School Travel Planning (STP) is a community-based approach that involves community stakeholders getting together to come up with solutions to make it easier and safer for students to walk or cycle to and from school. See Ontario Active School Travel website for a long list of resources.

It is designed to recognize local ownership of Active School Travel by engaging stakeholders that include: school boards, parents, students, school staff, municipal transportation planners and engineers, public health and police.

School Travel Planning undertakes research to assess the barriers to active school travel and uses this knowledge to develop and implement action plans. The involvement of local stakeholders is an important step to ensuring the sustainability of active school travel activities (Green Communities Canada, 2012).

This is a great video to show as a child’s perspective of why STP is important:

Learn from other experienced partners in Active School Travel in this “ School Active Transportation Survey: A perspective from champions”.

In 2013 the Healthy Communities Partnership initiated a pilot where two schools in the Upper Canada District School Board (Westminster Public School in Brockville and Naismith Memorial in Almonte) were chosen to participate in school travel planning following the Green Communities Active and Safe Routes to School Model. Both have had a variety of successes and challenges that they have learned from in the process. Naismith STP expanded then to include R Tait McKenzie and Holy Name of Mary School in 2015.

Recently the Ministry of Education has invested money to boost active school travel across the province. Green Communities Canada is managing these funds, and is offering communities across Ontario the opportunity to submit applications.

The Health Unit succeeded in their funding application for a “Walking the Rural Way” project which will pilot “community tailored” Walking School Bus models using paid and volunteer supervisors to walk with elementary children, on established routes to and from school. The Project will begin with three communities; Almonte, Smiths Falls and Brockville.

The Walking School Bus project idea was chosen for a few reasons:

Surveys from parents (within the UCDSB in 2015) indicate the main reason they are not likely to let their children walk is due to fear of safety (stranger danger and traffic safety). Supervised walking would be an intervention to help alleviate these concerns.

Ottawa has been using this strategy for years and they have a model that we could learn from. However, we feel we would need to tweak it to fit our rural context of LGL.

letters of support were received from:

The Catholic and Upper Canada District School Boards, The local student transportation authority (STEO), Brockville Police, Smiths Falls Police, OPP, The municipalities of Brockville, Smiths Falls and Mississippi Mills, Brockville YMCA, Brockville Volunteer Centre and Mills Community Support

Why Encourage Active School Travel?

  • Healthier students
  • Fewer emissions, less air pollution
  • Safer School zones
  • Healthier communities

For more information see the “Making the Case” resource on the Active School Travel Website.

Here is what some families in Mississippi Mills said:

How parents travelled when they were kids

• Car 6.8 %
• Bus 48.9 %
• Walk 42 %
• Bike 2.3 %

How their kids now travel to school

• Car 25.8 %
• Bus 53 %
• Walk 20%
• Carpool 1.1 %

The following is a sample of STP results from Ontario and Quebec (Metrolinx, 2012):

  • In Hamilton and Peel Region 30 schools implemented school travel plans over two years, achieving an average 7% decrease in morning car trips and equivalent increases in walking. Further, collaborations are focusing on working toward active transportation-supportive policy in areas such as school siting and site design;
  • In a two-year Ontario project involving 34 schools in 16 different communities, 38% of schools that completed follow-up measurements achieved between 10% and 21% increase in walking;
  • In Quebec, based on establishment in 210 schools, an average 4% increase in walking and cycling and a 5% decrease in automobile use over only one year of implementation have been measured (Note: Quebec’s program is funded provincially). The program includes concerted action on the development of public policies directed at acquiring and maintaining healthy living habits;
  • While STP has not been tested extensively in rural areas in Canada, the Rural Safe Routes to School project in Northern Ireland involved 18 rural primary schools and resulted in a 15% decrease in children being driven to school, walking to school increased by 13%, and cycling to school increased by 2%. Rural schools have seen success across the United States as well, including Red Pine Elementary School, which through their Safe Routes to School program reduced cars dropping children off at the school from 100 to 40, and increased the number of children walking from 75 to 200.

Biking to School in Canmore

Bike Month in Canmore, Alberta has a great video to share: