian communities are simply not designed to allow children the freedom of independent mobility. The School Travel Planning model tackles all of these issues head on, and the results of this two-year project show that model can shift the trend from driving to active travel.

“Every time a family walks or cycles to school rather than taking the car, they show support for healthier bodies and livelier neighbourhoods” says Jacky Kennedy, Director of Canada Walks. “The results of our School Travel Planning project prove that with organized active transportation plans, policies and programs that support walking or cycling to school, the rate of children being driven by their parents can be lowered. When walking and cycling to school is the norm for Canadian children, we should see rates of obesity, chronic illness and some cancers decrease while also contributing to more connected communities and cleaner air in our neighbourhoods.”