Position Statement

Enable and encourage children to walk and cycle safely to school

Walking SA’s vision is to see more people walking more often.

Walking SA advocates for pedestrian safety, and the maintenance of safe and supportive walking environments throughout South Australia.

Walking SA encourages more children to walk to school.

Call to action

Walking SA encourages the government to develop an integrated active travel strategy that includes boosting of funds for implementing the Way2Go program in every school in SA.

Background

Way2Go is a state-wide South Australian program promoting safer, greener and more active travel for primary school students and their communities. It uses a whole school approach built on a partnership between local councils, school communities, parents and the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure. Way2Go encourages children and the community to safely walk, cycle or scoot, and use public transport for personal travel; it supports students to be safe walkers, bike riders and passengers; it promotes the development of safe, people friendly local streets near schools to support independent personal travel.

What is the problem?

The facts about our children’s activity levels:

  • more than 70% of primary school children are driven to and from school every day; i
  • over 70% of children and 91.5% of young people do not meet physical activity recommendations; ii
  • declining rates of physical activity are contributing to rising rates of overweight and obesity in children;
  • regular physical activity improves academic performance and concentration;
  • nearly three-quarters of children aged between 10 and 13 would rather take active transport than use a car to get to and from school, citing enjoyment and fitness as the top reasons iii
  • parents driving to the school gate for drop-off and pick-ups add to the congestion on the road, as well as reducing the safety outside of the school for children who walk.

The evidence tells us that active travel to and from school is effective in increasing physical activity levels. However, rates of active travel to school have declined substantially in Australia since the 1970s, with walking and cycling trips replaced mainly by car trips. iv

Parents’ worry about road safety is one of the major barriers to children commuting actively to school, and one that can be addressed through changes to the built environment, public education, and road safety programs for children.v

Policies and programs aimed at increasing active travel to school should be directed at changing parental behaviour as well as changing the physical, policy/regulatory, and social/cultural environments that shape parents’ and children’s travel behaviour.

What is needed

In line with the evidence and consensus statements released from the Australian Health Policy Collaboration and the Heart Foundation, we recommend the following solutions for enabling and encouraging children to walk and cycle safely to school:

  1. SA Government to develop and implement an Integrated Active Travel Strategy that prioritises pedestrians and cyclists and includes;
  2. Investment in active travel programs such as the Way2Go Program in South Australia to empower schools, teachers and parents to support active environments adjacent to schools, and to enable all children to have access to road safety skills training;
  3. Collection and publishing of robust and rigorous data that is comparable across councils and states on active travel to school, and adoption of targets;
  4. Establishment of a virtual knowledge hub for schools, communities and local government to provide best practice examples, and for sharing local

For more information contact:

Greg Boundy, Executive Officer
Walking SA
www.walkingsa.org.au
office@walkingsa.org.au

Position statement as at August 2018.

Footnotes

  • i Ridgewell C et al 2009. School travel modes: Factors influencing parental choice in four Brisbane schools.
  • ii Lindberg R, 2016. Getting Australia’s Health on Track.
  • iii University of SA, CRCLCL 2018. The creation of socially and environmentally sustainable communities through child and youth friendly places.
  • iv Booth V, 2013. Trends in physical activity among South Australian school children from 1985-2013.
  • v Garrard J, 2009. Active transport: children and young people. An overview of recent evidence.

Image supplied by Heart Foundation