Guest Blog: Inspiring active school travel in the Capital Region

Students from 20 schools across Greater Victoria will be encouraged and supported to walk, bike, bus or roll their way to school more often through the Capital Regional District’s (CRD) Active and Safe Routes to School (ASRTS) project.

ASRTS is a community-based initiative that promotes the use of active transportation for the daily trip to and from school by addressing infrastructure, behaviour, enforcement and educational needs on the school grounds and in surrounding neighbourhoods.

The project supports increased physical activity and greater sense of community, which benefits student well-being and academic performance. At a community scale, increasing the use of active transportation helps to support Official Community Plan objectives, reduces GHG emissions and is a cost-effective solution to traffic congestion. 

ASRTS is one of over a dozen projects and initiatives launched as part of the CRD’s People Power program that aim to motivate, encourage and support residents to safely walk, cycle, roll and use public transit more often.

According to the 2016 participACTION report, 58% of Canadian parents say their kids are typically driven to school and only 25% of children and youth walk or roll. In the capital region these numbers slightly increase to 30% of youth using active transportation (CRD Origin Destination Survey, 2011).

School travel planning processes have been successful in reducing traffic congestion and greenhouse emissions at schools across the nation. HASTe BC, has been selected as the delivery partner in the capital region and has direct experience working in communities across BC including Squamish, Surrey, North Vancouver, Vernon, and Comox.

ASRTS is bringing together municipal transportation planners and engineers, school districts, public health and local law enforcement agencies, parents, students, school administrators and others to take part. Working with a school travel planning facilitator, stakeholders help to collect detailed travel data, identify infrastructure gaps and determine where there are safety and educational needs.

The process shines a spotlight on planned local government infrastructure investments and explores additional improvements to the built environment that can be implemented over time. The goal is to raise awareness of the issues and establishes practical solutions to make travel in and around schools more efficient, safe and welcoming for all modes.

Partners such as ICBC Road Safety, BC Transit, Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition and Walk On, Victoria also play a role in the school travel planning process.

Earlier this year an expression of interest was made available to all public schools in District 61, 62, 63 and 64. Participants were confirmed in June and will officially start the school travel planning process in September 2016. The project will wrap up in December 2017.

The project will result in a customized school travel profile, a “best routes” map, and a school travel action plan. Participating schools will also get to enjoy special events, incentives and prizes, and are able to take advantage of free bicycle skills courses for students.

The twenty schools participating in the full ASRTS program are:

Royal Bay Secondary (Colwood)
Sangster Elementary (Colwood)
Galiano Community School (Galiano)
Ruth King Elementary (Langford)
Hans Helgesen Elementary (Metchosin)
Kelset Elementary (North Saanich)
Willows Elementary (Oak Bay)
Doncaster Elementary (Saanich)
Maria Montessori (Saanich)
Mount Doug High School (Saanich)
Braefoot Elementary (Saanich)
Cloverdale Elementary (Saanich)
Cedar Hill Middle School (Saanich)
Lansdowne Middle School (Saanich)
Gulf Islands Secondary School (Salt Spring)
L’ecole Poirier (Sooke)
Journey Middle School (Sooke)
South Park Family School (Victoria)
Sir James Douglas School (Victoria)
Sidney Elementary (Sidney)

In addition to the schools listed above, an additional eight schools have been identified to participate in an “introductory” level program and will receive support and resources for one-time active transportation special events and data collection activities.

The project also includes a complementary research initiative in 2017 to support enhanced understanding on the business case for investing in active transportation infrastructure and providing a supportive policy environment to encourage cycling, walking and rolling.

The CRD’s ASRTS program is being made possible through the generosity of funding partners including the Victoria Foundation as well as the Real Estate Foundation of BC, and the CRD Traffic Safety Commission.

By encouraging and supporting the use of active travel for the journey to and from school, the CRD and its partners are promoting physical activity, sense of belonging, safer streets, environmental stewardship and improved overall community health. 

Lindsay Taylor is the Active Transportation and Healthy Communities Program Assistant with the Capital Regional District.