Back to school is a great time for your students to begin new routines. We recommend including tips for students to get to school using active transportation in your return to school plan. In addition to highlighting the importance of daily physical activity, inspiring your students to use active transportation to get to school includes the following benefits:
- Students show up to school ready to learn.
- Higher student achievement and academic performance.
- Less traffic and better air quality around the school.
Here are some tips to share with parents and students so everyone feels confident and safe using active transportation methods on the school commute.
Walkers & Bikers
- Plan the route to take to and from school and test it. Try it out with the family and make it a relaxing and fun excursion by including trip to the playground or a favorite park along the way. In this way, you won’t be rushed to meet the school bell and will have time to talk about any skills needed and/or issues encountered along the route.
- Think bright and light when dressing for the commute. Wear clothing and jackets in bright colors with reflective materials for visibility to drivers and other pedestrians and bicyclists. Consider using a backpack with a padded back and wide straps for extra comfort.
- Start a Walking School Bus or Bike Train in your neighborhood Connect with other parents along the route and work together or rotate who will supervise the students during the commute.
- While waiting for the school bus, stay out of the street and stand at least six feet away from the curb.
- Wait until the bus is fully stopped with the doors open before boarding.
- If you need to cross a street to board the bus, make sure to look both ways to ensure vehicles have stopped and the bus driver has given you the OK to proceed to board the bus. Then cross the street at least 10 feet in front of the bus so the driver can see you while you are crossing the street. Make eye contact with the driver of the bus as you cross the road and cross in front of the bus for added safety.
- When driving, stay calm, proceed with caution, avoid distractions, be aware of your surroundings, and look out for other students on their commute to school.
- Make sure cell phones are put away during the commute and the radio volume is low so that you can hear students around your vehicle.
- Be aware of the rules at the school drop-off area regarding speed limits, bus warnings, and no parking/standing.
- Make it a priority to ensure students arrive to school safely.
- To reduce congestion around the school, consider a remote drop-off location. Identify a safe place to park your vehicle where you can walk a short distance to school with your student. You’ll get the benefits of the walk, less traffic to navigate, and reduced emissions directly around the school.
Creating a climate of respect and cooperation for the various active transportation modes students use to get to school will help to keep students safe and out of harm’s way.
Promoting active transportation options at the school and/or district level is important at the administrative level too:
- Include information about active travel options on the school website and at orientation. Highlight any walking school buses, walking routes, bike trains, bike racks, remote drop-off locations, changes to bus stops, and proper drop-off procedures.
- Share any maps, routes, Safe Routes to School program tips, and other pertinent information on the school website, via email, and/or in school newsletters.
- Set an example by supporting staff that walk or bike to school. Encourage staff to lead a walking school bus, and lift up staff as featured community champions when joining a walking route for special walking or biking days.
- Create a school safety pledge. Encourage families to pledge that they will be safe drivers, walkers, or bicyclists, including obeying all traffic laws and also taking every possible precaution to ensure their safety as well as the safety of all other students.