Walking School Bus

Starting a Walking School Bus

Studies show that fewer children are walking and biking to school, and more children are at risk of becoming overweight. Changing behaviours of children and parents requires creative solutions that are safe and fun. Implementing a walking school bus can be both.

Parents often cite safety issues as one of the primary reasons they are reluctant to allow their children to walk to school. Providing adult supervision may help reduce those worries for families who live within walking or cycling distance to school.

Starting simple

When beginning a walking school bus, remember that the programme can always grow. It often makes sense to start with a small bus and see how it works.

  1. Start with once a week for four weeks.
  2. Have 2-4 meeting points along the route that you will walk to school.
  3. Start with school teachers to help it get going – one per route – and then ask parents to take over when it is established.
  4. Be strict on times (ie, teacher will be at the starting point at 8am, leaving at 8:10am…)
  5. Do a test walk without the children first to see how long it takes.

When picking a route

Consider the following when selecting a route:

  1. Do you have room to walk? Are there footpaths? Is there too much traffic?
  2. Is it easy to cross the street?
  3. Do drivers behave well? Do you give way to walkers? Do they speed?
  4. Does the environment feel safe? Are there loose dogs or other hazards?

Next, finalise the logistical details

  • Who will participate?
  • How often will the walking school bus operate? (Will the bus operate once a week or every day?)
  • When do children meet the bus? (It is important to allow enough time for the slower pace of children, but also to ensure that everyone arrives at school on time)
  • Where will the bus meet children – at each child’s home or at a few meeting spots?
  • Will the bus operate after school?
  • What training or equipment (ie, hi-vis vests) do volunteers need?
  • What safety training do children need?

Reaching more children

Success with a simple walking school bus or a desire to be more inclusive may inspire a community to build a more structured programme. This may include more routes, more days of walking and more children. Such programmes require coordination, volunteers and potential attention to other issue, such as safety training. The school principal and administration, police, council and other parts of the community may be involved.

Find out more

If you have any queries around setting up a walking school bus, please contact Fran Rose, Community Cycling & Walking Development Officer at Sport Hawke’s Bay: 

Phone: 022 455 4205 | Email: franr@sporthb.net.nz