Arup and the Royal Society of Ulster Architects announce the launch of the Active School Travel Index for Northern Ireland, a new joint initiative aiming to measure and enhance school accessibility by walking, cycling and wheeling.
The project’s ultimate aim is to encourage a greater number of children to use active modes of travel and embed daily exercise into the lives of NI residents. The launch comes as this week marks Living Streets’ Walk to School week, a five-day walking challenge for primary schools, the aim of which is to raise awareness of the importance of physical activity and sustainable lifestyles.
The Active School Travel Index will initially use open source data to identify the most crucial areas in need of infrastructure investment by assessing schools in NI against a range of indicators. These include active travel catchments, existing infrastructure, and the grade and quality of paths. Each school will then be given a score, which will subsequently be weighted and combined to form an overall active travel accessibility score, enabling schools to be ranked.
The Index aims to directly combat a number of prevalent social issues in NI, including childhood obesity, mental wellbeing pollution, and congestion, as well as reducing carbon emissions to combat climate change. Belfast’s traffic congestion issues are particularly severe, ranking second in the UK behind London for congestion, despite not being one of the top ten most populous cities. Meanwhile, data reveals that over half (57%) of primary school children in NI do not meet physical activity guidelines, with a quarter (25%) overweight or obese.