The concept of a walking school bus is becoming a popular choice in neighborhoods around the world. These programs, many of which are funded domestically by the federal Safe Routes to School program, are seen as a way to get children physically active, help them get to school safely, and improve low attendance rates. Children are escorted to school by adult volunteers and program managers that ensure a safe trip for the children.
One such program in Providence, Rhode Island, is experiencing great success, according to an article by Jennifer McDermott for The Associated Press. The program manager, Allyson Trenteseaux, leads children on a mile-long route through one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods, giving parents peace of mind that their children will have a safe trip to and from school.
The program also has a social aspect:
On the walks, Trenteseaux said, she mends relationships among the kids, builds relationships and intervenes when there are problems. During the winter, a walk leader noticed some of the children were wearing slippers and bought them all boots.
The Giant Walking Bus event in Glasgow, Scotland, focuses on showcasing road safety involved with walking to and from school. The event was put in place to remind drivers how important it is to drive slowly in rural areas and school zones.
Deputy chief executive Julie Townsend said: “The children marching for safer roads in Glasgow and across the UK should send a clear message to everyone: Children want to be able to get out and walk and cycle, and by not making the streets safe, we are denying them the fun, active childhoods they deserve.”
These programs also allow for monetary savings, both within the school system and at home. According to Sustrans,a safe routes organization in the UK, parents could save an average of £642 ($1,075) per year if their children walked to school instead of being driven. Sustrans says that nearly one-half of elementary school children in Britain are driven. That adds up to nearly 11 million journeys a day to and from school, and £2 billion a year spent on gas.
The savings also can be seen by the schools, who save money on bus routes no longer needed as more children choose to walk.
These walking school bus programs are a fantastic way for children to get out and exercise, socialize with their friends and build new relationships with their peers all while walking to school.