A walking school bus is a simple idea. One or two parents sign up to be drivers, routes and times are set, and every day, our kids walk along to school.
An industrious parent in my daughter’s elementary school organized ours. She found leaders and started four routes last week; I have been “driving” one. We have about 10 kids in our route, and I think the others do as well.
Of course all I care about is that it’s “green” :-) But there’s so much more.
It’s convenient for parents — they just drop their child at a stop at the appointed time and say goodbye.
It’s fun for the kids. Friends who didn’t know they lived close to each other have met. Several kids who were a little uncertain at first are having a blast.
It’s painless for the driver. I would be walking my daughter to school anyway, so why not bring along others? Plus, once we get going, other parents can lead and I can head off to work, or have a few moments of peace before heading to work.
What I find interesting is that there are many other reasons that this is a good thing. For one, we have a lot of parents driving their children to school; when scores of cars arrive at school at once, it’s a big mess. We have the world’s best crossing guard, Maureen (who cheerfully greets every child, and parent by name!), but she has quite a time keeping harried parents from taking shortcuts. Fewer cars means greater safety.
And of course fewer cars means less gas.
And it’s a good, healthy habit for kids (and adults) to get into.
And several kindergartners and first graders are learning that they can be independent and it’s kind of fun and rewarding. Also, learning to be on time is a nice skill to learn.
It builds community and social skills (and I am not just talking about for the parents, either :-).
How It Works, So Far
Of course not everyone can do the walk. For an elementary school, probably 1/2 mile is the longest reasonable distance for a route — but several parents drop their kids off at the beginning of the route instead of at school, which is closer and more convenient.
Children need not ride every day. But I do think it’s important for the bus to run on a predictable schedule, rain or shine or cold so that parents can plan.
I had not heard about this before, but there’s a site WalkingSchoolBus.org with some good tips, brochures and links to other resources. This site is maintained by the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center in cooperation with the US Department of Transportation.
It’s a little challenging to coordinate; you need to educate parents, find a good route, and make sure you have reliable volunteers. I am thinking about putting up a website that could be used to facilitate planning and coordination. Let me know if you are interested in setting up something for your school (my email can be found on the About Me link in the right column).