Anchorage's Walking School Bus Program
|Photo courtesy of TravelSmart Australia|
A Walking School Bus provides an organized way for children to walk safely to school with adults and a group of their peers, along a pre-set route. You can design a Walking School Bus for “Walk to School Day” or to walk year-round!
- Provides safe passage for young students to and from school while teaching good road sense and safety. U.S. Department of Transportation studies show that walking and school buses are safer than riding in cars for children ages 3 to 14.
- Relieves traffic congestion around schools and in neighborhoods. Heavy traffic creates blind spots and reduces visibility at school drop-off points.
- Improves visibility of students by walking in a large group.
- Encourages physical activity as an integral part of a child’s daily routine. Over the past 30 years the percent of overweight children aged 6 to 11 years has more than doubled. Exercise builds and maintains healthy bones, muscles, and joints while it helps control weight, build lean muscle and reduce fat.
- Preliminary data show that physical activity may improve academic performance and alertness in youth. About 14% of young people report no recent physical activity.
- Provides children with a sense of independence, self-image and autonomy while learning many life skills.
- Enables children to socialize and develop new friendships
- Allows parents to get to know other parents in their neighborhood, increasing community and a friendlier atmosphere.
- Reduces pollution by cutting down on short vehicle trips and idling at drop-off zones. Approximately 77% of winter season carbon monoxide (CO) emissions in Anchorage are from vehicles.
- Provides an easy, inexpensive way to reduce traffic congestion and air pollutants like CO around schools. In some Anchorage neighborhoods, warm-up idling accounts for half of CO emitted by all sources in the area. Cold winter temperature significantly increase these cold start emissions, but walking briskly will keep you warm!
1. Establish a Walking School Bus Group
Interested parents can start a Walking School Bus by finding a group of families that live along a given route to school, arranging a meeting with parents throughout a neighborhood, or passing out informational flyers and surveys of interest through your local school.
It may work best to begin by working with children who do not have bus service. The Anchorage School District generally does not bus students who live within 1.5 miles of schools unless there are “Hazardous Walking Areas.”
Inform the PTA of your Walking School Bus idea to get its approval, support and/or ideas. The PTA is an important outlet to help distribute future publicity through the school newspaper/PTA newsletter.
2. Decide on Walking School Bus Rules and Responsibilities
It is a good idea to establish flexible, common sense rules from the start that will ensure safe passage of students. A notice can be sent home with children to inform parents of the program, including a consent form. See Inlet View's sign-up sheet as an example.
3. Set Walking School Bus Routes
To help identify an official, approved walking route to elementary schools, pick up “Pedestrian Safety For Elementary & Middle Schools” from the Municipal Traffic Department. This will enable Walking School Bus organizers to plan stops at two or more houses on the way to and from school using pre-approved routes. This manual does not include military base schools, those that offer bus service to all students, or open enrollment optional schools.
Here’s what a sample route looks like:
Sample Route from Sand Lake Elementary, 2004-05
|1||79th & Blackberry||8:40||3:43|
|2||79th & Jewel Lake||8:44||3:39|
|3||Sand Lake Elementary||8:48||3:35|
Once a safe route has been chosen, walk it with a timer to get a clear idea of the time involved between pickup points. Route details can be provided to new parents and families interested in participating in the Walking School Bus.
A map of Inlet View shows how different routes were identified in one community.
4. Start Walking!
To launch the program, it is helpful to provide parents the Walking School Bus rules, route information, and other promotional items. Make note of the start date on written material, advertise the program in the school newsletter, and then start walking!
5. Keep the Walking School Bus Up & Running
To keep it fun for the school children and to attract new participants, consider including a number of eye-catching, fun activities. Some Walking School Bus groups choose to collaborate with the business community and purchase highly visible safety vests, sashes, hats or backpack tags. In addition, it is always fun to name the routes, create mascots, and celebrate special days. Having a theme day where everyone wears a given color, promotes a school function, or celebrates a given holiday adds a bit of fun and collaboration to the walk to school. Try the Walking School Bus for one week or once a week throughout the year!
For more details about how to organize your own Walking School Bus in Anchorage, please contact Green Star at 278-7827 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other Walking School Bus Resources: