Let our children walk and bike to school!

How children go to school is one of the things that come back into focus at the beginning of every new school year. The programme Active to school (Aktivno v šolo) encourages children and their parents to walk and bike to school everyday. The programme is implemented by IPoP – Institute for spatial policies and partners with the support of Ministry of Health. The main aim of the programme is to support schools and municipalities in enabling active travel to school for it is good for children’s physical and mental health, independence, social inclusion and healthy lifestyle.

Experts are noting that everyday active travel to school can provide the minimum recommended amount of daily physical activity while also encourages education about road safety and children participation in traffic as well as education about sustainable development. Children that go to school on foot or by bicycle feel better and are more alert at school than those who are driven to school. There is evidence that children who travel to school actively are also in general more physical active. Besides teachers report they follow lessons with less effort. The programme proved that schoolchildren would prefer going to school by bike or scooter and also that they are well aware of the health and environment benefits of active mobility. Promoting active travel to school connects municipalities, schools, parents and children in efforts to plan attractive school trails, to organise group walking and biking to school for younger children and implementing other measures that support active travel to school.

Within the programme key stakeholders, elementary schools and municipalities, are offered proven measures for the promotion of active mobility of schoolchildren, including the most recognizable activities of the program, namely, Walking bus (Pešbus) and Bike train (Bicivlak). At the time many Slovenian elementary schools are still every morning surrounded by a large number of cars, with parents driving children to school even on very short distances. The Active to School program encourages all parents to enable their children to walk and cycle to school; like first-grade parents can connect and engage their children on a social walking trip to school with Walking bus and Bike train. The activity is getting quite popular and the frequency of organising a Walking bus varies from school to school. Some are very active and are doing walking to school activity on a regular basis, every week trough whole year, and some are doing it only one week in September due the European mobility week.

Findings from the programme are encouraging, as the majority of the children involved showed much interest to walk or bike to school every day. Awareness of children gets even higher when they are included also in the planning of the school trails and other measures. That’s the case in Primary School Bled, where children co-created the new school trails map and added on also the idea of “Kiss and ride” points. The “Kiss and ride point” is a location on a safe walking distance to school, where parents can drop off their children and enable them to walk the distance to school every day while they also contribute to the relief of the traffic congestion in the surroundings of the school.

The programme Active to school managed to implement Walking bus and Bike train at more than 70 Primary schools in Slovenia. At the time more than 40 schools are planning the routes to be activated in the time of European mobility week. The programme is close to the end and the participants are going to share the experiences at the Closing conference in the city of Maribor during European mobility week, on 17th September 2019. The Conference will start with a greet of vice mayor of Municipality of Maribor, mag. Helena Kajundžić Lukaček, General director of Public Health Directorat, Mojca Gobec and National coordinator of European Mobility week from Ministry of infrastructure, mag. Polona Demšar Mitrovič. Later the representatives of schools, municipalities and NGOs that actively participated in the programme will share their experiences with implementation of measures for active travel to school. Last but not least, Dr. Zlatko Zimet from National institute for public health will present two related programmes Healthy School and Healthy Cities. The conference will be held in Slovenian language. You can apply for it here.

The programme Active to school (Aktivno v šolo) is, as well as it was its predecessor Zdrav šolar in years 2015 to2016, financed by the Slovene Ministry of Health, as part of National programme for nutrition and body health 2015 – 2025, named Dober tek Slovenia! The aim of this programme is to improve eating and moving habits of Slovenians. Program Aktivno v šolo is lead by IPoP – Institute for spatial policies, together with partners CIPRA SloveniaFocus – Association for Sustainable Development. While the programme Aktivno v šolo will formally finish in Octobewr 2019, IPoP is going to futher support schools and municipalities in organising Pešbus and Bicivlka while it is going to promote active mobility trough other projects and programms.

 

Head photo: Lea Benčina

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