Encouragement & advocacy

Over 50 percent of the world’s population now lives in cities, and yet we have built cities for cars, not people.

Andrés Vergara

Encouragement and advocacy play major roles in raising public awareness and buy-in. Encouragement activities seek to:

  • Resolve barriers to mobility for children.
  • Encourage safe road user behaviour among children as well as motor vehicle drivers.
  • Raise the profile of sustainable transport modes, such as walking, cycling, and public transport.

These programs cannot succeed without the involvement of important sectors of society.

1. Walk the walk!

Establish walking school buses and volunteer crossing guard programs to encourage kids to walk to school and protect them on the journey.

2. Open streets for people

Support the development of car-free days and open streets programs to create a fun, safe space for children.

3. Fund student transport

Create programs to support a transport subsidy program that offers free or reduced public transport fares for students.

4. Distribute bicycles

Distribute bicycles to scholars and offer bike maintenance and repair skills training programs.

5. Measure locally

Community-based performance monitoring for metrics such as traffic volumes, crashes, speeds, and air quality help establish baselines and communicate progress to decision makers.

Best practices

A walking school bus is a group of children walking to school with one or more adults. This may sound simple, and that is part of the appeal. It can be as informal as two families taking turns walking their children to school or as structured as a planned route with meeting points, a timetable, and a schedule of trained volunteers. The concept of the walking bus was first invented in Australia in 1992 and was later introduced in the United Kingdom in 1998. Walking buses have remained popular in the United Kingdom and have recently gained a level of popularity elsewhere in Europe, North America, New Zealand, and South Africa.

Walking school buses aim to:

  • Encourage physical activity by teaching children the skills to walk safely, how to identify safe routes to school, and the benefits of walking.
  • Raise awareness of the level of walkability in a community and where improvements are necessary.
  • Reduce vehicle congestion by encouraging students to travel by non-motorised modes.
  • Raise concern for the environment and awareness of transport emissions.
  • Reduce crime and take back neighborhoods for people on foot.
  • Increase quality time children can spend with parents and local community.

Case Study: Cape Town walking school bus

In Cape Town, the walking bus initiative is a voluntary program in which school safety volunteers, who have received neighborhood watch as well as road safety training, escort groups of learners to school on foot. The volunteers become the ‘drivers’ and ‘conductors’ of the bus, and parents wanting to accompany the learners are welcome to join. The walking bus route ‘picks up’ and ‘drops off’ learners from designated points en route to school and then reverses course in the afternoon, according to arranged schedules. The route distance ranges from 1 to 1.5 km.

At the heart of the initiative is the creation of a safe and supervised walking environment for young learners, ensuring that they do not endure harassment or intimidation on their way to school and reducing the risk from potential road and traffic hazards.

Walking school bus in Mfuleni, Cape Town.

Car-free days are organised events where private motor vehicles are temporarily banned from city centres or other locations with heavy pedestrian densities. During these events, streets are closed off for exclusive use for walking and cycling.

Ciclovías” first emerged in Bogotá, Colombia, in 1974, as an informal organised protest against the negative effects of building cities for cars instead of people. The initial event organisers persuaded Bogotá officials to make two central streets car-free, and today over 120 km of streets cross Bogotá are closed every Sunday and holiday.

Bogotá’s Ciclovías have inspired a worldwide movement. Every year around 22 September, World Car Free Day is organized in cities across the globe with the common goal of reducing the number of cars on the streets. Also known as “Open Streets,” this movement is a disrupter of the business-as-usual transport policies and trends that place the car at the forefront of our consciousness when we contemplate mobility.

Many programmed activities during car-free events can be especially useful for improving children’s health and mobility, including:

  • Helmet giveaways, fitting, and decorating
  • Bicycle safety classes / testing
  • Bicycle maintenance training
  • Bicycle races
  • Health education / fitness demonstrations
  • Disability awareness and inclusive recreation demonstrations: Wheelchair basketball, hand cycling, adapted climbing, etc.
  • Arts activities: Participatory murals, face painting, craft-making, music performances, etc.

For a car-free event to be successful, many pieces need to fall into place. The following steps provide a rough outline for what may be necessary to support event development:

  1. Identify a founding partner who will take the lead in organising the event. 
  2. Involve elected leaders and municipal departments about the event.
  3. Identify and recruit additional stakeholders and develop a core planning committee. These stakeholders can include local government, area businesses, hospitals, mobility advocates, and social welfare organisations. 
  4. Identify a preferred route for the event and coordinate with the local police, traffic, and public works departments to assist with road closures, security, and waste management.
  5. Line up stakeholders, such as local businesses or non-profit organisations, who will take charge of programming and staffing along the route.
  6. Make decisions about advertising, and raise or allocate money to promote the event.

