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Effectiveness: 2 Star Cost: $
Use: Unknown
Time: Short

Walking school buses use volunteer adults, usually parents, to walk a group of students on a specific route to and from school, collecting or dropping off children on the way. Walking school buses have fixed routes, pick-up and drop-off times, and stops. The CDC recommends one adult for every six children in the group; however, twice as many adults may be needed to supervise younger children (National Center for Safe Routes to School & Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center, 2006).

A focus group study in the United Kingdom revealed six factors that influenced parents’ decision-making about walking school buses (Nikitas et al., 2019). Safety was a major concern, and included concerns about road safety (e.g., crossing intersections, speeding vehicles) and stranger danger (e.g., unfamiliar chaperones). Other concerns included uncertainties about logistics, health (e.g., air pollution), emotional needs (e.g., spending time with child when taking them to school), trust (e.g., trust in chaperone, trust in child to behave responsibly), and education (e.g., child may not be aware of road dangers).

Active involvement from communities, schools, and State policymakers are central to the development and maintenance of walking school bus programs (Turner et al. 2013; Pérez-Martín et al., 2018). Particularly, the presence of programs such as Safe Routes to School and school crossing guards, is associated with increased school-organized walking school buses (Turner et al., 2013). Promotional activities such as educational campaigns and policies supporting a comprehensive agenda towards increasing active transport to schools are prerequisites to effective walking school bus programs (Yang et al., 2014). There are two comprehensive resources that can help parents, school staff, and community members plan, launch, and maintain a walking school bus:


One study of U.S. elementary schools found that from 2008 to 2010, the percentage of schools organizing walking school buses increased from 4.2% to 6.2% (Turner et al., 2013). As of September 2021 the total extent of the use of walking school buses is unknown. Localities with active programs include Apex, North Carolina, Seattle, Washington, and El Monte, California.


In a study of fourth grade students from eight low-income schools in Houston researchers examined the impact of walking school buses on several pedestrian behaviors (Mendoza et al., 2012). Researchers found these students were five times more likely to cross at the intersection or crosswalk (rather than midblock locations) as opposed to children at schools without walking school buses. An evaluation of a walking school bus program in Seattle found a modest increase in most student safety crossing behaviors after the implementation of the program, but safe crossing behaviors remained low overall (Johnston et al, 2006).

In terms of mode shift, a pilot study of walking school buses conducted in Spain found that after a 13-week program involving 55 children, 43% of the participants had partially or completely changed their mode of school transportation from automobile to walking (Pérez-Martín et al., 2018). This finding is relevant because in addition to the health benefit of walking, there may be a safety benefit from the reduction in motor vehicle trips near schools.


Walking school buses could cost as little as $500 per school year (PedNet Coalition, 2014).

Time to implement:

Walking school buses could be improved with support from local or State policies, and promotional activities. Once these are in place, planning and implementing the program could take 3 months (Moening et al., 2016).