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Walking School Buses Powered by Legs Instead of Wheels

Studies show that fewer children are walking and biking to school, but there’s a new trend in transportation that could reverse that. It’s called the walking school bus, although it has no wheels. Instead, it’s simply a group of children walking to school with one or more adults. The walking school bus is a safe, fun and convenient way to get to class. It also reduces air pollution from extra driving.

Walking school bus programs were trail blazed by the national Safe Routes to School program, which according to the National Center for Safe Routes to School, promotes “sustained efforts by parents, schools, community leaders and local, state, and federal governments to improve the health and well-being of children by enabling and encouraging them to walk and bicycle to school.” The program also seeks to reduce emissions of the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change by shifting the mode of travel away from single family vehicle use.

Now walking school buses are attracting attention across the Bay Area. In fact, The Daily Republic newspaper recently reported that Solano County has set a goal of starting a walking school bus at all 56 elementary schools in the county.

One of the Bay Area’s most established walking school bus programs is in Alameda County. The program is implemented in nearly every school district in the county, for a total of 96 schools in 2012. These include 75 elementary schools, 15 middle schools and six high schools. The program started with just two schools in Oakland in July 2007. A complete list of participating county schools is available from the Alameda County Safe Routes to School Program. The county’s program is funded by a nearly $3 million grant from MTC plus a nearly $380,000 match from Measure B, Alameda County’s half cent transportation sales tax (administered by the Alameda County Transportation Commission). MTC has provided a total of $15 million to Bay Area counties for the Regional Safe Routes to School Program, and it will continue to fund the program at $5 million per year over the next four years.

“We are certainly one of the largest and most comprehensive Safe Routes to School programs in the country,” said Nora Cody, program director for the Safe Routes to School Alameda County Program. “We are very proud of our socioeconomic and geographic equity, serving urban and suburban schools, multiple languages and challenging demographics. We are seeing mode shift, and we are engaging thousands of families who are eager to embrace healthier ways to school.”

– Craig Noble


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