A grant from the OAST Fund has been the catalyst for piloting a unique approach to boosting AST in the City of Markham.
The York Region DSB, York Catholic DSB, City of Markham and other partners have been developing and testing a new six-tiered program model that is helping them understand what level of on-the-ground interventions are most effective at getting more children walking and cycling in specific school communities.
The first tier – communications and education – is followed by successive additional interventions: classroom competitions, parent-led walking groups, wayfinding signage, traffic safety enhancements and, finally, launching Walking Wednesdays. The goal is to increase momentum and impact over time.
Nine elementary schools (7 public, 2 separate) were chosen for the pilot based on criteria such as previous involvement in School Travel Planning, strong internal champions, identified traffic issues and the existing sidewalk network.
The Markham project’s extensive use of wayfinding signage, including sidewalk stencils, was featured in an OAST webinar last month. And as part of its Walking Wednesdays, one school took the step of closing its Kiss and Ride to parent traffic, a move that generated only one formal complaint!
“While Covid-related school closures have delayed completion of the pilot it’s already giving us valuable insights into which tiers and which combinations are most effective at getting more kids walking and wheeling,” says Reena Mistry, AST Coordinator for YRDSB and YCDSB. “It will also form the basis of future proposals to the school boards and municipal councils to secure the resources needed to expand the successful components to more schools.”
The initiatives in Markham are one of 28 community-based projects receiving support from the Ontario Active School Travel Fund.