Case study: Open Streets Cape Town

Open Streets Cape Town (OSCT) was founded in 2012 to challenge the existing urban mobility paradigm by carrying out campaigns, temporary interventions, dialogues, and walks. OSCT has hosted 12 Open Streets Days in five parts of Cape Town, attracting between 3,000 and 15,000 participants at each one. OSCT is the first formal Open Streets program in South Africa and offers a practical way to help bridge the city’s social and spatial divides.

In late 2017, OSCT staged Cape Town’s longest-ever Open Streets Day, a 5 km stretch of Main Road between Observatory and the central business district. OCST engaged with authorities to obtain permits, organise the event logistics, and engage with local communities. Through its events and consistent community engagement, OSCT has enabled Capetonians to reimagine the approach to urban mobility in the city.

Open street advocacy in Cape Town.


Case study: Kigali Car Free Days

The Kigali car-free day initiative was launched in 2016 to promote green transport, cut emissions, and encourage healthier lifestyles among Rwandans. One Sunday per month, cars are banned from city streets. As part of the car free days, the city authority also organises voluntary medical checkups for the public. The pavement fills with groups of Rwandans clad in sweats and sneakers. Mayor Monique Mukaruliza hopes that these monthly breaks from driving a car will encourage residents to take up cycling and walking as alternative modes of transport during the rest of the week.

Similar to discount fare programs for people with disabilities or low-income users, scholar transport subsidy programs offer free or reduced public transport fares for students. Student passes can be distributed through school administrative offices or directly through public transport agencies. To reduce fare evasion, pass users may be required to present student IDs or other documentation of enrollment. Bicycle sharing systems may also have reduced membership rates for students and people with low incomes.

Scholar transport subsidy programs reduce the burden on low-income families and encourage public transport use as a sustainable alternative for students who are driven by parents. Getting more youth riding public transport has an important long-term impact as it may influence the rest of the family’s travel behaviors and the child’s mobility choices as s/he ages.

Case study: Student discount on Dar Rapid Transit

The Dar Rapid Transit (DART) is a high-quality bus rapid transit system in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The DART system spans 21 km along the busy Morogoro Road corridor and serves 200,000 passengers per day. DART provides a reduced fare for students up to age 18. The fare for trips on the trunk and feeder services are reduced from TZS 650 to 200 and 400 to 200, respectively.

Students pay a reduced fare of TZS 200 on the DART BRT system in Dar es Salaam.

The biggest barrier to education can be the physical act of getting to school. To address this barrier, many non-profit organisations and government agencies have sought to provide bicycles directly to students. In many countries, bicycles are luxury goods which are subject to high taxes and import duties. This results in bicycles and spare parts becoming unaffordable for many potential owners, especially children. This can be addressed through the provision of low-interest micro-loans or income generating projects. Bicycles are often the first purchases for participants in such programs.

The “Study to Own” program in South Africa distributed bicycles to participating students.


Case Study: California Bikes 

In 2003, the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) designed the California Bike, an affordable, rugged bicycle designed for African conditions. The bicycle uses good quality mountain bike components to reduce maintenance costs. A rugged design that can carry heavy loads is produced in a six-speed and single-speed model, the latter specifically aimed at rural areas. The California Bicycles were manufactured by Trek in China and imported into South Africa, Ghana, Tanzania, and Senegal.

In South Africa, ITDP worked with the Bicycling Empowerment Network to distribute 120 bikes to school children. BEN also worked with the school children to identify high-risk areas such as large intersection and devise ways to minimise risks. The children also were encouraged to implement “school buses”  where older children in the group start off to school, picking up the younger members en route thus ensuring greater safety and security.

Buffalo Bikes/World Bicycle Relief 

Bicycle manufacturer Buffalo Bicycles is a for-profit subsidiary of World Bicycle Relief (WBR), a non-profit organisation founded in 2005 that builds and distributes specially-designed, locally assembled, rugged bicycles. Profits from the sale of Buffalo Bicycles help fund WBR’s philanthropic programs and build sustainable bicycle infrastructure in Africa.

