Alarmed by growing traffic congestion at her own children’s school, and inspired by the Safe Routes to School initiative in the UK, Jacky Kennedy introduced activities to get more kids walking and wheeling at three Toronto schools in the mid-1990s.
By 2000, the idea was spreading across Ontario. Most often, the program was introduced to each school community as a pilot project led by public health staff, with guidance and support from Jacky Kennedy and Green Communities Canada (GCC).
These early efforts focused on education and encouragement. Although results were encouraging, it became clear that a more comprehensive approach was needed to generate significant and sustained increases in active school travel.
- 2006: Based on research into international best practices, GCC adapted School Travel Planning (STP) for Canada. STP is community-based model that systematically addresses barriers and incentives for walking to school.
- 2006-09: The STP model was pilot tested in four provinces and findings are used to develop a detailed toolkit for use by schools and communities.
- 2009-12: GCC and multiple partners introduced STP to more than 120 schools across Canada. The Children’s Mobility, Health and Happiness project was generously funded by the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer and the Public Health Agency of Canada. See Executive Summary.
In 2017, our Active & Safe Routes to School program was expanded and renamed Ontario Active School Travel (OAST), supported by funding from the Government of Ontario. Between 2017 and 2022, the OAST program invested $2.8 million in local active school travel initiatives across 62 Ontario communities.
Key reference studies that have informed the evolution of our active school travel program include: