From active travel to school to healthy cities

The Active Travel to School program has been developing by IPoP – Institute for Spatial Policies and partners to promote the health benefits of everyday walking or biking to school since 2016. Through the years the program was continuously co-financed by the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Slovenia and managed to reached 100 out of 450 Slovenian primary schools all over the country and to develop numerous solutions for smooth organization of accompanied morning walks with Walking Bus (Pešbus) and bike rides with Bike Train (Bicivlak) to school for the youngest pupils. Now there are groups walking with Walking Bus every single school day and there are many groups walking or biking together at least once a week through the year around Slovenia. The program enabled more children to travel to school the way they wish and effectively raised awareness about mental and physical health benefits of active travel to school, while the activities also opened the perspective of the potentials of participation of schools, children and the municipalities in the process of planning of safe routes to school. This way Active Travel to School program became a solid base for further activities and in 2019 the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Slovenia supported IPoP and the Association for the Protection of the Alps – CIPRA Slovenia to continue and expand the activities to local communities and contribute to consolidating the concept of healthy cities in practice with a new program name Active Travel to School and Healthy City.  

The Active Travel to School and Healthy City is a continuation and extension of the Active Travel to School program. It aims to raise awareness about the importance of walking as healthy activity and travel practice for the individual, the local community, environment and local economy as it influences the development of healthy local communities and living environment. At the same time, the program will continue to support schools and municipalities in organizing and implementing the Walking Bus and Bicycle Train. Program activities will be organized encouraging schools and municipalities to implement organisational and other measures that will enable as many children as possible to go to school by bicycle, scooter or on foot. It will keep raising awareness of the importance of active mobility for children’s health and personal development and contributing to the empowerment of children in traffic.

The new program combines the concepts of active mobility and healthy cities. The idea is that the health issues of children and adults that come from a sedentary way of life and “fattening environment” can be effectively addressed with active mobility as a natural form of movement and traffic practice. In this context, the daily journey to school is a great opportunity to ensure children are moving daily and developing healthy habits. The school has a specific role and connects different stakeholders in the local environment as a hub for achieving the goals of sustainable mobility and development in general. The program draws attention to the links between public health and the environment and places walking to the forefront of local community efforts to promote local community health. It presents the walking program as a natural and practical form of movement and traffic practice that also has significant effects on mental health and the social environment. It connects, provides good conditions for better social inclusion and cohesion and reduces social differences or contributes to social equality. The program measures combine the health sector’s commitment to the daily physical activity of children with measures to improve the public health of the local community, placing school and walking to school as a generator of healthy travel habits and the transformation of transport solutions in the wider local environment, increasing interest in walking as a daily travel practice and disseminating knowledge about the links between health, mobility and landscaping to a wider stakeholder community.

The program includes three main activities:

  1. Development of local partnerships for the design and promotion of walking
  2. Dissemination of knowledge for planning a healthy living environment
  3. Support for the implementation of the Walking Bus and Bicycle Train (links are in Slovene)

The Active Travel to School and Healthy City program is the upgrade of the results and solutions from its predecessors the Healthy Pupil (2015–2016) and the Active Travel to School Program (2017–2019). It expands the efforts for healthy communities. It is led by IPoP – Institute for Spatial Policies in cooperation with the Association for the Protection of the Alps – CIPRA Slovenia. The program is co-funded by the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Slovenia.

The program implementation will include the representatives of National Institute for Public Health, municipalities, health centres, health promotion centres, the School of Health and other organisations from the fields of health, local communities, spatial planning.

Maja Simoneti, Nela Halilović

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