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Active & Safe Routes to School in Ontario

By Jacky Kennedy

Active & Safe Routes to School is a comprehensive community-based initiative that taps into the increasingly urgent demand for safe, walkable neighbourhoods. Active & Safe Routes to School promotes the use of active and efficient transportation for the daily trip to school, addressing health and traffic safety issues while taking action on air pollution and climate change.

Green Communities Canada has developed an effective delivery model. Active & Safe Routes to School is delivered locally by community champions, with active support from Green Communities that includes access to a menu of program elements and resources, consultation and advice, and peer networking.

Key Objectives:

  • Increase daily physical activity levels of children and youth
  • Decrease emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollutants
  • Improve street safety
  • Raise public awareness of children's health and transportation
  • Build social capital and create community cohesion

In Ontario, Active & Safe Routes to School started in 1996 as a pilot project involving three schools. Over the past ten years, our program has grown to include over 2,000 schools in 22 communities across the province. Interest and involvement continues to grow, not just in Ontario, but across Canada and around the world. All resources are linked to the Ontario curriculum and are available in English and French.

IWALK October: the annual premier event of Active & Safe Routes to School

October is International Walk to School Month (IWALK October) here in Canada and around the world (www.iwalktoschool.org). Wednesday, October 4 is IWALK Day and October 2-6 is IWALK Week. Schools can choose to organize relevant activities for the week, just one day or they can participate for the entire month. The IWALK movement started in 2000 with just eight countries and has grown each year to over 40 participating countries.

Here in Ontario we're expecting close to 2,000 schools to participate. In Ontario, IWALK is part of the Active & Safe Routes to School program, managed by Green Communities Canada.

IWALK encourages local dialogue on traffic and community safety, air pollution and climate change, and healthy active lifestyles while helping to create school spirit. It also provides an opportunity for local decision makers to walk to school with families.

IWALK is just one of the activities offered through Green Communities | Active & Safe Routes to School program. Other activities include Walking/Wheeling Wednesdays, Walking School Buses, No Idling at School and, the IWALK Club.

Not all students live close enough to walk to school but they can walk at school. Our Active & Safe Routes to School program is very adaptable and can be modified to address a wide range of community needs.

For more information, to register for IWALK October or to find out how your school can get involved, visit www.saferoutestoschool.ca or email us at info@saferoutestoschool.ca. Help us to make every day walk to school day.

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