In Toronto (population
2.5 million) there is major concern over poor air quality caused mainly
by motor vehicle emissions. Another concern is the health problems of
inactive children. Although 68 percent of Canadian children live within
a 30-minute walk to school, only 36 percent of the children walk. In
an attempt to alleviate both health concerns, Greenest City, an environmental
advocacy organization, began the Active and Safe Routes to School (SR2S)
project in 1996 with three pilot schools. It was a comprehensive program,
with materials, education, and activities. The project took root and
grew. Active and SR2S activities result from major collaboration among
Greenest City, five traffic engineers, 10 different police divisions,
and 25 public health nurses. Experiences and successes at these schools
have led to Active and SR2S project development in 150 other schools.
The project now serves the entire Province of Ontario, and has assisted
in the start-up of SR2S projects elsewhere in Canada.
Description of Efforts
- Provided a comprehensive package of education and encouragement materials: flyers, brochures, certificates, reports, and surveys.
- Offered curriculum information to teachers, including Blazing Trails, a publication useful in mapping safer routes.
- Designed events to encourage walking: Walking School Bus (WSB), out of which came a new toolkit for beginning a WSB in a neighborhood; Walking/Wheeling Wednesdays at schools, and “Kilometer Club” (described on page 55) for kids who want to be active during the school day, but cannot walk to school.
- Trans-Canada Walking Challenge encouraged children to keep track of the miles they walk, add them up, and see how far across Canada they could get. A poster shows points of interest along the way.
- Neighborhood Walkabouts surveyed the area around schools to find out if they were safe for children to walk.
- “No Idling” campaign educated drivers about the air pollution they cause while the engine idles as they wait to pick up schoolchildren, and lets them know that idling like that is banned in Toronto.
- Walking/Wheeling Wednesdays at several schools demonstrated significant shifts in travel mode: some schools reported empty parking lots on these days. The average across schools is 55 percent student walkers on Walking Wednesdays.
- Total person kilometers walked (1997-2001) IWALK and Walking Wednesday = 1,074,891 kilometers. This is equal to 144 individual trips walking across Canada from St. John's Newfoundland to Vancouver, British Columbia.
- Support from local officials has grown. Police departments got involved because they were concerned that they would have to spend too many hours managing traffic congestion.
- Forty-four Toronto schools completed neighborhood walkabouts, resulting in some type of traffic safety change being made at each school.
- Each year, from 1998-2001, the reduction of emissions of eCO2 (greenhouse gas) in Toronto because of the walking to school program equaled 73 metric tonnes. The adjacent chart estimates the contribution of specific program components toward a desired reduction in greenhouse gas in different years.
||Greenhouse Gas Reduction eCO2
|Walking School Bus
The number of families participating
in all aspects of the program has approximately doubled each
This steadily increasing participation has resulted in significant
reduction in distance traveled by car, which is calculated
to result in greenhouse gas reduction in the amounts indicated
to the right.
|Walk To School Day
Sample Effects at Demonstration/Pilot Sites
- Maurice Cody and John Wanless Public Schools: 1998 evaluation showed a 10 percent increase over 1996 in students walking to school on a regular basis. Both schools have 60 percent walkers on Walking Wednesdays.
- E.T. Crowle Public School: Physical Education teachers had noticed a year-by-year decline in the number of children (grades four through eight) who were fit enough to participate in the cross-country track team for a spring event competing with other schools. The teachers started the “Kilometer Club” in 2001, with students walking and running laps in the schoolyard and walking to school. By the spring of 2001, more children qualified for the cross-country challenge.
- Maurice Cody Public School: Students challenged the City Council and the Mayor to walk or bike to work at City Hall on “Bike Day.” Some city officials took the challenge seriously, including one who walked 3.2 miles to work that day.
- Mary Shadd Public School: Walkabout survey resulted in a bus stop being moved, installation of a well-signed crosswalk, and a crossing guard assigned for before and after school.
- Finding funding for all of the efforts.
- Attitude of North Americans toward their cars. There is no political will to make the changes necessary to encourage other means of transportation.
- Schools are very busy. They need a champion who will carry the cause, probably a parent, with a supportive principal and teachers.
- Started with approximately $22,000* per year from the Toronto Atmospheric Fund.
- Funding sources included city, private and public foundations, and national transportation department.
- Active and Safe Routes to School leveraged funding to acquire more than $320,000* per year in in-kind support from various partners.
- Province-wide effort cost approximately $128,000* per year.
- $285,000* awarded recently from Ontario Trillium Foundation for three-year program support.
Greenest City's strategy has been to pilot activities in Toronto schools, then adapt them and disseminate throughout the province. Recognizing that schools have busy schedules, they advise that it takes a full year to implement an Active and Safe Routes to School project. Greenest City has recruited partners from health, law enforcement and community government, and leveraged funding into significant in-kind support. Greenest City responded to the enthusiasm of schoolchildren for active travel by developing fun events like the Kilometer Club and Cross-Canada Walking Challenge. Greenest City emphasized that both funding and community volunteer effort for Active and Safe Routes to School projects are essential.
Tel: (416) 488-7263
Web site: www.greenestcity.org
*All monetary amounts are given in U.S. Dollars.
Physical Education teachers
had noticed a year-by-year decline in the number of children who
were fit enough to participate in the cross-country track team for
a spring event competing with other schools. The teachers started
Club" in 2001, with students walking and running laps in the schoolyard
and walking to school. By the spring of 2001, more children qualified
for the crosscountry challenge.