The Active School Travel program aims to reduce congestion, improve road safety skills, reduce carbon emissions and increase physical activity among school students. This travel behaviour change initiative promotes sustainable and healthy travel modes such as walking, cycling, scootering, carpooling and using public transport by engaging with the school community to implement a range of activities
Since its inception in 2004, the Active School Travel (AST) program has been delivered to 169 schools across Brisbane, Australia, and more than 80,000 students. It has successfully reduced the number of car trips to participating schools by up to 35%; consistently addressing a range of health and environmental issues compounded by an increasingly car dependent society. In addition, results from schools participating in the 2014 program indicate that, as a result of the program, car trips decreased on average from 68% to 50% and walking trips increased from 20% to 35%. Yearly program evaluation consistently demonstrates that approximately 80% of parents believe their child’s road safety awareness has also improved as a direct result of program participation. Central to the program’s function is education and outreach. Through participation in the program, students are equipped with skills to travel safely to and from school. The program uses a suite of initiatives to provide families with information, motivation and opportunity to adopt these active travel modes. It is delivered as a three-year program, designed to upskill the school community and create a lasting legacy. Deliberate intervention over a period of time is crucial to creating a mobility culture that will continue on to adulthood. The development and delivery of the program is underpinned by the 4Es: Engage, Enable, Encourage and Exemplify. Engage: A designated Council officer meets with representatives of each school including local elected members, parent volunteers, teachers and Principal who plan and organise activities for students and families. Ongoing communication with the committees often assists in infrastructure planning and helps identify barriers to walking and cycling, e.g., footpath maintenance, lack of shade or overhanging trees or unsafe crossings. Enable: Each school is offered age-specific road safety skills training sessions, bike and scooter safety skills training sessions and a bus orientation program. Through these skills training sessions, students are equipped with the information and skills to be safe on the streets and both child and parent become more confident about active travel options to school. Encourage: Students who actively travel to school once a week are given a stamp in their “passports” which accumulate over time and students redeem rewards (e.g. stationery, water bottles) at different milestones. This reward structure motivates young students and inter-class/school competitions (where a trophy and voucher are presented to a winning school each month) gives students the extra motivation to achieve better outcomes. Exemplify: To ensure the program remains a leader in the active travel field, the AST team works closely with its extensive stakeholder base in both government and education sectors to ensure that innovation is fostered and results in leading edge initiatives. The program’s stakeholder engagement process ensures that it continues to evolve as new ideas are captured and individual initiatives are evaluated. Regular collaboration with Department of Transport Road Safety Advisors and service providers like the Royal Automobile Club of Queensland helps the program illicit and field creative ideas about how to increase walking and cycling journeys to school. The longevity of the AST program has proven that through the 4E’s and strong advocacy, a culture towards walking and other active modes of travel can be realised. While the program’s origins were founded in reducing traffic congestion, creating a culture of walking students and families is an integral element of a mobility culture. Brisbane City Council is the architect of the AST program ‘product’. The product provides a blueprint for building a program sensitive to the unique needs and characteristics of the school. Customised intervention and ongoing engagement with the school helps ensure that active travel is embedded into the school’s ethos and travel culture.