CWD Kids

Campaign seeks to get kids to walk to school (con't)

For example, a reduction in vehicular traffic makes for safer streets, and kids getting more exercise. 

The organization is called Active and Safe Routes to School and based in Peterborough. 

There is no chapter in Windsor-Essex, the closest being in London.

The organization partners with community groups, government and even transportation companies like the CAA or municipal transit, to offer advice and draw-up plans to have students walk, rather than be driven, to their schools.

Emily Van Kesteren, public health nurse with the London Health Unit, calls it “school travel planning” and there are plans in the London area for 20 schools.

The reasons why kids don’t walk to school are many.

It may be there is “no safe place to cross” a busy street, or lack of a crossing guard, or simply “fear,” Van Kesteren says.

But, for kids, the biggest reason is “it’s just too boring.”

Van Kesteren says, for parents, traffic and safety concerns “are usually towards the top.”

There’s irony there.

Van Kesteren says while parents may be concerned about traffic, driving their kids creates traffic jams.

“It’s more often than not the parents dropping off kids at school creating the congestion.” 

There are ways to address this.

Having schools decide not to expand parking lots, or even temporarily putting pylons up at entrances and exits, means less room for parents to drop kids off.

Is her program successful?

Van Kesteren says the program “does work” though admits this is based on word-of-mouth rather than empirical information.

Meanwhile, before a school travel plan is set up, Van Kesteren’s group will have traffic surveys done by an organization like Western University or the City of London transportation department.

But getting over ingrained habits and attitudes is difficult, Van Kesteren says.

Many parents think driving kids to school is simply more convenient, since they can drop them off on the way to work. 

There are other issues.

What age is a child capable of walking to school - some evidence saying 10 “is when children have the mental development to gauge the speed a car is travelling,” Van Kesteren says.

Besides crossing guards, one solution is new style pedestrian crosswalks that have painted “shark teeth” (triangles) where motorists stop well before the crosswalk.

Another is a “walking school bus” where a police-screened-and- trained adult walks the same route to school every day and children join them along the route. 

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