Safe Routes Scoop

Get on the Walking Bus

The benefits of walking to school seem abundantly clear. Walking improves health and fitness. Students who walk or bike to school exhibit better behavior and focus in class. With more kids walking or biking, there will be fewer cars, less traffic congestion and better air quality near the school.

 

So with all the positive outcomes, why don’t more kids walk or bike to school? The foremost concern is safety—both for students who walk alone and for those who do not know the pedestrian and bicycle rules of the road. It can also be difficult to carve out the necessary time to walk or bike with your children in already packed family schedules. Participating in a Walking School Bus program can address these concerns and bring about additional rewards.

 

What is a Walking School Bus?
A Walking School Bus is a group of children walking to school with one or more adults. It can be as informal as two families walking to school together. Or, it can be more formally structured with an established walking route, meeting points (stops), timetable and schedule of trained parent volunteers or walking bus “drivers” who can take turns during the week to share responsibility.  A successful walking school bus can operate on a frequent basis, such as daily or once a week, or on a more limited basis, such as the first Tuesday of the month or only on special days. Each “bus” is unique and can be custom tailored to fit the needs of any group. 

 

Why a Walking School Bus is Important
A Walking School Bus can be helpful in teaching children about road safety. During the walk, adult volunteers can coach kids on the safest places to cross a street, as well as how to cross at mid-block, main roads and side roads. They can demonstrate the importance of making eye contact with the driver—one of the

ways that a pedestrian can be sure that drivers have seen them. A walking school bus is also important to parents who may not initially be comfortable with their children walking to school. The walking school bus addresses many parent concerns related to safety because children are not only walking in a group, but also walking with adult supervision.

 

How to Adopt a Walking School Bus
Starting a Walking School Bus works best when kept simple. One way is to start off with a small group or “bus” from a single neighborhood with interested parents and children. Steps include:

  • Inviting neighboring families to walk together
  • Picking a walking route and test it
  • Deciding how often the group will walk and determine rules of behavior
  • Setting a schedule and creating a call list for weather cancellations and absences (consider designating a backup “driver”)

Information on how to establish a Walking School Bus can be found on the Safe Routes to School website: www.saferoutesinfo.org/guide/walking

_school_bus/pdf/wsb_guide.pdf

 

Who is implementing Walking School Buses

Several communities in New Jersey have established Walking School Bus programs. In Hudson County, these programs are now in place at 15 schools with programs starting last fall in Bayonne, Jersey City, North Bergen and Secaucus. Jay DiDomenico of the Hudson County Transportation Management Association (TMA) (http://www.hudsontma.org/) said, “It’s been fantastic; the program has been received very well by both parents and the schools.” The TMA hopes to have Walking School Buses in all Hudson County municipalities soon. Hudson

 

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