All Aboard the Walking Bus – But Who Can Help?

This week we’ve seen many pupils travelling to school by ‘Walking Bus’ as part of UK Walk to School Week activities. So what is a Walking Bus? Where did the idea come from? And who can help your school get started?

  • The Walking Bus is essentially when a group of children walk to school together in an organised group. The ‘bus’ may be informal with children accompanied by their own parents. Or it may be organised more formally with parents taking it in turns as ‘driver’ and ‘conductor’ to supervise the group.
  • High vis waistcoats are often worn as they keep the group safer near traffic, help with group monitoring and are usually an insurance requirement for formal walking buses.
  • It has plenty of benefits…  it’s fun, sociable, convenient for parents and can boost the number of children walking to school… resulting in less traffic near schools and healthier, active, safer children.
  • The concept was created by Australian author David Engwicht in 1992 and the idea reached the UK six years later when Wheatfields Primary School in Hertfordshire started its own walking bus. The idea spread throughout the county and has since spread across the rest of the UK and abroad.
  • Kent has been particularly successful with its walking buses thanks to the support of the KM Charity team, founded by former newspaper editor Simon Dolby. Since 2004 walking buses have thrived in the county due to an award-winning partnership between local businesses, press, schools, parents, pupils, the local authorities and the KM Charity team. The businesses have provided sponsorship for special events and incentives to promote walking buses. Coverage from the press has helped promote the idea to parents and given the sponsors publicity.
  • Another success story is the Co-operative Group’s walking bus scheme – part of their Green Schools Initiative. Between 2008 and 2015 they provided hundreds of schools across the whole of the UK with free walking bus resources – high vis waistcoats and reflective snapbands to use as incentives. Although these resources are no longer available centrally from the Co-operative Group, registered charities including many schools’ Parent Associations can apply to the Co-operative Group’s Local Community Fund. Look out for our forthcoming blog post on this!
  • As well as resources, schools also need guidance on starting a walking bus. In the past most local authorities have been keen and able to support the schemes by providing risk assessments, guidance, resources and assisting with publicity. Nowadays, due to the tightening on finances, local authorities offer a varying level of support for this depending on local priorities; contact your local road safety team for information on support in your area.

For tips on how to organise your walking bus see our Schemes and Initiatives section.

This article was first published in May 2015 and was updated in November 2016.

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