Active and Safe Route to School Program (ASRTS) – A way to the future, now is the chance!

                                                              

Active and Safe Route to School Program (ASRTS) – A way to the future, now is the chance!

ESAF - Livable Cities Project
Solution proposed by: 
HEALTHBRIDGE, CANADA, CITIZENS FOR SUSTAINABILITY (CiFoS)
In a Nutshell: 
ASRTS program is organized to encourage children to adopt Non Motorized Transport as a mode of transport to school and back home. The objective is to encourage physical activity among children. This program also creates quality of time between parents and children as parents walk/cycle along with them.
Where and When: 
The program was implemented in Bangalore, India by ESAF and HealthBridge in association with community partner CiFoS during the academic year 2015-2016. Six Schools participated in the program that encouraged children to walk and cycle to School on Saturday. The students have participated in 9 Saturdays till date.
Challenges: 
Lack of play spaces in schools and neighborhood, increased dependence on personal vehicles and addiction to television and virtual games lead children to sedentary lifestyle. NCDs among children are growing at an alarming rate due to this. Chauffeured children are disconnected from surroundings and lack social and communication skills. Walking and cycling to school program offers solution to above issues. By reducing the number of vehicles coming to the school, this program ensures the safety of children around school and reduces pollution. Dual working parents are left with less time for their wards which is taken care through Saturday program.
Innovation: 
This is the first program in Bangalore that addresses NCD among children. It is also the only program in Bangalore where schools and community came together to jointly initiate a program for the betterment of neighborhood. On an average, 300 students from six schools walk to school every Saturday. Route mapping done by students – another first in Bangalore, captured the reality on ground so well that it was appreciated even by urban planners. Parents who started walking/ cycling to school along with their wards were able to spend quality time with each other.
Concept: 
ASRTS aims to create safe, convenient, and fun opportunities for children residing within two kilometers to bicycle and walk to schools. Studies have shown that present children are more obese, inactive and less healthy compared to children of 70s. Lack of play spaces in the schools and neighborhoods has aggravated the issue of physical inactiveness. This program helps children to get adequate physical exercise needed for the day. The physical activity involved in reaching the school helps them to be alert and improves their attention span which improves their learning capacity. This also helps them to be independent and healthy. Once implemented, number of vehicles coming to the school surroundings will be considerably reduced, decreasing air pollution in that area. Reduction in the vehicles creates safer roads that encourage more children to join the program. Awareness programs for children will play a major role in convincing their parents to shift to NMT for short errands. As more people shift to NMT government agencies are bound to provide adequate infrastructure for cyclist and pedestrians who in turn will bring more converts.
Description: 
Most of the children came to school by school buses or by private transport. Parents preferred private transport as it picks and drops wards at their door steps. Most of the parents did not want their children to walk as roads with heavy traffic are unsafe. School bags which weighed 10-12 kilograms was another reason for depending on motorized transport. The number of vehicles coming to school premises will be more because of all these and it created a lot of pollution and chaos near the school. The unprecedented growth of cities has resulted in minimum play spaces at home or school forcing children to adopt sedentary life style. Schools were briefed about the program and its cognitive, social, interpersonal, environmental and the academic benefits. Awareness programs were conducted for teachers, parents and students on the importance of shifting to non motorized transport. Baseline information on mode of transport used was collected. I walk/ Cycle clubs were formed in the school which popularized the program through many activities. Children were encouraged to walk/cycle to school on Saturdays as many schools had less class hours on Saturdays which reduced the number of books to be carried. Once the children were introduced to the fun of walking and cycling to school, they felt that weight of the school bag is no more a concern. Lesser chaos around the school ensured that children start their day with better state of mind. Parents were encouraged to walk /cycle to school with their children. These parents soon found NMT as great option for their short errands. With more people using NMT and continuous advocacy with government by them is slowly making progress in infrastructure front.
Impacts: 
Interest shown by different government departments is promising as it can lead to policy level changes. The interest shown and the initiatives taken by the community give high hopes of continuity and sustainability. The program has sped up an infrastructure project that was in the pipeline. 85% of the schools were the program was piloted has agreed to adopt this as their programs. Department of Education is planning to try this in different zones. Many parents have started using NMT for their short errands. Five new neighborhoods have shown interest in implementing this program from June 2016.

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