Active & Safe Routes to School Pilot
The City of Toronto’s Active and Safe Routes to School pilot project began in 2018 and encourages children to use active transportation such as walking, biking or scootering to and from school, as well as improving safety in areas around schools. This project is one of many initiatives under the city’s Vision Zero Road Safety Plan and has received grants from Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Partnership for Healthy Cities and Ontario Active School Travel to continue the implementation and promotion of this project.
According to the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines, school-aged children and youth are recommended to have at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity and several hours of light physical activity every day. Only one-third of Canadian children and youth currently walk or cycle to school. Many parents choose to drive their children to school, which has been linked to more greenhouse gas emissions and an overall decrease in children’s levels of physical activity.
In 2018, the Active and Safe Routes to School pilot project involved five schools at three locations and included the installation of new road markings, sidewalk activity, stencils and signage.
In 2020, the program will expand to three new schools:
- Hillmount Public School
- George Webster Elementary School
- Jean Lumb Public School/Bishop Macdonell Catholic Elementary School
This year, the project is being led by Toronto Public Health and the City’s Transportation Services Division. It is funded in-part by Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Partnership for Healthy Cities, a global network of 70 cities committed to saving lives by preventing non-communicable diseases and injuries; and Ontario Active School Travel, an Ontario-wide program delivered by Green Communities Canada which is dedicated to children’s mobility, health and happiness. Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Partnership for Healthy Cities provided $50,000 USD and Ontario Active School Travel granted $60,000 CAD to help deliver this initiative.
The main objectives of the 2018 Active & Safe Routes to School Pilot was to increase student participation in walking and cycling to school and increase safety along designated walking/biking routes to school. The pilot included road markings, sidewalk activity stenciling and installation of signage to encourage children to walk or bike to school and to help reduce vehicular speed and increase safety.
The pilot was launched at three locations involving five schools:
- Morrish Public School
- Samuel Hearne Middle School
- Oakridge Junior Public School
- Humberwood Downs Junior Middle Academy
- Holy Child Catholic School
The pilot project is based on the five ‘Es’ of an effective road safety strategy – Engineering, Education, Enforcement, Engagement and Evaluation and is in addition to a number of other Vision Zero initiatives focused on increasing back-to-school safety in Toronto’s communities.
Improves your family’s health
Active school travel helps to meet the goal for school-aged children of at least 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity, which is linked with lower body mass index and improved cardiovascular health.
Reducing traffic volumes at bell times creates safer school zones for all students and improving walking and cycling routes to school enhances the safety, connectivity, and quality of life for the community as a whole.
Help the Environment
Reducing the number of children being driven to school improves air quality and reduces associated risks of lung and cardiovascular diseases. Air pollution can also impact cognitive development: children are particularly vulnerable, experiencing negative impacts at lower levels of exposure than adults.
Influence and Improve Student Performance
Active school travel helps with physical activity and supports healthy brain development, which can lead to improved learning and academic outcomes. Mental health benefits include reduced stress, depression, and anxiety, and increased happiness.
Learn how parents can promote walking to school.