A Best Route map for a neighbourhood walking group, along with pedestrian safety education, is an essential foundation for a Walking School Bus (WSB).
Best Walking or Cycling Routes can be identified and mapped from different quadrants of a school catchment area to assist in the current or future organization of walking school buses and bike trains. Best Routes to School can also serve as important routes to community venues such as local parks, libraries or recreation centres which are often located near schools. Planning for Best Routes is a useful way to involve your community and key stakeholders (municipal staff, police, traffic safety experts) in improving the safety of neighbourhoods for all residents.
Best Route to School maps can also identify safe drop off and pick up locations a block or two away from the school. Students who live a distance from the school and who regularly arrive by car can have an opportunity to walk the last block or two to school. If you designate pick up or drop of locations for this purpose, ensure that you analyze the route for drivers entering and exiting the school neighbourhood and note safe access and exits to and from surrounding arterial roads. Resources to educate and promote responsible and safe driving behaviour include the Driver Safety Awareness section on this website.
A Walking School Bus follows a walking route that is safe (in terms of traffic safety and personal security) and comfortable for pedestrians. This must be planned whether the bus begins from individual children’s homes, or from a central location where families can meet and/or where drivers can safely stop to drop off and pick up students. A Best Route for pedestrians will often differ from a cycling route.
The walking school bus journey requires a printed version of a finalized Best Route Map marked with:
The route, and where necessary identify the side of the street that is considered the safest for a walking group
Meeting places for a safe and convenient start and end for the participants
Possible meeting points, or ‘bus stops’ along the way
Develop and print a Walking School Bus Neighbourhood Best Route Map. Use it to mark where participant families live and to identify where there are marked crosswalks, sidewalks and walkway connections between streets.
Once you have determined the Best Route, walk along it a few times. Note whether one side of the street is better to walk along: does it have a wider boulevard? Is a pedestrian more visible from one position on an intersection than from another? Test the best route to establish that it is indeed a route that will be safe and comfortable for the Walking School Bus group.
Once you have finalized your decision, identify the route on a map and make copies for all families who are part of the Walking School Bus, so that everyone is familiar with the route that the group will take to and from school.