Walking bus

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Trebic-Vnitrni Mesto, Trebic District, Vysocina Region, Czechia, Karlovo namesti Trebic, Karlovo namesti, skolka na prechodu.jpg
Třebíč-Vnitřní Město, Třebíč District, Vysočina Region, Czechia, Karlovo náměstí
Restaurant U Lisku, originally a country house, U trojskeho zamku str. 35/9 Troja. At the entrance to the Prague Zoo. Restaurace U Lisku, u vstupu do ZOO Praha, U Trojskeho zamku 9, Praha - Troja 01.JPG
Restaurant U Lišků, originally a country house, U trojského zámku str. 35/9 Troja. At the entrance to the Prague Zoo.

A walking bus (crocodile, walking school bus) is a form of student transport for schoolchildren who, chaperoned typically by two adults (a "driver" leads and a "conductor" follows), walk to school along a set route, with some similarities to a school bus route. [1] Like a real bus, walking buses have a fixed route with designated "bus stops" and "pick up times" at which they pick up and "drop off" children.



The concept of the walking bus was first invented in Japan [2] Australian transport activist David Engwicht [3] is often given credit for inventing the WSB system in the 1990s. It was introduced in the United Kingdom in 1998 by Hertfordshire County Council. It was first used by pupils of Wheatfields Junior School in St Albans, the United Kingdom in 1998 [4]

Walking Buses have remained popular in the United Kingdom and have recently gained a level of popularity elsewhere in Europe, North America [5] and New Zealand. Proponents of walking buses say that its aims are to: [6]

In Auckland, New Zealand, as of November 2007, one hundred schools ran 230 Walking School Buses with over 4,000 children and 1,500 adults participating. [7]

The largest (contiguous)[ clarification needed ] walking bus involved 1,905 participants on 9 November 2012 in Newmarket, Suffolk. [8]

Parents and/or children on some walking buses are encouraged to wear brightly-coloured jackets or waistcoats. This has led to criticism that the walking bus is too regimented, and fails to achieve its original purpose of improving children's independent mobility. David Engwicht, whose 1992 book "Reclaiming our Cities and Towns" is credited by some as the origin of the Walking School Bus concept in New South Wales, has since stated that "The moment the Walking Bus turns into an official program, it creates some significant difficulties, particularly in litigious and risk-averse cultures." [3]

Public health

Walking bus stop sign in Letterston, Wales. (The Welsh language text is the name of the school.) Walking bus stop, Station Road - geograph.org.uk - 291411.jpg
Walking bus stop sign in Letterston, Wales. (The Welsh language text is the name of the school.)

The walking school bus can help to reduce childhood obesity rates by increasing active transportation to school. The American Public Health Association cites that participation in active transportation to school has reduced by a third in the last 40 years. [9] This reduction has coincided with an increase in childhood obesity rates. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the USA, report that the prevalence of obesity among children has doubled and among adolescents has quadrupled in the past 30 years. In 2012, 18% of children and 21% of adolescents were obese. [10]

According to the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, 1 mile of walking equates to 2/3rds of the recommendation of 60 minutes a day. [11] [ This implies an average speed of 1.5 mph, which seems rather low. ] In addition to the potential health benefits, the walking school bus can help children arrive at school safely, on time, and ready to learn. Walking to school counts towards the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity a day. [12] Another benefit is the positive association between physical activity and improved academic performance. In a study by the CDC, they found that with a minimum of 60 minutes a day there were increases in academic behavior, cognitive skills and attitudes. [13]

The communities that support walking buses may see reduced congestion around school grounds. The walking bus is a non-polluting and sustainable transport alternative to cars and buses. In regard to the safety of the walking bus, the section about Safe Routes to School below goes into more detail about improvements being made to increase the safety of commuting pedestrians. [14]

The built environment plays the biggest role in whether or not a community is walkable. The built environment consists of the human-made surroundings that affect one's life; including the availability and quality of sidewalks, crosswalks and parks, the amount of traffic and proximity to schools/parks/shops, etc. These factors determine the walkability of an area.

