The school run has long been cited as an example of what many see as an unnecessary car journey – and one that adds hugely to pollution and traffic problems in towns and residential areas. Whilst some parents would argue that the car is their only means of getting their children to school many parents around the country have formed an environmentally friendly alternative – ‘Walking Buses’ – a scheme that enables children to travel to school safely as part of a supervised group, whilst helping to cut down on the congestion and pollution problems caused by cars doing the same journey.
What is a Walking Bus?
Quite simply, a Walking Bus is a group of children who make their way to and from school on foot, supervised by participating adults. A bit like an updated version of the old school ‘crocodile’ marching down the street!
How Does it Work?
Children meet at a pre-arranged point or are picked up en route and walk to school under the supervision of an appropriate number of adults. The Walking Bus could be as casual as an informal arrangement between two or three neighbours where by the adults take it in turns to walk the children to school, or it could be a neighbourhood or school-wide initiative with official ‘pick up’ points, coloured bibs for the children to wear for easy identification, and a strict timetable of departure and arrival points and rotas for adult supervisors.
Sounds Great – How Do I Organise One?
Decide on what you want to achieve – a safe, supervised option to car driving for your friends and neighbours in your street, or a serious ‘alternative’ to car travel supported and sponsored by your school and/or local authority. Not that there’s any reason that the former could not, in time evolve into the latter!
How Do I persuade Other Parents to Join?
If on the off chance the thought of protecting the environment and their children’s health wasn’t enough, try dazzling any reluctant mums and dads with these facts:
- They’ll save money on petrol and/or bus fares.
- Their children will learn stuff en route – everything from traffic safety to observing the changing seasons.
- Walking is a fantastic exercise and combined with the fresh air will blow away all those early morning cobwebs!
- The Walking Bus will give both parents and children the chance to learn more about their neighbourhood, their neighbours and make new friends.
When it’s Up and Running…
Spread the word! If you are actively looking for more participants, tip your local paper the wink about your Walking Bus – invite them along to take a pic of the bus in action and give the reporter some good quotes about the importance of viable alternatives to the motorised school run. Involve local businesses – ask a big local firm to sponsor brightly coloured or hi-vis vests or bibs for your Walking Bus – essential safety kit for dark and gloomy winter mornings and afternoons when the clocks go back.
Recruit new adult walkers by asking your school to regularly plug the Walking Bus in its newsletters and on its website. Print up leaflets and distribute to parents in neighbouring streets. Form new groups for parents who can’t be in two places at once so those with siblings at different schools can still take part.