An urgent problem
There are many reasons that we need to take action to increase active school travel and get more kids walking and wheeling to school:
Few children in Canada walk and wheel for their school journey.
Only 25% of 5- to 17-year-olds in Canada typically use active modes of transportation. Many children who could walk, wheel, or take the school bus for their school journey are being driven.
Canadian children don‘t get enough physical activity.
Only 9% of Canadian children and youth (ages 5-17) get the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity. Insufficient activity is linked to chronic diseases, including obesity, cancer, diabetes, and stroke, as well as poor mental health.
Increased car use makes school zones congested, polluted, and less safe.
Congestion and unsafe driver behaviours are common around schools during bell times. A recent study observed dangerous driver behaviours at 88% of participating schools. Use of private vehicles for school drop-off significantly increases air pollution around schools.
Traffic is a growing burden on school staff.
Ontario’s school principals collectively spend an estimated 720,000 hours a year coping with traffic problems around their schools. See Saving Money and Time with Active School Travel.
Decisions by school boards can impact active school travel.
The decisions that school boards make about school catchment areas, school closures, academic programs and transportation services can lead to more students travelling further to school and being driven.
Many neighbourhoods are not built for active transportation.
The built environment – including long distances between home and school, car-centred street design, and poor or missing walking and cycling infrastructure – can create real barriers that prevent children from walking or biking to school. See School Traffic Safety in the City of Toronto and Project BEAT.
We need to take action against climate change.
More than one-third of Ontario’s greenhouse gas pollution comes from transportation and vehicle emissions have been rising steadily. See the Ontario Climate Change Strategy.