Ditch the Big Yellow Bus and Take a Walking One Instead!

Yes, it’s true, the wheels on the bus go round and round, but this fall, there’s an even better way to get to and from school. It’s called a walking school bus and it’s a triple threat: getting kids more active, helping to save the planet by using less gas, and cutting down on schools’ time and cost commitments.

What is a walking school bus? The walking school bus is a revolutionary concept, yet still very simple. It is a group of kids who walk to or from school, with one or more adults as chaperones. It can be casual between families, or more organized with meeting points, structured routes, volunteer outreach and schedule rotations. Because walking school buses are supervised on legitimate routes by adults, they provide added safety as opposed to kids walking to or from school alone. The walking school bus can also be turned into a bicycle train when adults supervise a group bike ride to school.  The bike train works well for groups who live farther from school, but still want to be active.

Why try a walking school bus? It’s hard to say what the best part of walking school buses is because there are many, but here are just a few:

  • Cutting back on bus usage reduces school district transportation costs
  • Cuts back on environmental pollution via car exhaust
  • Allows kids time to be out with their friends
  • Gives parents daily exercise time with their kids

But what about the bus drivers? Will they lose their jobs? Don’t worry, schools can contract them to serve as walking school bus “drivers” to chaperone groups of kids. The sky is the limit with this program. The National Center for Safe Routes to School and the U.S. Department of Transportation have provided simple, easy to use resources to start a walking school bus nearly anywhere in the nation.

Between rising childhood obesity rates, and Michigan weather patterns, the program would be perfect for many locations across the state. With back to school season upon us, there’s never been a better time to get a walking school bus started in your community. Even if you can’t get a “bus” together, be sure to celebrate International Walk to School Day on October 8! It’s yet another great way to enjoy the outdoors and be well throughout the school day.

Are there any walking school buses available where you live? What do you think of the idea?

Photo credit: martin-dm

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  1. Thank you for highlighting the Walking School Bus (WSB) as one of the best ways to gets students to and from school! Here in Michigan, we are fortunate to have the support of Michigan Department of Transportation and the Michigan Fitness Foundation when it comes to both Safe Routes to School and the WSB movement. Annually we offer a competitive mini-grant program which provides up to 14 grants of $5,000 each to launch WSBs, bike trains or other active transportation programs. Additionally, when the routes are not safe, there is a planning process and grant program that can help with improvements, such as sidewalks, crosswalks, and certain traffic calming measures to name a few, all aimed at improving pedestrian safety. The greatest benefit of the WSB comes from getting cars off the roads and away from the schools: a generation ago 48% of students walked or biked to school and only 12% were driven in a car – now those numbers have flipped with roughly 13% of students walking or biking to school and a staggering 44% being driven. Finally, in addition to the benefits listed in the article, research indicates that students who engage in physical activity perform better academically and have fewer behavior referrals: what better way to start the school day?

    To get assistance with developing a WSB program, learn more about our grants, or to register for Walk to School Day here in Michigan visit http://www.saferoutesmichigan.org.

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