GCC Active and Safe Routes to School (1996 to 2005)

The GCC Active and Safe Routes to School program was brought to life by Greenest City, a Toronto-based non-profit known for addressing a variety of environmental issues through locally based initiatives. The program, run in partnership with the Toronto School Board, encouraged families to reduce automobile use and increase physical activity for children as they travel to and from school. Research conducted by public health and transportation agencies acted as the foundation for the program, providing program developers with insight into transportation methods and their connection to child safety issues, physical fitness, and greenhouse gas emissions. The Active and Safe Routes to School program was first introduced in the fall of 1996 via parent meetings and information displays at school events. Geared towards elementary school aged children, program participants were divided into two groups – those who lived close to school and those who lived further away. Taking known barriers into account, walking tactics like the Walking School Bus and International Walk to School Day were promoted to students that lived close to school, while tactics like Walk a Block and No-Idling at School were designed to make it easier for students and parents living further away from campus to engage in the program. In the classroom, activities like Blazing Trails Through the Urban Jungle were used to encourage participation in walking opportunities in addition to helping students feel safer and more confident about traveling in their community. A Neighborhood Walkabout program was also created to identify traffic and safety issues specific to each participating school and allow for the opportunity to create action plans that would resolve each issue making travel to and from school safer. By 2001 the Active and Safe Routes to School program had expanded to over 450 campuses across the province of Ontario, and in 2002, the program came under the umbrella of Green Communities Canada and took on a national focus. Participating schools were asked to report on the number of students involved in each of the program’s activities as well as the average distance travelled to school by each participant. Interviews and questionnaires were added in 2005 as an additional form of program evaluation. Data collected between 1996 and 2002 revealed that 154,878 students avoided the release of 46 tonnes of eCO2 through their participation in the program.

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