Active school transport is no novelty, many municipalities have carried out projects to get more children to walk or cycle to school. The innovative in this school-based project is basically a promotional approach, as well as gamification, empowerment and the integration of educational assignments. This has been shown to increase the students' motivation for behavioral change and the parents' involvement in the project, which in turn leads to increased sustainability. The integration of learning during the active school transport increases the motivation for schools to set aside time and resources for implementing the project. A special effort has been made to increase the active school transport during the winter, as the requirement for safety increases and the climate offers challenges in the form of snow, cold and slippery surfaces.
The project started in 2016 as a public health project in Luleå municipality and since then it has spread to other municipalities. The research carried out has so far resulted in several scientific publications. The main results are:
- Gamification - a success factor in teaching. Counting the number of kilometers and measuring this on a map was motivating for the children and could be integrated naturally in the teaching. The assignments were based on the subjects that the children should read in the respective grade and both the teachers and the children felt that the practical connection made the teaching more fun and more educational. The children became more engaged, than they were before, when they read the same parts without this connection.
- Behavioral change gives attitude change. Some parents were hesitant and questioning before the project but this has clearly changed during the project. The project was so attractive to the children that in many cases they managed to persuade their parents to participate. The parents' attitudes changed after the children have participated and the key to this were the children's enthusiasm.
- Ready for school. The children were more energetic in school and it was easier for them to sit still and concentrate. Moreover, they were happier especially in the morning and they usually had socialized on the way to school, which meant that they were more ready when the teaching started. Another positive and unexpected change was that children who had often been late to school now came on time. One reason for this was that they cycled or walked together and when a friend was waiting they were more motivating to get started in time.
- Builds new relationships. The children were paired two and two or three by geography and encouraged to cycle or walk together. This meant that children who had not previously socialized so much, got to know each other better, and the children felt that they could play with more classmates after the project than before. Some children stated that it felt less lonely now than before and the teachers confirmed that this had improved the psychosocial environment. The children described how they could help and motivate each other by cycling together and this made the journey to and from the school more fun.
- The children´s active travel affected the parents behaviour. An interesting side effect was that the increased physical activity of the children also increased physical activity among the parents. Usually, it is mostly talked about that children inherit their parents' health behaviors, but the reverse also seems to be possible.
In summary, there is a need to increase children's physical activity, not least since early habits have a tendency to follow up with adult age and the social benefits of an increase in children's active school transports are significant. Active school transport with the help of a promotional basic view, as well as empowerment and gamification, is one way to reach many children and also gives bonus effects when it comes to the social interaction between the children, learning, increased traffic safety and reduced environmental impact.