What is a Walking Bus?
A group of children, parents and/ or volunteers walking to school at a set time and along the same route each day. Children can enjoy walking to school with friends in safety.
Starting a Walking Bus
If you are a parent ask around other parents to see if there is enough interest then approach your school as you will need their support. Contact the Road Safety Officer as they will also be able to offer support, advice and training.
You will need a keen parent or team to start it up, coordinate it, keep it going and promote it to parents, children and the community.
Volunteer accompanied Walking Bus
You must fulfil certain criteria to start a volunteer accompanied walking bus scheme.
- All volunteers must be registered with the school/Road Safety Officer and have been given advice and training.
- The routes used must be assessed and approved by the Road Safety Officer.
- All participants; children, volunteers and parents must sign agreements.
- You must have sufficient volunteers to cater for the number of children taking part.
- The scheme must be insured through the PTA, Parent Council or school.
In reality it takes a while to set all this up. If parents are keen to get started it is a shame to delay it. One way round this is to start a parent accompanied walking bus where parents are responsible for their own children but everyone meets at a pre-arranged time and walks to school together.
Parent accompanied Walking Bus
This is an ideal way to get started quickly and get parents and child used to the concept of walking buses. More people join the walking bus just because they see it, and are going that way anyway and the children want to catch up with others. No commitment is required, no forms need to be filled in and no volunteers are needed. The only thing you need to do is round up a few people in your area and arrange to walk to school together. A crowd attracts a crowd and before you know it you have a huge Walking Bus.
In the meantime you can work on the requirements for the volunteer accompanied walking bus. By the time this is launched many parents and children will be so used to walking as a group that volunteers may be easier to find. Parents will then have the option of walking with the group or leaving their children to walk safely with volunteers.
Top Tips for Walking Buses
- Start informally
Talk to parents in your immediate area and arrange to walk together. Let people know what you are doing and encourage them to walk with you at the same time of day.
- Get help
Contact the Road Safety Officer. It’s also important to have the school's support.
- Don’t criticise
Don’t be negative towards those who drop out or never seem to volunteer to help. Instead find out the reason and work towards a solution. Maybe they do not understand the scheme fully or cannot take part because of the logistics of doing school runs to more than one school.
- Start a Park and Stride Scheme
Children living too far away to walk all the way to school will be able to take part. Find a car park 5 or 10 minutes walk from the school, eg a shop or community hall and ask permission to park in the car par at school run times. If a walking bus route starts from or comes past the car park the children can join in and at least walk some of the way.
- Involve as many children as you can
Establish several routes to cover all approaches to the school. Try to set it up so every child has a chance to join in.
- Make it cool
Older children might not like the idea of travelling with younger pupils if they feel they are all being treated the same. Why not set up a conductors scheme where the older pupils can join in and have special roles as ‘official helpers’.
- Involve as many parents as possible
Try to encourage dads to join when they have the time. Even if a parent or grandparent only makes it once, at least they can say they have been part of it.
Give out certificates in school assembly. Make them feel like they are part of an important club.
- Let the local media know
Local papers love stories about children. The children love to see themselves in the newspaper. It is a good way to inform parents as letters from school do not always get home. Make sure you have parental permission before any press photographs are taken.
- Issue a Walking Bus Pass
Children like official papers.
- Adapt ideas
Walking bus schemes cannot be standardised and are individual to every community. Hand out guidelines for your particular bus.
- Listen to complaints
Grumbles from parents and children can be useful if they cause you to work out a solution to a problem.
- Maintain momentum
Promote your walking bus every now and again, especially at the start of a new term. Hand out reflective stickers as children join.
- Make it part of the school’s culture
As new children join the school you won’t have to change old habits to get them to join in. They won’t have formed habits and will accept it as normal.
- Put it in the school prospectus
If your school has a Travel Plan put it in there as well. For new parent induction evenings have a short talk from the walking bus coordinator. Ask the head teacher to emphasise the importance of the walking bus.
- Find ways of measuring your success
- Be proud of your success
With thanks to "Safe Kids Walking".