Earlier this year, the UK government ploughed £2.1m of funding into Walk To School programs designed to encourage children to get to and from school. Implanted by the Department of Transport (DfT), the initiatives aim to provide benefits for children aged 5 to 11.
The UK government has an ambitious plan to ensure that more than 50% of children aged 5 to 10 can walk to school by 2025. The long-term goals of active travel initiatives could also see a reduction of carbon dioxide in the environment.
Cycling and Walking Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said:
“Walking can improve our health, ease traffic and help clean up our environment, so we’re proud to be investing in Living Streets’ vital campaign to get more children walking to school.”Chris Heaton-Harris, MP
The Walk To School programs aim to increase physical activity levels, improve road safety awareness, and reduce traffic congestion around schools. The initiatives form part of the broader “Active Travel” initiatives which build into the grand scheme of 15-minute cities.
Benefits of Walk To School Initiatives
Various Walk to School initiatives have already proven to be successful in recent years. In 2020, the number of children walking to school increased by 40% whilst existing projects sustained their walking rates.
So what are the benefits of Walk To School initiatives?
Improve Air Pollution Around Schools
The Walk To School programme is expected to reduce the number of cars around school gates. This will help to ease traffic congestion at the start and end of school hours, but more immortally reduce carbon gases and improve air pollution.
Promote Healthy Lifestyle and Mental Health Awareness
Walk to School initiatives involve raising the awareness and importance of mental health and overall well-being. Since the pandemic, it has been established that a growing number of teenagers are experiencing high levels of anxiety and depression — and walking has been shown to alleviate the effects of these mental health conditions.
Safer Walking Routes and Green Spaces
Initiatives often identify safe walking routes to schools and will eliminate potential hazards. The “Active Travel” initiative in general will see more pedestrian-friendly paths, safe traffic crossings, and green spaces along designated routes. With more trees and green installations, neighbourhoods will also become more attractive and accessible.
Walking Buses or Walking Groups
Walking buses are organised by groups of students who walk together to school, usually led by adult volunteers or school staff. These groups follow a specific route and pick up students at designated stops along the way, providing a safer and more social experience for students walking to school.
Events and Challenges
Walk to School initiatives often include special events and challenges to encourage participation. For example, schools may designate specific days or weeks as “Walk to School” days, where students are encouraged to walk instead of using motorised transportation. Prizes or incentives may be offered to motivate students to participate.
Road Safety Education
Walk to School programs often incorporate road safety education to teach children how to navigate traffic, use pedestrian crossings, and be aware of potential dangers. This education may be delivered through school-based activities, workshops, or classroom lessons.
Walk to School initiatives typically engage parents or caregivers to encourage their children to walk to school and ensure their safety. Parents may be provided with information on safe walking practices, the benefits of walking, and tips for organising walking groups or taking part in walking events.
Collaboration with Local Authorities
Walk to School initiatives often involve collaboration with local authorities, transportation agencies, and community organisations. This raises awareness within local institutions of potential danger hazards and highlights where infrastructure can be improved on roads and pavement together with dangerous crossings and traffic congestion.
Walking Initiates in the UK
In the last few years, a number of Walk to School initiatives have emerged. Some of them have been funded by the government whilst others rely entirely on local communities for financial support.
If you want to get involved with Walking To School initiatives, or support them with donations, check out the organisations in your hometown. We have listed the leading program below;
Living Streets is a UK charity that works to promote walking and improve pedestrian environments. Their Walk to School campaign encourages schools, parents, and children to choose walking as the primary mode of transportation. The campaign includes resources, challenges, and initiatives to support walking to school.
The Daily Mile is an initiative that encourages children to walk, jog, or run for 15 minutes every day. Their “Fir For Life’ initiative aims to improve children’s physical health, well-being, and concentration levels. While not exclusive to walking to school, it can be incorporated as part of the journey to and from school.
Modeshift STARS is a national accreditation scheme in the UK that recognises schools for their efforts in promoting sustainable travel, including walking to school. Schools participating in Modeshift STARS #StaySafeGetActive initiatives encourage active travel and are assessed based on their achievements.
WOW is a walk-to-school challenge run by Living Streets. The initiative encourages children to walk to school at least once a week, tracking their progress and rewarding their efforts. It aims to create a regular walking habit and promote the benefits of active travel.
Sustrans is a charity that promotes sustainable transport, including walking and cycling. Their Active School Travel program works with schools across the UK to encourage active travel through various initiatives, including Walk to School activities and infrastructure improvements.
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These initiatives often provide resources, guidance, and support to schools, parents, and students to make walking to school more accessible, safe, and enjoyable. They may include activities such as walk-to-school challenges, pedestrian safety education, infrastructure improvements, and community involvement.
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