Shift the Conversation: Time Use

Time use measures the use of time, how people experience time, what controls its use, and how it affects wellbeing. How individuals use and experience time makes a significant contribution to the wellbeing of individual and communities.


The Walking School Bus


The ways in which people use and experience time has a significant impact on their wellbeing and that of their community. People need to get to their destinations, but how they choose to spend this time can positively or negative affect their health. When individuals walk together instead of drive, they benefit from physical activity and social interaction, while also reducing pollution and traffic congestion.

In early 2009, a community member with Action Sandy Hill approached Sandy Hill Community Health Centre and Viscount Alexander Public School to see if there was interest in developing a Walking School Bus program. The partners joined forces with Green Communities Canada to launch the first Walking School Bus initiative in Ottawa later that year. On Tuesday and Thursday mornings, parents and volunteer “drivers” from the community meet children at a certain point and continue walking on a route to school, picking up other children along the way – just like a real school bus. The student participants represent a wide demographic range, some of whom live in social housing. The volunteers are comprised of parents, seniors, university students and older students who have become “junior drivers.”

Since 2009, the Walking School Bus has expanded to three routes involving 29 participants. The number of students who take the actual bus to school has declined from 42 in 2010 to 14 in 2013. Many of the students who participated in the Walking School Bus have begun to walk to school on their own or with their friends as they have gotten older.
One of the greatest successes of the Walking School Bus has been engaging the community in transportation planning and advocacy.

The volunteers worked together to produce “School Speed Zone” signs along the route to increase safety for pedestrians. Through a partnership with Green Communities Canada, anti-idling pamphlets were distributed to drivers waiting for their children after school in order to increase awareness about environmental concerns. Volunteers from the Walking School Bus now sit on the School Travel Planning Committee and Coordinating Committee Action Sandy Hill where they work towards making walking infrastructure safer and more widely available.

Volunteers and participants involved in the walking school bus have reported increased physical activity, increased knowledge of the community, enhanced sense of belonging and connectedness within the community, and feeling “ready to take on the day” after their morning walk.

The Walking School Bus’ success has been recognized across the city where 6 other schools have begun their own similar initiatives to increase active transport.

The Walking School Bus has positively impact the community surrounding Viscount Alexander Public School by building a shared sense of belonging, improved health outcomes and environmental practices. Most importantly, it has transformed the way children get to and from school, allowing for a fun, social, active way to spend time instead of being stuck idly in a car. By decreasing the time spent in cars, the Walking School Bus has increased time for leisure and social activities.