Walkability has been shown to be closely tied to childhood obesity. One study found that “the chances of a child being obese or overweight were 20-60 percent higher among children in neighborhoods where it was not safe to walk around or where there were no sidewalks.” [15] In addition, children in neighborhoods with sidewalks and safe places to cross the street are more likely to be physically active than children living in neighborhoods without those safe infrastructure elements. [16]

The walking bus depends on a walkable and safe built environment. Safe Routes to School is US government program that funds improvements in the built environment near schools.

Support for the walking bus

Sign for a walking bus stop in the Italian city of Zanica Cartello piedibus.jpg
Sign for a walking bus stop in the Italian city of Zanica
A walking bus stop in Germany Haltestellentafel eines Pedibus.jpg
A walking bus stop in Germany

Health Benefits

Children who walk or bicycle to school have higher daily levels of physical activity and better cardiovascular fitness than do children who do not actively commute to school. [17] In a study of adolescents, 100% of the students who walked both to and from school met the recommended levels of 60 or more minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity on weekdays. [18]

In a pilot, randomized controlled trial (RCT) in Houston, Texas, children that were assigned to a Walking School Bus group increased their weekly rate of active commuting by 38.0% over a five-week period, while children assigned to a no intervention group decreased their active commuting rate by a small margin. [19]

Policies and regulations

In 2005, the US Federal Transportation Reauthorization Bill—The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act (SAFETEA-LU 109-59) was passed which provided nearly $1 billion funding to all states for Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs. [20] The program's purpose is to: “enable and encourage children, including those with disabilities, to walk and bicycle to school; to make walking and bicycling to school safe and more appealing; and to facilitate the planning, development and implementation of projects that will improve safety, and reduce traffic, fuel consumption, and air pollution in the vicinity of schools.” It is a 100% federally funded program which is administered by state departments of transportation. Money goes towards infrastructure-related programs in addition to non-infrastructure activities such as education and enforcement-year time period, restricting data to school-travel hours.

This law is central to the success of programs like the Walking Bus because it identifies the many components involved. Active transport to school and examples such as the walking school bus require collaboration from many different sectors (transportation, law enforcement, school policies, and local government to name a few). In addition, the ability to create an environment conducive to walkability is dependent on the built environment as well as numerous policies from these various sectors. [21]

According to the Institute of Medicine Report, Measuring Progress in Obesity Prevention, the environment people live in can have a profound effect on the amount of physical activity which they engage in. According to James Sallis in his workshop presentation, informal or formal policies issued by the government or private sector, can affect physical activity in four ways. First, zoning, building codes, public transportation and recreational facility policies affect the ability to engage in physical activity. Second, policies affecting physical activity in schools—physical education classes, recess, and walkability to and from school. Policies providing incentives such as parking and commuting in other ways, and insurance subsidies promote walkability and physical activity for adults. Finally, funding policies have a strong influence on physical activity. The 2005 federal law supporting safe Routes to School is meant to facilitate physical activity and increase walkability. [22]

Two national programs that focus on physical activity environment policies are the Health and Human Services Healthy People 2020 and the National Physical Activity Plan, sponsored by numerous organizations including the YMCA, the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Association. The plan is a public-private partnership to create policies that promote physical activity for all individuals. Healthy People 2020 lists objectives to boost physical activity and also supports the recording of national data to track interventions. These are two examples of policies to promote physical activity. The Walking School Bus fits into their programs because it increases activity and translates a sedentary time of the day (transport in car or bus to school) to an active one. [23] [24]

Safe routes to school

Pedestrian injuries have found to be associated with the built environment elements, rather than with increased walking to school. [25] Safe Routes to School (SRTS) provides federal funds for improvements of the built environment near schools with the goal of increasing walking and biking to school.

