Walk & Wheel events are mass-participation events that encourage all members of a school community to travel actively for a specified period of time, using strategies such as promotion, goal-setting, incentives and celebrations to increase rates of active travel to and from school.
A one-time event can raise awareness throughout a school community of the benefits of using active school travel. These big events get attention, create excitement and energy, and can ignite interest in getting to and from school in an active way. A popular theory of behaviour change holds that you can never really change someone; people must change themselves. Mass-participation events give families an opportunity and a reason to try traveling to school by active means, and determine whether and how it can become a regular occurrence.
A small group can work effectively to coordinate efforts, and different parts of a school community can make important contributions to a successful mass-participation event. As with any school initiative, the principal is a key player in ensuring the success of a mass-participation event. They can facilitate the event by creating space for it within the school, its calendar and communications. Optimally, their buy-in and leadership can bring the school community together, ensuring that the event has a broad and deep impact. The PAC can assign a coordinator for the event, and either provide or recruit volunteers. It can also allocate a budget to the event organizers for promotions, refreshments, and prizes. A teacher or staff sponsor can facilitate communication with staff in order to mitigate any impacts the event will have on instruction and regular school activities, assist with promotion and tracking, and encourage participation. Student leaders can assist with promotion through announcements and posters, assist with setup and takedown, and engage their peers to participate.
Determine the appropriate scale for your event based on your capacity and resources. A one-day event is a good starting point, and will allow you to focus your energy and resources. A week-long event will require more planning and sustained effort, but will allow you to build excitement and participation over the course of several days and can have a greater impact. Reach out to the appropriate stakeholders at your school to get approval for and schedule your event. A high-level description is often sufficient to get the green light, but remember to keep stakeholders informed as your plans develop. Give your event an identity by picking a name and theme, which can be unique to your event or link it to a pre-existing cause, idea, campaign, etc. A “Walk for the Planet” might be scheduled to connect with Earth Day, or a pink-shirt parade could be linked to Pink Shirt Day. Decide whether it will focus on one kind of transportation or incorporate all forms of active travel. Once you have worked out the details, promote your event through all available mediums and channels.
- Announcements and reminders through the school newsletter or bulletin will ensure the message goes out widely through the community.
- Posters and flyers provide an important opportunity to set the tone of the event and highlight important details.
- Social media posts can help build excitement and generate awareness.
- Student announcements, posters and murals are a great way to get children involved and harness their creativity and energy.
Work with stakeholders to schedule your event. The weather in early fall and late spring is likely to be most favourable, though these are often busy times of the year for schools. Walking in the winter can make for a good theme and opportunity to promote resilience, appropriate clothing, and other considerations. There are many existing events throughout the school year you can consider adopting. Using already established programs provides many of the tools required to host an active travel event, which you can customize to fit your school community.
- Walk & Wheel Week: A week-long province-wide event held every year during the first week of October, iWalk encourages students, parents, staff, and community members to celebrate the many benefits of walking to school. DASH BC accepts registration for the event, and in turn provides posters, banners, resources and prizes.
- Bike to School Week: A week-long event held in many communities across the province, Bike to School Week is a free and fun celebration of biking to school and takes place the last week of May. Check the Bike to Work BC website to see if your community participates: >
- I Love Transit Week: In Metro Vancouver, Translink provides free transit rides to students, contests, and teacher incentives during the first week of October.