WBR has managed programs to provide specially designed, locally assembled bicycles for students, healthcare workers and entrepreneurs across Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia. Over the last 10 years, WBR has designed and delivered more than 300,000 Buffalo Bicycles.

Shova Kalula National Bicycle Program

Introduced in 2001, South Africa’s Shova Kalula bicycle program is a national intervention to improve mobility and access to basic needs as well as social and economic opportunities for people, including learners, in rural, remote, and poorly resourced areas. The program promotes cycling as a low-cost mobility solution to improve rural accessibility and urban mobility to basic services including access to educational centers. A number of bicycle maintenance shops were established to support cycle maintenance and to assist in job creation.

By 2014, the Department of Transport had distributed more than 95,000 bicycles nationally in all provinces. However, the program has faced challenges meeting its goals. First, the durability and quality of many bicycles makes them unsuitable for use in South Africa’s rural areas. Supporting maintenance also constitutes a significant issue for the program. Microenterprise bicycle repair shops struggle to remain open, and the ones that do persist are not distributed widely across the country. There has been difficulty monitoring of the program’s impact, as there is a lack of institutional capacity at the provincial level.

The bicycle distributed in the Shova Kalula National Bicycle program (left) and students riding to school on the bicycles (right).

Volunteer crossing brigades supervise, direct, monitor or otherwise assist school children at a street or intersection. The crossing brigades provide a vital service by helping children cross roads safely on their way to school as part of a broader provision of safe crossing facilities by local authorities.

Case Study: South Africa Scholar Patrol & Road Safety 

Started in 1920 by the American Automobile Association (AAA) and formalised through South Africa’s Road Traffic Act of 1996, Scholar Patrol uses sixth grade student and teacher volunteers to provide street crossing assistance and road safety education. This program fosters an awareness of the importance of road safety and instills a sense of peer responsibility in its volunteers. Students surveyed by Dhoda (2009) indicated that more scholar patrols and increased security would encourage their walking to school.

Sample scholar patrol registration form

A number of global campaigns aim to support the introduction of complete streets and clean mobility. Aligning local efforts with these global initiatives can help unlock funding and technical support opportunities. 

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Goal 3, Target 6 of the Sustainable Development Goals aims to halve the number of global deaths and injuries resulting from traffic crashes. Goal 11 has a target to provide access to safe, affordable, accessible, and sustainable transport systems for all. 

Global Initiative on Child Health and Mobility  

FIA Foundation convened the Global Initiative on Child Health and Mobility to provide a platform for commitment and action to address road traffic injuries and fatalities as a sustainable development priority, with a core goal: a safe and healthy journey to and from school for every child by 2030. It urges governments to put the protection of children’s health and rights at the core of urban transport projects.

Breathe Life

BreatheLife is a joint campaign led by the World Health Organization (WHO), UN Environment, and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) to mobilise cities and individuals to reduce air pollution. BreatheLife combines public health and climate change expertise with guidance on implementing solutions to local air pollution challenges in support of global development goals.

Vision Zero

Vision Zero is a multi-national road traffic safety project that aims to reduce the number of traffic fatalities and serious injuries to zero. The campaign started in Sweden in 1997 out of a moral argument that any number of deaths was too high a price to pay for mobility. 

Traditional policies often try to encourage perfect road user behaviour. By contrast, Vision Zero admits human weaknesses and low tolerance to mechanical force and tries to build the security needed into the system itself. It places more responsibility for safety on system designers and managers and less on road users.

Habitat III and the New Urban Agenda

Heads of state, governments, ministers, and other representatives at the Habitat III conference in Quito, Ecuador, in October 2016 committed to prioritise non-motorised transport over private motorised transport by supporting investments in safe, efficient, affordable, and sustainable infrastructure for walking and cycling. In addition, they committed to adopt, implement, and enforce policies that promote and ensure pedestrian safety and cyclist mobility in line with the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety.

Paris Climate Change Agreement 

The Paris Agreement requires all parties to implement Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) in order to achieve the ambitious target of limiting global temperatures rise to 1.5° C in response to the threat of climate change. There was no explicit reference to transport in the Agreement, but most countries’ Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) include targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector. For instance, Kenya’s INDCs proposes promotion and implementation of efficient low-carbon transport systems as one of the mitigation actions.

United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety, 2011-2020

The United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety, 2011- 2020 established through a UN General Assembly Resolution, aims to stabilise and reduce road traffic fatalities worldwide by 2020. The Decade’s Action Plan includes targets for promoting safer road infrastructure and protecting the most vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists.