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Belfast Healthy Cities

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Healthy Cities 21st Century

PUPILS FORM WALKING BUS FOR SAFE TRAVEL TO SCHOOL

Belfast Healthy Cities, the World Health Organisation project in Northern Ireland, has been working in partnership with teachers, community champions, the Ministerial Advisory Group and the Youth Education Health Advice (YEHA) centre to set up and develop ‘walking buses’ in the north Belfast Care Zone area. Three local primary schools will pioneer the walking bus model during Walk to School week, which runs from 16-20 May.

The project involves a group of children walking together in the morning, supported by an adult at the front and at the back of the group, acting as the ‘driver, and ‘conductor’ of the walking bus. Ballysillan Primary School and Nursery, Our Lady’s Girls Primary School, and Sacred Heart Primary School are hoping that by providing the safe Walking Bus model, more pupils will be encouraged to get out the family car and walk to school.

The initiative follows on from the Road Safety project funded by the Department for Infrastructure, which included an Active Travel survey with parents and guardians of children attending primary schools in the Care Zone Area. Respondents highlighted reasons for not walking to school which included issues of safety, distance to school, and children being too young, with the majority of respondents stating they would consider allowing their child to walk if supervised by adults as part of a walking bus.

Joan Devlin, Chief Executive of Belfast Healthy Cities said

“Walking is a great form of physical exercise for children, and helps to improve air quality and road safety. The walking bus provides a safe and healthy way for children to get to school, and develops good long term habits. Supporting the schools to take part in the walking buses has been the result of collaboration across schools, local people, agencies and specialist advisors from the Ministerial Advisory Group (MAG). We are grateful to all those involved in the initiative.”

Aideen Bradley, a primary school teacher at Our Lady’s Girls primary school added,

“We’re excited to pilot the walking buses. It provides an opportunity for those who usually drive to school to let their children walk part or all of their journey. This will hopefully provide the children with a fun and healthy way to start the day, and help reduce congestion and improve road safety nearby.”

Jo Murphy of the Care Zone highlights the partnership approach behind the scheme.

“We are delighted to be involved in this project which has brought together local schools along with the community and parents of the pupils. The community has really embraced the project and while it seems simple on the surface, the long term health and environmental benefits can be very significant.”