Are you looking to encourage your child and their friends to walk or bike to school this school year (and beyond)? Consider organizing a walking school bus or a bike train!
A walking school bus — what is that?
A walking school bus is a group of children walking to school together with one or more adults, or older students. It can be structured in many ways, but is most commonly a route with designated meeting points and a schedule of parents or volunteers who take turns walking the group to school.
What’s a bike train?
Similarly, a bike train is a group of children who bike to school together, accompanied or led by one or more adults, or older students. Bike train leaders should have some bicycling skills, understand traffic laws and feel comfortable riding on the road.
What are the benefits of a walking school bus and a bike train?
Studies show that fewer children walk to school today than even just a few decades ago, and many children don’t meet recommended daily levels of physical activity. For many parents, safety concerns are one of the primary reasons they are reluctant to allow their children to walk or bike to school.
The walking school bus and bike train models are safety-first, by design. But they’re also fun, social, and active — providing school age children with easy, comfortable access to a healthy lifestyle, as well as improved skills for walking and pedaling safely in the city. Parents benefit too — they get to enjoy greater piece of mind knowing that their children are being protected by ‘safety in numbers’ as well as the presence of adult supervision.
There’s a terrific community-building aspect to these models as well. With a rotating schedule of parents or volunteers coordinating together to lead the walking school bus or bike train, it can be a great opportunity for people to meet other families in their neighborhood.
Did we emphasize “fun” enough? A walking school bus or bike train is a delightful daily activity — for both the kids and adults involved. Give it a try! And share your experience with us — contact Clara with your walking or biking to school stories: [email protected]
Tips for organizing a walking school bus:
- Check out your neighborhood walkability checklist, and the City of Seattle’s Safe Routes to School Walking Maps. Determine the safest route to walk to your school and map your route, including what stops are needed.
- Invite families who live nearby to walk, and alert school faculty and staff, who may be able to connect you to additional families.
- Test your route, noting approximate walking times.
- Identify the number of adults or older students needed to supervise walkers and draft a rotating schedule. Download walking school bus leader schedules and information forms, and recruit volunteers.
- Check out these safety training guidelines and determine what’s needed for both kids and adult volunteers on your route before kicking off the program.
- Have fun!
- More resources:
Tips for organizing a bike train:
- Determine safe routes for biking to school with a City of Seattle Bike Web Map, and draft a potential route, including the stops that are needed.
- Invite families who live nearby to bike, and contact potential participants (e.g. school faculty and staff, law enforcement officers, local bike shops, bike teams/clubs, other community leaders).
- Pick a route and do a test bike ride, noting approximate biking times.
- Identify the number of adults or older students needed to supervise bikers and draft a rotating schedule. Check out these scheduling tips for bike train leaders and other guides.
- Check out these safety training guidelines and determine the safety training, skills and equipment needed for kids and bike train leaders before kicking off the program.
- Have fun!
- More resources:
Happy walking and biking!
Written by Li Tan,
Safe Routes to School Intern
Seattle Neighborhood Greenways