Edmonton Public School Board calls on all schools to have active transportation plans
The Edmonton Public School Board has enacted a policy to encourage students and parents to look to active transportation first when heading to school.
In a release Wednesday, the board said the plan has many benefits, including increased safety, reduction in car volume and traffic volume as well as health benefits for students.
Of all Edmonton Public Schools, 13 already have formal active transportation plans in effect.
EPSB is asking students and families to use any “self-propelled” mode of transportation – like biking or walking – and to couple these with public transportation.
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[Related articles follow from June 17'12] Active travel plans in motion at some Edmonton schools
Each morning and afternoon during the school year, a few parents wear fluorescent vests out in front of Johnny Bright School.
They wave vehicles along, tell them where to stop, open doors and assist students in getting in and out quickly and safely.
Called greeters, they are one of many initiatives the K-9 school has in place as part of a School Travel Plan launched in early 2011 to promote active transportation and cut down on vehicle congestion.
“It speeds up the time (a vehicle) might sit there,” said Jennifer Harbin, parent to a Grade 8 student and volunteer on the Parent Traffic Committee.
And that’s the No. 1 issue, according to principal Scott Millar.
“We have such a high volume of traffic,” he said, noting the school is “bursting at the seams.”
When the school opened in 2010, Harbin began driving her daughter to school.
“But when I saw how long the line-ups were, I looked at her and said ‘you’re going to start taking the bus,’” she said.
A hands-up survey last year showed 40 per cent of Johnny Bright students are driven, 27 per cent walk, nine per cent ride bikes, 13 per cent take the school bus, six per cent carpool and two per cent take public transit.
“We’re really working hard at the awareness, and getting families to think about how they’re getting to school,” said Harbin.
- Other committee initiatives include walk and bike to school weeks, newsletters and identifying drop-off locations not directly in front of the school. - Future plans include installing another bike rack, incorporating active transportation into the health curriculum, and developing a map of routes with Walkable Edmonton.
District-wide active transportation plan possible for Edmonton Public School Board
Parents driving their kids to school is a growing trend, and it’s something the Edmonton Public School Board is trying to put the brakes on.
According to Statistics Canada, more students are driven compared to the number who walk or bike to school – and that same trend is observed equally in both suburban and mature Edmonton neighbourhoods, according to a report that went before the board of trustees last month.
Reasons for that include convenience, weather and program location, said EPSB planning director Lorne Parker, noting resulting problems include improper parking, illegal U-turns, unsafe drop-offs, and disruptions to buses.
And while there are 10 schools with School Travel Plans in place, various levels of participation and success has led to discussion of the feasibility of a district-wide active transportation plan.
“There’s certainly a will on the part of the board to look at developing one,” said Parker. “But it would be significant work to have all schools on board.”
Of course, different schools have different needs based on neighbourhood design, enrollment and other “local factors,” said Parker.
An initial timeline of three years would be challenging, according to the report, so in the meantime EPSB is working to refine individual school approaches, and will continue working with partners AMA School Safety Patrol, Walkable Edmonton, EPS and Alberta Transportation.