Designated Starting Points

Whether there aren’t safe routes from every participant’s home, you want to include bus riders or you want to have a party with a school-wide walk, there are many times when identifying specific starting points for walking and bicycling to school make sense. Ideally, the route will be accessible to students and adults with physical disabilities. One way to check is to conduct a walk or bike audit before the event to determine the best route to school.

So how might these events look? Here are some ideas that can be mixed and matched into an event that’s right for your community:

Park n Go: Pick a designated meeting area within walking distance of the school that will enable families to park their cars and walk or bike to school. If parents won’t be required to walk or ride with their children, then adult chaperones should be ready to travel to school with students.

Hold a parade: Invite elected officials, parents and students to meet in one location and walk or bicycle to school parade-style! Carry banners or ask police to escort your group to increase the fanfare of your event.  The event fliers should include the location and meeting time, as well as the time the group will leave the site to get to school.

We meet in the parking lot of the town’s grocery store and walked the one-mile to school. We had many parent volunteers and local police assisted in safe crossing. The police captain walked with us. Area Business donated items for door prizes; all students who walked were eligible to win door prizes.
– Event organizer, North Carolina

Ride and stride:  Bus riders are dropped off at the meeting point and are greeted by volunteers and/or school staff to make the rest of the trip on foot. First they “ride” the bus, then they “stride” to school! Look for a drop-off spot where buses will be able to enter and exit. Make a map for bus drivers so they know the location.

Our students live too far away from school and there are no sidewalks, so all children ride the bus. For our Walk to School Day, we are having parents and bus drivers drop the students off in the subdivision next to our school. Staff members will meet them and walk back together.

-Event organizer, Michigan

Our mascot rode the bus and then walked with the kids doing ride and stride and ended up with a picture in the local newspaper!
– Event organizer, Colorado

Multiple meet-ups: Designate meeting points that match the different directions that students come from. Each route can have a special name such as the “Southern Neighborhood Cyclists” or “West Street Walking School Bus.” Groups depart from respective locations and meet at the school.  

Publicize the routes and include departure times. Identify at least one person to act as coordinator at each remote meeting point. This person can make any necessary announcements and get the group walking or riding on time.

This strategy can be particularly good when the event will launch weekly or daily walking school buses or bicycle trains or to promote certain routes to school. It’s also smart when you expect a lot of participants.

Our walk to school this morning was so much fun! We had 72 students and 20 parents take the Eagle Ankle Express. Next year will be bigger than ever.

-Teacher, Tennessee

Considerations for Using Designated Meeting Points

  • Possible locations might include a library, park, grocery store or church.
  • Make sure there is enough parking.
  • Obtain permission to use the location from the property owner before publicizing the event.  
  • Think about how far the location is from the school and what route the group will take.
  • Try walking or biking the route once, with a child if you can. Sometimes the longer route is better if it has safer facilities like sidewalks, crosswalks and pedestrian signals as opposed to a more direct route.
  • It may be helpful to hand out route maps to parents, teachers and other adult participants.  You can easily map and share your routes with Google Maps.

Great Ideas for Group Walking

Event organizers say that students really enjoy being involved in the preparations for an organized group walk. Encourage students to make signs and banners that they can carry during the parade. Choose a theme or a slogan that students can chant and put on their signs. Get guidance on how to encourage students to make great event signs, or download a banner template to print out for your school.

  • Invite the school mascot or wear school colors while walking.
  • Carry colorful balloons and signs with safety messages during the walk.
  • Decorate some of the route sidewalks with sidewalk chalk before the event.
  • Have students design promotional materials like banners and signs.

Great Ideas for Group Bicycling

  • Ham it up. Decorate the bicycles or helmets.
  • Show school or team pride. Wear school colors or matching t-shirts while bicycling.
  • Have students design promotional materials like banners and signs.
  • Decorate some of the bicycling route before the event.
  • Invite local bicycling advocates, police officers who patrol on bikes, dignitaries, or local high school champions to lead the ride.