Walking School Buses Offer a Safe Route to School

Filed under: Opinions

walking school busWhen the town of Lecco, Italy decided to tackle childhood obesity and greenhouse gasses at the same time, the city took a radical step. They did away with school buses, but kept the school bus drivers. Today, staff and volunteers walk the school bus routes "picking up" children and walking them to school on a piedibus, or walking school bus.

Kids aren't walking to school like they used to, and there's a long list of reasons why: School choice, two-income households and stranger danger, to name a few. My family lives in a very walkable neighborhood -- there are three elementary schools and a high school within a half-mile of our home -- yet I rarely see anyone but teens walking to school. In fact, last year I asked our school principal why we didn't have a bike rack. She said, "Because you're the first person who's ever asked about one."

I think, though, that even hovering parents could get behind the idea of a walking school bus. In Lecco, the kids walk less than a mile to school and are supervised the entire time. But the effort has eliminated more than 100,000 vehicle miles. Plus, kids are getting exercise and fresh air. How many kids do you know that walk two miles every day in addition to their regular activities?

Still, cars are a hard thing to give up. Not all parents in Lecco put their kids on the piedibus, saying that the walk is too far, their bags are too heavy, or that it doesn't fit into parents' work schedules. But Roger L. Mackett of Center for Transport Studies at University College in London tells the New York Times that parents who think they're helping their kids giving them a lift are really just reinforcing car dependency, "You're getting children into a lifelong habit," he says.

As a mom who's already sold on the idea of walking, I understand this. Our kids walk to school most months of the year, but like the parents above we give them (and ourselves) a break when the temperatures dip down below 20 degrees. When the mercury finally rises, it's hard to get back into the habit of walking again. My four-year-old's legs hurt, my kindergartner is too cold. It takes real effort not to throw them in the van and go. But after a few days of walking, we remember why we do it-- it's fun, it's great exercise, and it gets us ready for spring, when we give our van a break and use our feet to get around instead.

Walking school buses are becoming more popular in the United States. To learn more, visit Safe Routes to School.

Do your kids walk to school? Would they if they could be part of a walking school bus?

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.