WALKING TO SCHOOL FOR BETTER HEATH AND SAFETY
Leichhardt Council, in partnership with the Health Promotion Unit of Central Sydney Area Health Services, piloted Walk to School (WTS) project with the school community of Forest Lodge Public School, an inner-city primary school. The project sought to focus the attention of Council, local health agencies and the school community on the need for managing travel to school through a whole-of-school approach and the delivery of a coordinated, integrated package of measures designed to lead to a safer and healthier community. More specifically, the project aimed to raise awareness about the benefits of walking and increase the number of primary school children being walked to and from school instead of being driven.
A series of personal encounters and newsletters were the key strategies used to reach parents and teachers, while classroom based activities, reinforced by incentives, were the strategies used to raise students? awareness. Engineering and enforcement strategies were also critical to the general project outcomes. The development and adoption of a school travel policy ensured a continued emphasis on travel management by one of the largest trip generators in the area.
The Kindergarten to Year 6 (K-Y6) student population at Forest Lodge Public consisted of 234 students. More
than 80% of them lived within 1km from the school and therefore within walking distance. However, at least 47
% were driven to school and a further 15% travelled by bus. A student travel survey, conducted by classroom
teachers across all grades, revealed a significant suppressed demand for walking and cycling. Travel data
collected over a four-week period demonstrated an overall 3.4% reduction in car trips. The classes with the
largest (61%) percentage of students whose journey to school was by car experienced the largest travel mode
shift (14% reduction).
This pilot project was successful in focusing the school community?s attention on the impacts of traffic and
encouraging it to take responsibility for managing school travel so as to reduce the adverse effects on their
children?s health and safety. To a lesser extent, it was successful in demonstrating that it is possible to modify
parent and student travel behaviour, and identified some strategies that could lead to even greater change. On the strength of the outcomes, Leichhardt Council has extended the project into a 5-year program. The pilot project was awarded the national Kellogg Heart Foundation Award in 2001.
There is a dearth of data on school travel in Australia. Therefore, it is not surprising that the ?Walk to School?
pilot project generated much interest in NSW and other Australian states. Because Australia is lagging behind
the rest of the world in its recognition of the impact of transport to other key social indicators, it is not surprising that this pilot project has provided the stimulus for similar programs such as the ?walking bus? recently trialed by PlanningNSW.
This paper contextualises the methodology of the project within a travel management model, provides a brief outline of the strategies implemented and summarises the outcomes of the project.