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walking bus

noun [countable]

an organized group of children who walk to school together accompanied by two or more adults

'For children too young to walk on their own, parents can walk with them. Better still, organise a walking bus and pick up other children along the way.'

The Marlborough Express, New Zealand 9th February 2007

'Transport minister announces "walking buses". Walking bus programs are being implemented in primary schools all over the UK, where children are escorted from a "bus stop" to school in packs by teachers or community volunteers.'

Environmental Transport Association, UK 22nd November 2006

If the roads have suddenly become noticeably quieter during the school run, or if in the mornings you regularly spot an orderly group of walking children flanked by adults in fluorescent tabards, then it's likely that your local school has adopted one of the latest initiatives in the battle to protect the environment – the walking bus.

as well as the obvious health benefits to both children and adults, walking buses have proved to significantly reduce morning traffic congestion

In an effort to encourage walking as a healthy and environmentally-friendly option, a walking bus is a large group of kids who walk to and from school, supervised by two or more adults. A group of volunteer parents organize themselves to take their turn in chaperoning the children, one filling the role of the driver, who leads the group, and the other the conductor, who follows at the back. Like conventional buses, walking bus have designated 'bus stops' (places on the route to school where children can wait to be collected) and scheduled 'pick-up times'.

As well as the obvious health benefits to both children and adults, walking buses have proved to significantly reduce morning traffic congestion. They also help to curb the environmental effects of the morning school run, which is thought to be one of the most polluting journeys a car can make because it is usually associated with short distances and running engines from cold.

On 4th October 2006, a Leicestershire walking bus walked its way into the record books, when a group of 1,346 children and adult volunteers gathered to walk to six schools in Ashby-de-la-Zouch, and in so doing became the world's largest ever walking bus.

Background – walking bus

The walking bus idea originated in the United Kingdom, and the expression has been in general use there since 2004.

Walking bus initiatives have proved extremely popular and effective in the UK, and on 22nd November 2006, transport minister Douglas Alexander announced an investment of £15 million to provide grants for establishing and energising walking bus schemes throughout the country. More recently, walking buses have gained a level of popularity in the United States, Australia and New Zealand.

A related new expression used in the same context is Park and Stride – a scheme where students are dropped off at a designated parking area and complete the rest of their journey to school on foot. This initiative has also proved effective in reducing traffic congestion and levels of pollution in the streets surrounding schools. Park and Stride is a play on the earlier expression Park and Ride, which describes a system where drivers leave their cars in designated parking areas and catch a bus or train into the centre of a town, thereby reducing traffic congestion and parking problems in town centres.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

This article was first published on 1st May 2007.

Open Dictionary

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