School Travel Planning Pilot Launched Across Capital Region
Students from twenty eight schools across the capital region are being encouraged and supported to walk, bike, bus or roll their way to school more often through the Capital Regional District’s (CRD) Active and Safe Routes to School (ASRTS) project.
ASRTS is a community-based initiative that promotes the use of active transportation for the daily trip to and from school by addressing infrastructure, behaviour, enforcement and educational needs on the school grounds and in surrounding neighbourhoods.
Each school in the comprehensive program is supported by a School Travel Planning Facilitator throughout the 15-month school travel planning process which engages students, teachers, parents, school boards, municipal transportation planners and engineers, public health and local law enforcement agencies to address traffic and transportation challenges. The project involves mapping the best routes, identifying issues, and developing action plans and school-based encouragement activities such as park & walk stations, bike skills courses, skateboard repair workshops and walk-to-school days.
Eight introductory schools will participate in surveys and targeted engagement/encouragement activities in the spring.
School Travel Planning at a Glance
The School Travel Planning (STP) process is led by a School Travel Planning Facilitator that is dedicated to each school. The process is customized to the unique needs of each school, but overall involves:
Step 1. Establish a Project Committee – The School Travel Planning Facilitator brings together administration, teachers, students, parents, municipal and school district staff, and local law enforcement to work on this project.
Step 2. Collect Data – There are multiple methods used: take-home surveys and teacher facilitated hands up surveys, as well as a school-site and neighbourhood walkabout. The neighbourhood walkabout brings together the Project Committee and invites external stakeholders such as ICBC, Island Health and local advocacy groups, to look at areas of concern and discuss solutions.
Step 3. Action Planning – The Project Committee considers the data collected and creates an action plan identifying solutions to challenges or barriers identified in the data collection phase. The action plan includes an implementation timeline and identifies responsiblities.
Step 4. FUN! Each school implements programming that relates to the action plan. Engagement activities may include bike to school days, walking clubs, skateboard lessons, art projects and bike skills courses to encourage and support active and healthy lifestyles.
Step 5. Monitoring & Follow-up Data Collection – Programs and engagement activities are monitored and a second round of data collection is conducted in the fall of 2017 to understand what is working and what can be improved upon. All of this is put together as a School Travel Plan that is customized for each school and can continue to be implemented after the pilot project is completed in December 2017.
School Walkabouts Underway
Content provided by Omar Bhimji
Many schools throughout North America, particularly older schools in urban areas, were designed and constructed when most students walked or biked to school. More recently, schools have been designed or renovated to accommodate high rates of driving students to school, often at the expense of students who walk or cycle.
A frequent issue related to existing school sites is how to balance facilities for pedestrians and people on bicycles, including sidewalks, safe crossing areas and bicycle parking, with automobile and bus facilities, including driveways, travel lanes, parking lots, drop-off/pick-up areas and loading zones.
With creative thinking and working together there can be great improvement to school access for students that walk, cycle or roll. Implementing infrastructure improvements can be an expensive undertaking or not possible given site constraints. However, not all improvements require construction. Some changes may be possible through policy (eg. how existing infrastructure is used) or modifications (including paint and signage), which are relatively easy to implement and have a low cost associated with them.
To identify access and active travel on school grounds, the School Travel Planners facilitate a school-site walkabout. The walkabouts include a 30 minute review of on-site facilities and a 30 minute debrief to discuss potential solutions to on-site challenges. There are four areas that the group focuses on: school entrances, pedestrian pathways, potential conflicts and bicycle parking.
Braefoot Elementary's weekly 'All School Walk/Run"
Every Friday after lunch, Braefoot Elementary students participate in an "All School
Walk/Run"; a 1km walk from the school on Harrop Rd to Feltham St and back. The students "buddy-up" with their school buddy and burn off some excess energy before sitting down for the afternoon. This event is a great way to incorporate physical activity into the school day and helps students to focus on Friday afternoons.
School Travel Planning Facilitator, Lise Richards, explains, "the kids have a great time. The day that I joined them the whole school was SO EXCITED because Tour de Rock was passing by along MacKenzie Ave., so the kids made signs and were cheering for the riders as they passed by. I chatted with a few of the students along the walk and they all talked about how much they love being active and doing the all school walk with their buddies. They like the fresh air and being out of their desks."
The walks also provide teachers with the opportunity to engage with students in a different learning environment and find ways to incorporate teachings by picking up on their students' interest in a leaf, tree, house or bird. So while it might look like the kids are getting an hour off of 'learning' - they are instead learning through their own inspiration.
Sustainable Happiness and the Journey to School
Sustainable Happiness is happiness that contributes to individual, community, and/or global well-being and does not exploit other people, the environment, or future generations. The term, coined by Dr. Catherine O'Brien of Cape Breton University, provides a link between happiness, well-being and sustainability. Sustainable happiness emphasizes the interconnection and interdependence between people and the natural environment.
Using active transportation for the journey to school contributes to sustainable happiness by:
- increasing personal health,
- reducing emissions and impact on the environment,
- allowing students an opportunity to connect with their surroundings and,
- contributing to and fostering a sense of community.
Several Active and Safe Routes to School programs across Canada promote sustainable happiness in the school travel planning process.
For more about Sustainable Happiness visit, sustainablehappiness.ca
Get to know your School Travel Planning Facilitator
Name: Lise Richard
Hometown: Dartmouth, Nova Scotia
Main Mode of Transportation: Bicycle
What are some of your hobbies? Anything involving the Ocean; Finding ways to live plastic-free; Generally being in nature. Also, knitting.
What kind of bike do you ride? Does your bike have a name? Apollo – 10 speed – refurbished to be a commuter bike.
How did you get to school? Primarily bussed or walked, but occassionally used public transit or picked up a ride from a friend.
How did you become interested in active transportation facilitation? In 2013, I learned about the work that HASTe – Hub for Active School Travel – did with schools and liked the program. Already being a part of the active travel community, remembering my own wicked memories from my entire life walking to school and wanting to see kids today have the chance to develop those same wicked memories, all contributed to my interest in active transportation facilitation.