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August 2023

Safer streets for students create healthier neighbourhoods for everyone

This Case Study is based on an article that appeared in the Spring/Summer 2023 issue of OPPI’s Y Magazine. Read the full article online.
You can read full issues of Y Magazine anytime online.


Safer streets for students create healthier neighbourhoods for everyone.

Did you know that fewer students are walking or cycling to school? According to a Metrolinx study, the percentage of children walking and cycling to school in 1986-2011 fell from 62 per cent to less than half, while the amount of students between ages 11 to 13 who were driven to school doubled. 

Exercise is a critical part of the school day for children because it helps optimize brain health, including cognitive, mental, social, and physical health. A child with a healthy brain is ready to learn, interact with others, and deal with any stress. However, there are many different but connected issues affecting a student’s decision to walk/wheel to school daily. These issues may include, traffic safety, street design, distance, family schedules, and public awareness.  

A new approach that addresses these concerns and helps increase the number of students walking/wheeling to school is the Daily School Route (DSR) that creates an active transportation system for students. The DSR views students as “transportation users” within their own communities and creates a network of routes called “Student Streets” to deliver safe, effective, and active school travel. Since 2020, the DSR has been introduced at 25 schools across Hamilton with more being implemented in 2023. 

The DSR uses an innovative approach. Through a data-intensive engagement process, including safety hotspot mapping and a draw-your-route tool, the DSR is able to look at entire city wards to capture information about the active transportation environment among several schools that are located close to one another. With routes identified for several schools at once, necessary safety improvements are flagged to make the Student Streets safe, convenient, and attractive to the community. The DSR also considers ward-wide improvements, such as speed limit reductions as a fundamental aspect of increasing pedestrian safety and achieving their goal to make streets safer and get more children walking and wheeling to school daily. Communities need to recognize that if neighbourhood streets are not safe for all pedestrians regardless of age, ability, or personal circumstance, then they are not safe for the community. 

If you have further questions about the DSR, please reach out to OPPI member, Paul Shaker, for more information or visit Shaker is a principal with Civicplan and a program partner with DSR.