Encouraging students to walk or cycle is a great way to address traffic issues around schools and improve student health. But it’s easier said than done.
That’s the value of School Travel Planning (STP), an innovative process in which the school community comes together to identify barriers to active school travel, devise an action plan, implement the plan, and measure results.
STP was brought to this country and disseminated nationally by Green Communities Canada – the brainchild of Jacky Kennedy, director of our Canada Walks program (right).
STP is a flexible process that engages the school community and key partners, including staff, boards, parents, students, public health, police and traffic, transportation and planning departments.
Stakeholders often identify infrastructure improvements needed to make walking and cycling safe. And education, by-law enforcement or policy changes may also be needed for a shift in travel behavior to occur.
The process is led by an STP Facilitator who works collaboratively with the community.
The Canadian STP model has been pilot-tested in all provinces and territories, and provides a rich and varied base of experience.
Green Communities Canada, Metrolinx and the University of Toronto recently completed a preliminarystudy into the costs and benefits of School Travel Planning, using data from 19 Ontario schools. Results showed significant annual benefits from the reduction in car trips. If current levels of active transportation for students are maintained for another 10 years, benefits could equal $1.8 million, an average of $221 per student.
Ottawa’s Elmdale Public School is a perfect illustration of school travel planning at work. Actions implemented between 2010 and 2012 include a bike rodeo with safety and skills training, parking area mapping, walking campaigns and theme days, a Walking School bus and Bike Club, crossing guards, the installation of a bike rack and traffic signage and by-law enforcement.
Student classroom surveys measured a decrease in car trips of 8.3 per cent and an increase in cycling of 12.8 per cent. The total project cost was $5,445.50 with an estimated benefit-cost ratio of 11.