How to start a walking school bus

An elementary-aged child wearing a backpack and holding a colorful cardboard cutout of a school bus with text that reads, "walking school bus."
A guide to starting a walking school bus by the Portland Bureau of Transportation's Safe Routes to School program.
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What is a walking school bus?

A walking school bus can be a formal group with specific meeting spots and times or a more informal crowd of neighborhood students. For younger students, a parent or two will usually walk with the group to encourage safe behavior; in some cases, an older student may provide supervision. Some walking school bus groups choose one day a week or one day a month to organize; others walk every school day together. Check out CityLab's video about Walking School Buses

Starting a walking school bus

  • Check with your school or with your neighbors to see if other families or kids are already walking to school together - maybe you could join in! Your school's parent teacher association is also a great place to start.
  • Choose a route and test it with adults for safety. 
  • Decide how often you will walk together (e.g., once a month, once a week, etc.). 
  • Put a memo in your school newsletter to invite families along your route. You could even ask school administrators to post information on your school website. Make sure you include a meeting time and location!
  • Make sure you have sufficient adult supervision. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend one adult for every six children. If children are age ten or older, fewer adults may be needed. If children are ages four to six, one adult per three children is recommended.
  • Start leading your bus!

What are some helpful tools I can use to get walking to school?

If you want to do more…

  • Contact Safe Routes to School for help creating a map of your walking school bus routes to distribute to students and parents.
  • Develop a phone tree so it is easy to communicate with walking school bus leaders and volunteers.
  • Build a team of interested volunteers who can lead different routes.
  • Create a walking school bus route with a starting point that will accommodate students being driven from outside your school boundary.
  • Invite "celebrity" guests for special events! Principals, school mascots, and other community leaders make events feel special for students.

Benefits of a walking school bus

  • Quality time with your child, students, and/or community
  • Reduced traffic and air pollution around the school
  • Physical activity

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