School Travel Planning: Mobilizing School and Community Resources to Encourage Active School Transportation

Authors


  • The School Travel Planning project was made possible through a financial contribution from the Public Health Agency of Canada. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of the Public Health Agency of Canada. This research was also supported by the Built Environment, Obesity and Health Strategic Initiative of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada (HSFC) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

Ron Buliung, Associate Professor, (ron.buliung@utoronto.ca), Department of Geography, University of Toronto Mississauga, 3359 Mississauga Road North, Mississauga, ON, Canada L5L 1C6.

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Active school transport (AST), school travel using an active mode like walking, may be important to children's overall physical activity. A “school travel plan” (STP) documents a school's transport characteristics and provides an action plan to address school and neighborhood barriers to AST.

METHODS: We conducted a pilot STP intervention at 12 schools in 4 Canadian provinces. Facilitators and school personnel created and implemented AST action plans. Parent's self-reports (N = 1489) were the basis for evaluating the intervention. A content analysis identified type, frequency, and perceived success of initiatives.

RESULTS: School travel plans emphasized education and promotion, and AST activities and events. Capital improvement projects were more common at schools in older suburban neighborhoods, whereas enforcement was more common at schools in newer suburban neighborhoods. Rates of active transportation increased from 43.8% to 45.9%. At follow-up, 13.3% of households reported less driving. Parents/caregivers cited weather, convenience, and trip chaining as primary reasons for continued driving.

CONCLUSION: The STP process may facilitate changes to patterns of school travel. An STP can expand a school's capacity to address transportation issues through mobilization of diverse community resources. Future STP initiatives may benefit from addressing convenience, safety through enforcement, and by examining how schools can be supported in implementing infrastructure improvements.

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