A North Delta elementary is one of a dozen schools selected to take part in a provincial program aimed at encouraging students to get more exercise as part of their daily commute.
The Active School Travel Pilot Program is designed to increase the number of students using active transportation, such as walking or biking, in their daily commute between home and school, according to B.C. government press release.
“Walking and wheeling to school offers so many benefits to students, from physical and mental health to better educational outcomes. Encouraging youth to choose green transportation options instead of relying on cars also means safer, less congested school zones and cleaner air in our communities,” Transportation Minister Rob Fleming said in a press release.
The program, which is administered by BC Healthy Communities Society, launched last January with an initial two-year $400,000 commitment by the provincial government, which allowed for the program’s development and the participation of 11 schools across B.C.
Following an additional investment of $280,000 this year, students at 12 new schools will be able to take part in the pilot program, including at North Delta’s Gibson Elementary.
The Active School Travel Pilot Program helps municipalities, school districts and parents work together to plan walking and cycling improvements that meet specific needs in the neighbourhood. Examples include:
• regular encouragement events and incentives to increase routine walking and biking to school
• assessment, such as a best-route-to-school mapping project
• skill-building and safety education opportunities for students and parents
• expansion of slow street projects to reduce traffic volume immediately around school areas
• shared bikes, scooters and skateboards for students
• amenities and infrastructure improvements, including bike racks and improved signage
Participating schools can request as much as $10,000 to implement their projects, and receive access to capacity-building tools and resources from BC Healthy Communities Society.
Lynette Collins, vice-principal at JN Burnett Secondary in Richmond (part of the pilot program’s initial cohort in 2021), said the pilot program has given students at the school more opportunities to be active together while also benefiting the wider community.
“The Active School Travel Program allowed us to respond to a real desire from students themselves, particularly around more support for cycling to and from school,” Collins said in a press release.
“We even see other cyclists in the community making use of the bike tool stations we’ve installed. This program in many ways has been the jumping-off point we needed, and we’re excited for our active travel plans for JN Burnett in the years to come.”
Outcomes from both years of the pilot program will inform future B.C. government initiatives to increase walking and cycling to school for students and their families.