Want to improve the health, resilience and environment in your community? Consider starting a Walking Bus at your local school.
Walking Buses help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and traffic congestion around schools as well as contributing to improved health and sense of community. It is a fantastic way to get active and meet other members of your community.
A Walking Bus encourages children to walk in a group to school, with an adult driver in the front and an adult conductor' at the rear. The 'bus' travels along a set route to school, picking up children along the way at designated 'bus stops'. 'Bus stops' can be meeting points along the route or each child's front gate.
The bus can go as seldom or as often as volunteers want to drive it and parents and children want to use it. The service is free. Every child is welcome to join the bus, even if their parents aren't able to be drivers.
Safety on the bus is of utmost importance. The route therefore is thoroughly checked for traffic hazards, and the adults wear bright, distinctive sashes or vests to be easily seen. The size of the bus depends on the number of accompanying adults: 8-12 children with two adults is common.
In 2004, South Hobart Primary was the first school in Tasmania to start a Walking Bus with the help of the Hobart City Council and Sustainable Living Tasmania (then Tasmanian Environment Centre) and under a Commonwealth Grant. There are now more than 10 Walking Buses operating in Tasmania including Scottsdale, the first rural Walking Bus, which started in 2009.
Walking Buses are extremely flexible and can suit most schools. Many resources have been developed including a DVD featuring the South Hobart Walking Bus and information for schools considering a Walking Bus sponsored by the Hobart City Council in 2004. More recently developed resources including a Training Manual for Walking Buses in Tasmania can be found on the Sustainable Living Tasmania Website.
Why use the Walking Bus?
Getting to school can be regarded as a chore by parents and children alike. When the pressure is on in the morning, getting the children in the car and dropping them off at school can often seem the quickest and easiest solution.
A Walking Bus can provide an effective, healthy and safe alternative that meets the needs of both parents and child. According to the survey run in Term III 2003, over half of the South Hobart Primary School children were driven to and from school. Inactive children are more likely to be overweight. In addition, traffic congestion is creating a hazard in and around the school. Concern is increasing about the level of pollution in our communities.
Ironically, a sense that it may not be safe for children to walk in this environment can also prompt parents to prefer to use the car, compounding the problem.
Walking Buses are one way to address these concerns and provide a range of benefits to the whole community. There are many in the community who may have an interest in a walking bus operation in your area. These include:
- Parents who want their children to be healthy and get to school safely;
- Teachers who like children to arrive at school alert and motivated;
- Children who can begin their day with an enjoyable social and physical activity;
- Governments who aim to provide an environment that supports quality education and a healthy and productive community;
- The community who can benefit from a stronger sense of connectedness and a healthier environment;
- People who want to improve air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
What are the benefits for children?
Walking Buses can assist children to:
• Get to school safely, conveniently and on time;
• Get regular physical activity and exercise;
• Gain a sense of independence;
• Develop as individuals through involvement in a responsible and disciplined activity;
• Experience being part of a group or team;
• Learn about traffic safety and good road sense;
• Become more familiar with their own neighbourhood and surroundings;
• Have a chance to build friendships;
• Have fun getting to school;
• Arrive at school alert and ready to learn.
What are the benefits for parents?
Walking Buses can assist parents to:
• Feel confident their children are healthier;
• Save money;
• Get their children to school safely and on time;
• Help their children get to know the neighbourhood and make new friends;
• Reduce pressure and gain extra time when they don't have to accompany their children to school every day.
For parents who become drivers or conductors there are the added benefits of:
• Regular physical activity and exercise;
• Becoming part of a community activity;
• Increasing community connectedness getting to know new people, parents, community members and other children.
School communities wanting more information or support in starting a Walking Bus should contact Sustainable Living Tasmania on (03) 6234 5566 or email Lissa Villeneuve.