The effectiveness of SRTS has been demonstrated in multiple studies. One national study analyzed data across 18 states over 16 years. The study compared rates of pedestrian/bicyclist injury in school-aged children to adults, restricting data to school-travel hours. While adult injury rates were largely unchanged over the study period, implementation of SRTS was associated with around a 20% reduction in both pedestrian/bicyclist injury and fatality risk in children. [26] In Texas, traffic crash data over 5 years showed that pedestrian and bicyclist injuries decreased about 40% after the implementation of SRTS. [27] In New York city, SRTS decreased pedestrian injury by one-third in school-age children. [28]

The benefits of SRTS may extend beyond children. While the national study showed adult pedestrian injury risk unchanged, both the Texas and New York studies have demonstrated reduced pedestrian injury risk in adults with SRTS interventions. [27] [28]

SRTS programs are also effective in increasing walking and bicycling. In California, the effect of SRTS implementation varied widely but rates of observed walking and biking to school increased by 20 to 200%. [29]

Bicycle train

Bicycle train is the same concept but instead of walking the children and adult(s) move by bicycle. [30]


In Japan, some traffic accidents have occurred that resulted in the death of multiple schoolchildren who were walking to school in a group. [31] [32] In response to these accidents, schools have chosen to let their students walk to school via different paths, and cities have chosen to reduce speed limits, install road guards, and paint pedestrian zones to reduce the chance of accidents occurring again. [33] [34]

See also

Related Research Articles

Cycling Riding a bicycle

Cycling, also called bicycling or biking, is the use of bicycles for transport, recreation, exercise or sport. People engaged in cycling are referred to as "cyclists", "bicyclists", or "bikers". Apart from two-wheeled bicycles, "cycling" also includes the riding of unicycles, tricycles, quadricycles, recumbent and similar human-powered vehicles (HPVs).

Pedestrian Person traveling on foot

A pedestrian is a person travelling on foot, whether walking or running. In modern times, the term usually refers to someone walking on a road or pavement, but this was not the case historically.

Bicycle-friendly Urban planning prioritising cycling

Bicycle-friendly policies and practices help some people feel more comfortable about traveling by bicycle with other traffic. The level of bicycle-friendliness of an environment can be influenced by many factors including town planning and cycling infrastructure decisions. A stigma towards people who ride bicycles and fear of cycling is a social construct that needs to be fully understood when promoting a bicycle friendly culture.

Built environment

In urban planning, architecture and civil engineering, the term built environment, or built world, refers to the human-made environment that provides the setting for human activity, including homes, buildings, zoning, streets, sidewalks, open spaces, transportation options, and more. It is defined as "the human-made space in which people live, work and recreate on a day-to-day basis."

Utility cycling

Utility cycling encompasses any cycling done simply as a means of transport rather than as a sport or leisure activity. It is the original and most common type of cycling in the world.

Car-free movement Movement to reduce the use of private vehicles

The car-free movement is a broad, informal, emergent network of individuals and organizations, including social activists, urban planners, transportation engineers and others, brought together by a shared belief that large and/or high-speed motorized vehicles are too dominant in most modern cities. The goal of the movement is to create places where motorized vehicle use is greatly reduced or eliminated, by converting road and parking space to other public uses and rebuilding compact urban environments where most destinations are within easy reach by other means, including walking, cycling, public transport, personal transporters, and mobility as a service.

Safety in numbers

Safety in numbers is the hypothesis that, by being part of a large physical group or mass, an individual is less likely to be the victim of a mishap, accident, attack, or other bad event. Some related theories also argue that mass behaviour can reduce accident risks, such as in traffic safety – in this case, the safety effect creates an actual reduction of danger, rather than just a redistribution over a larger group.

Living street Traffic calming in spaces shared between road users

A living street is a street designed in the interests of pedestrians and cyclists. Living streets also act as social spaces, allowing children to play and encouraging social interactions on a human scale, safely and legally. These roads are still available for use by motor vehicles, however their design aims to reduce both the speed and dominance of motorised transport. This is often achieved using the shared space approach, with greatly reduced demarcations between vehicle traffic and pedestrians. Vehicle parking may also be restricted to designated bays. These street design principles first became popularized in the Netherlands during the 1970s, and the Dutch word woonerf is often used as a synonym for living street.

Bicycle safety

Bicycle safety is the use of road traffic safety practices to reduce risk associated with cycling. Risk can be defined as the number of incidents occurring for a given amount of cycling. In many countries both the number of incidents and the amount of cycling are not well known. Non-fatal accidents often go unreported and bicycle use is only occasionally monitored. Some of this subject matter is hotly debated: for example, the discussions as to whether bicycle helmets or cyclepaths really improve safety. The merits of obeying the rules of the road including the use of bicycle lighting at night are less controversial.

