Education

Take Note

November 12, 2003 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Pedestrian Power

Sacramento, Calif., parent Belinda L. Morse wanted her two children to be able to walk to the nearby 1,100-student Natomas Park Elementary School.

But walking through heavy traffic in urban and suburban neighborhoods raises safety concerns, so Ms. Morse started a program widely used in the United Kingdom, Australia, and elsewhere overseas. It’s called the Walking School Bus.

Only 13 percent of U.S. children’s trips to school are made on foot or bicycle today, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in Atlanta. The remainder rely on cars or buses to carry them from home to schoolhouse and back again.

For parents who want to revive the tradition of hoofing it to the neighborhood school, the Walking School Bus offers a safe, healthy, and environmentally friendly option, its supporters say.

The formal version of the Walking School Bus has an adult “driver” at the front of a pack of children and an adult “conductor” bringing up the rear. The group walks along a set route, picking up additional “passengers” at stops along the way. Schools often play a central role in organizing and training the adult volunteers and ensuring the safety of the programs.

The concept has caught on more slowly in the United States; besides Sacramento, the few examples of communities even testing the idea include Chicago; Palo Alto, Calif.; and Indiana, Pa. And most U.S. programs are more casual than their European counterparts, relying on grassroots efforts to initiate and coordinate them, said Christian Valiulis, the associate director of the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center, an arm of the Highway Safety Research Center, based at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“They’re more like carpools in this country, where groups of parents get together informally and decide to take turns walking their kids to school,” he said.

The five “walking buses” Ms. Morse has organized in Sacramento are closely modeled after programs abroad.

Her “drivers” must undergo background checks and tuberculosis testing and complete training in pedestrian safety and first aid. Wearing bright orange vests and carrying stop signs, each one escorts five to 10 children to and from school.

“A lot of what we built into this was based on parents’ concerns,” Ms. Morse said. “We want them to feel like their kids are safe.”

— Harris Bowman

Events

School & District Management K-12 Essentials Forum Get a Strong Start to the New School Year
Get insights and actions from Education Week journalists and expert guests on how to start the new school year on strong footing.
Reading & Literacy Webinar A Roadmap to Multisensory Early Literacy Instruction: Accelerate Growth for All Students 
How can you develop key literacy skills with a diverse range of learners? Explore best practices and tips to meet the needs of all students. 
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
College & Workforce Readiness Webinar
Supporting 21st Century Skills with a Whole-Child Focus
What skills do students need to succeed in the 21st century? Explore the latest strategies to best prepare students for college, career, and life.
Content provided by Panorama Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated: July 13, 2022
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read
Education Briefly Stated: June 15, 2022
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: June 8, 2022
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: June 1, 2022
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read