September is nearly here. Families have back to school on their minds. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report and federal election may also be on your mind, as you think about what kind of future we’re creating for our kids.
Rapid climate action is necessary to create a sustainable and inclusive future. Families can be an integral part of that climate action by making a plan for active school travel.
Active school travel can include walking, wheeling, or cycling to school, as well as taking a school bus. If you must drive, the “Park and Stride” approach includes active school travel — you park park a few blocks away from school and walk the final stretch. Active school travel keeps school zones safe and reduces harmful vehicle emissions.
This year, GreenUP’s Active School Travel Peterborough team is offering a contest to encourage families to make climate action part of back-to-school routines. The “Frame Your Trip” photo contest give you a chance to win prizes and awards when you share photographs of active school travel with GreenUP.
Here’s how it works: as you enjoy active school travel routes around the city or county of Peterborough, snap a photo of a favourite spot, something you look forward to on your route, or something that needs improvement.
To enter the contest, share those photos with @ptbogreenup via a direct message on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, or email your photos to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Everyone will be included in a random draw for prizes, and a panel of judges will select the top photos from Selwyn Township to be featured on the covers of the township’s upcoming School Travel Plans. The deadline to enter is Thursday, September 30th, so start rolling, strolling, and sharing those pics!
If you are wondering where to start, a “Roll and Stroll Check” is a great first step. It’s a neighbourhood assessment of common areas used by all forms of active travel for people of all ages and abilities — walking, wheelchairs, assistive devices, bikes, strollers, and scooters
Roll and Stroll Checks are more or less the same thing as “Walk Audits” that evaluate the walkability of a route, including accessibility and safety. But walking is only one way to get around, so approaching these checks with rolling and strolling in mind helps include consideration for accessibility and all forms of active travel.
Doing a Roll and Stroll Check before school starts can help you find routes that are safe, efficient, and fun so that you can start the first day of a school with active school travel habits that last all year long. Doing these assessments can also empower your children, friends, and neighbours to engage in longer-term efforts to create a healthier community.
According to the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute, when we design and plan inclusive walkable cities we consider people and not cars. “Walkable cities are a livable built environment that leads to whole happy and healthy lives for the people who live in them,” the institute says. The same values apply at for families, who want neighbourhoods that support whole, happy, and healthy lives.
Inclusive walkable communities are equitable and accessible communities. Common destinations such as schools, pharmacies, and grocery stores are nearby. Road design functions safely and easily for all road users. In addition to sidewalks and crossings, curb cuts, public washrooms, water bottle refill stations, places to sit, places to play, and more can make a route walkable, equitable, and accessible.
“A walkable community and a sustainable community are synonymous,” notes Lilian Dart, a graduate student at Trent University researching in the Sustainability Studies program. “Imagine a Peterborough where you can connect to nature and your neighbours, all while understanding that your community is accessible and taking actionable steps in the fight against climate change. It begins with small changes to our built environment that promote and include walkability.”
Before you start your Roll and Stroll Check, think about how you will collect and record information. You may use a checklist or a map. Kids may enjoy eye-spy or bingo activities to look for infrastructure that supports active travel, such as crosswalks, signage, and traffic-calming measures. You can find a great checklist via the 8-80 Cities Project.
Photographs are a great way to collect and present data, and photos can be very powerful when accompanied by your thoughts (plus photographs are necessary to enter our “Frame your Trip” contest).
Your Roll and Stroll Check can help with your personal back-to-school plans, but you can also use what you learn to contribute to larger planning processes. For example, the City of Peterborough is currently seeking feedback on the Transportation Master Plan update.
Also, if you are in Selwyn Township, you can send along what you learn through our online Student Travel Planning survey at greenup.on.ca/program/school-travel-planning.
“Selwyn Township wants to promote active and alternative modes of transportation other than personal vehicles,” says Hillary Bradshaw, climate change coordinator for the Township of Selwyn. “Regardless of how your children currently get to school, Selwyn residents with school-aged children are encouraged to complete the community travel survey.”
Every step towards climate action — no matter how small or imperfect — is a step in the right direction. We need top-down government and corporate action. We also need grassroots action, like neighbours and families sharing what matters to them.
Active school travel and Roll and Stroll Checks are tools for climate action that are accessible for all.