Active living Physically active way of life

Active living is a way of life that integrates physical activity into everyday routines, such as walking to the store or biking to work. Active living brings together urban planners, architects, transportation engineers, public health professionals, activists and other professionals to build places that encourage active living and physical activity. One example includes efforts to build sidewalks, crosswalks, pedestrian crossing signals and other ways for children to walk safely to and from school, as seen in the Safe Routes to School program. Recreational opportunities close to the home or workplace, walking trails and bike lanes for transportation also encourage a more active lifestyle. Active living is a combination of physical activity and recreation activities aimed at the general public to encourage a healthier lifestyle. One of the most important issues our communities face is a staggering increase in the rates of obesity and chronic disease. Active Living offers an opportunity to address these health concerns by helping people have a physically active lifestyle. Communities that support active living gain health benefits, economic advantages and improved quality of life.

Physical fitness is maintained by a range of physical activities. Physical activity is defined by the World Health Organization as "any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure." Human factors and social influences are important in starting and maintaining such activities. Social environments can influence motivation and persistence, through pressures towards social conformity.

Transportation Alternatives

Transportation Alternatives is a non-profit organization in New York City which works to change New York City's transportation priorities to encourage and increase non-polluting, quiet, city-friendly travel and decrease automobile use. TransAlt seeks a transportation system based on a "Green Transportation Hierarchy" giving preference to modes of travel based on their relative benefits and costs to society. To achieve these goals, T.A. works in five areas: Cycling, Walking and Traffic Calming, Car-Free Parks, Safe Streets and Sensible Transportation. Promotional activities include large group bicycle rides.

Complete streets Transportation policy and design approach

Complete streets is a transportation policy and design approach that requires streets to be planned, designed, operated and maintained to enable safe, convenient and comfortable travel and access for users of all ages and abilities regardless of their mode of transportation. Complete Streets allow for safe travel by those walking, cycling, driving automobiles, riding public transportation, or delivering goods.

California Bicycle Coalition

California Bicycle Coalition, also known as CalBike, is an advocacy organization based in Sacramento that seeks to expand bicycling in the U.S. state of California. A related organization, the California Bicycle Coalition Education Fund, conducts solely charitable functions. The California Bicycle Coalition was founded in 1994.

Walkability Measure of pedestrianism in an area

Walkability is a measure of how friendly an area is to walking. Walkability has health, environmental, and economic benefits. Factors influencing walkability include the presence or absence and quality of footpaths, sidewalks or other pedestrian rights-of-way, traffic and road conditions, land use patterns, building accessibility, and safety, among others. Walkability is an important concept in sustainable urban design. Project Drawdown describes making cities walkable as an important solution in the toolkit for adapting cities to climate change: it reduces carbon emissions, and improves quality of life.

Exercise trends

Worldwide there has been a large shift towards less physically demanding work and a more sedentary lifestyle. This has been accompanied by increasing use of mechanized transportation, automobile dependency, a greater prevalence of labor saving technology in the home, and less active recreational pursuits. At least 31% of the world's population does not get sufficient physical exercise. This is true in almost all developed and developing countries, and among children. Some experts refer to sitting as "the new smoking" because of its negative effects on overall health.

Active mobility Unmotorised transport powered by activity

Active mobility, active travel, active transport or active transportation is the transport of people or goods, through non-motorized means, based around human physical activity. The best-known forms of active mobility are walking and cycling, though other modes include running, skateboarding, kick scooters and roller skates. Due to its prevalence, cycling is sometimes considered separately from the other forms of active mobility.

Healthy community design

Healthy community design is planning and designing communities that make it easier for people to live healthy lives. Healthy community design offers important benefits:

Below are the known health impacts of light rail systems.

Bikeway safety

Safety of dedicated or segregated cycle facilities is controversial. Proponents say that segregation of cyclists from fast or frequent motorized traffic is necessary to provide a safe cycling environment. For example, a 2010 Montreal study found that cycle tracks were associated with fewer injuries when compared to comparable parallel roads with no cycling facilities.


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