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How to start a Walking School Bus
By Rathiha Egbert

The natural city
• Toronto's green rooftops

Beat the street
• City Repair Ottawa
• It’s off telework we go…

Back-to-the-future urbanism
• Urban planning timeline
• Ode to Jane Jacobs

Building up sustainability
• Green technologies
• Knowledge Toolbox
• Cartographer’s table
• Just the facts
• CG vault

Are you fed up with chaotic congestion around your child’s school? Do you feel frustrated when you and your child are forced to dodge traffic and suck in exhaust fumes at the school’s gates?

Then it’s time to park your gas-guzzler and get on board the walking school bus.

A walking school bus consists of two or more children walking with a chaperone. Kids are either picked up from their homes or gather together at a certain location at an appointed time.

It’s an example of a community-based sustainable transportation program that teaches children to value their health, the environment and community. It’s a great way to combat poor air quality, rising epidemics of obesity among children and overdependence on vehicles. You also get to work with members of your community and teach your children about safety.

Here’s how to get a walking school bus program started in your area:


  • Determine interest
    • Make a presentation to school staff and parents council. Ask the principal to send a letter home to describe the program and survey interest among parents.

  • Arrange a meet-and-greet for volunteer-chaperones
    • Make a list of all questions and concerns, along with potential solutions. Create a rotating schedule of chaperones (if there are enough volunteers). Gather everyone's contact information.

  • Notify your local police division
    • Ask police to closely monitor the walking school bus routes and conduct a school assembly about pedestrian safety rules.

  • Do a test walk
    • Test the route with the chaperones only. Find out any dangers along the route and discuss these with police or the school.

  • Plan activities
    • Find out what's important along your route: the oldest house, the tallest tree, the best garden, etc. Anything that will make the walk exciting.
    • Once a week, ask a community-member to meet with the children along their walk and talk to them about something interesting.
    • Get the children to personalize their walking school bus. For instance, they can make signs to carry with them as they walk or wear coloured wristbands.

  • Plan B
    • Decide whether the walking school bus will continue during bad weather. Carpooling is a good alternative.

  • Discuss possible rewards
    • Ask the school how they can reward children for participating in the program, such as an extra recess.
  • Think about this counterintuitive finding: Most parents want to drive their kids to school because the roads are unsafe with so many vehicles zooming about.

    To get out of this predicament, someone has to make the first step. So start walking!


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