Welcome to the Walking School Bus

by Michaella   |   August 19, 2016

Walking School Bus

School buses—terminally unhip, or ripe for a makeover?

In recent decades, the number of students in the United States who walk to school has declined dramatically. According to research, in 1969, 48 percent of U.S. children 5 to 14 years of age walked to school. By 2009, only 13 percent did.

Elizabeth Wilson, a transportation researcher at the University of Minnesota, notes that school transportation is changing for a variety of reasons, including:

  • a rise in car ownership
  • one-child families that are often leery of sending students off to school on their own
  • cuts in school bus service, or charges for it as a result of budget cutbacks and spikes in fuel prices, and
  • the decline of neighborhood schools and the rise of school choice, meaning that students often live farther from where they learn.

However, some communities are hoping to reduce kids' dependence on motorized transport. Across the United States and Europe, neighborhoods are coming together to create walking school buses as a way to combat childhood obesity, fight climate change, and boost community connections. 

Under adult supervision, family members pick a place for children to meet up. From there, each child pairs up with a buddy and they hold hands as they walk to their school. (Watch a video on the concept here, and see examples of a walking school bus trip in New Jersey and Germany.)

Walking school buses are a great way for children to become active, enjoy the fresh air, and form stronger bonds with their classmates.  

Of course, those people who are unable to walk to school due to distance or safety reasons can always find alternatives such as carpooling, riding the school bus, or bicycling to school.

If you want to engage your community on starting the walking school bus system, you can find more information here, or read this step-by-step guide.