To celebrate International Walk to School Month we've been investigating how other countries are reversing the decline in walking to school.

Here Armi De Francia and Laura Zeglen from Green Communities Canada tell us what they're doing to get more children walking.

 

 

Photo of children in Canada crossing the road on the way to school

The thought of walking to school brings fond childhood memories: the feel of leaves crunching, ice cracking, or puddles splashing beneath our boots; the paths and places discovered with our friends that we would never have known existed had we been in a car.

But we know that significantly fewer children today get to have these experiences, as we see a decline in the number of children walking to school and significant increases in the number of children being driven to school.

Children who live too far away from their school to walk can take a yellow school bus to and from school, but often they are driven by car instead.

Many students who live close enough to walk are also being driven to school. 

Map of Canada

convenience

&

weather

The top two reasons that parents in Canada state for not walking to school.

Figure of children walking to school

When we asked parents why they drive their children to school, perception of convenience was a key factor for parents rushing to work.

Another top reason was the weather.

In Toronto – where the school year runs from September through June there is typically sunny weather in September and hot, humid weather from May until June.

In between is a long cold winter, with snow and ice on the ground from as early as October right through until April.

As kids, we enjoyed walking to school because it was fun. Now, as adults, we understand all the additional reasons that active school travel is so important.

Armi De Francia and Laura Zeglen

Steps forward

Overcoming these challenges involves a variety of solutions.

These include walking group programs like Walking School Buses and part-way walking encouragement activities such as Walk-a-Block programs.

We help schools organise events such as Winter Walk Days with hot chocolate for walkers, and Winter Dress-up Activities so students dress warmly.

And of course, we promote International Walk to School Month each October, inviting local schools to participate in an exciting international movement.

Through our Active and Safe Routes to School program, our organisation helps schools address the barriers to active school travel by implementing School Travel Planning. In Toronto, we are currently working with a variety of schools across the city, each with their own unique challenges.

Walking the dog
Map of Canada

As kids, we enjoyed walking to school because it was fun.

Now, as adults, we understand all the additional reasons that active school travel is so important.

It allows children to get to know their neighbourhoods, get exercise, and improve their concentration levels at school.

It also means fewer cars on the road, contributing to reducing traffic congestion and air pollution on our streets.

These are the benefits we promote to our school communities, as we work to bring back the simple joys of walking to school.