Potential Public Health Impact
Safe Routes to School programs ideally use all five complementary strategies outlined previously to reach all primary and secondary school children in participating schools, either through Walk to School Days, walking school busses, or bike brigades.
Reach: In general, Walking School Bus programs have the potential for broad reach. However, the evaluation data from PedNet’s program show that 7.5% (n = 450) of children in participating schools are registered in the program, and it is unclear how representative these students are of the school district’s elementary schoolchildren population. Yet, PedNet has demonstrated a steady increase in participation in their program since the program’s start.
Effectiveness: The intervention is effective at facilitating school and community involvement and student participation as well as increasing awareness around active transport to school, particularly walking. In addition, this intervention may have changed student attitudes toward active transport related to biking to school. At the school where two bike brigades were started, the negative perspective associated with biking to school shifted to a positive one.
Based on the information provided, it is difficult to determine how effective this intervention was at the intended outcome of increasing the number of children walking to school. The growth over time points toward effectiveness, but data were not collected prior to the initiation of the Walking School Bus, and therefore, no claims can be made about its effects on the number of children actively transporting themselves to school on a regular basis (i.e., it cannot be determined if more children are walking to school now than before the program began).
Adoption: This model seems highly adoptable. Eleven of the 19 schools in the district have adopted the program. This number has grown steadily over time providing support for the program’s adoptability. This model may not be as adoptable to rural environments as it is for urban or suburban environments, where homes may be closer to schools. Access to a university or other significant volunteer populations also seems to be a factor in adoptability.
Implementation: Extensive materials are provided to support efforts to implement walking school busses. However, little information is provided on the fidelity of implementation. This model seems easily implemented with the guidance documents, materials, and protocol developed by PedNet. It should be noted that this model requires resources in the form of volunteers, paid coordinators, and funding for environmental changes if they are necessary to create safe walking and biking routes. Funding to maintain and grow a program is essential (See Resources Required section for estimated costs of program operation).
Maintenance: The program has been maintained and steadily grown since 2005 as shown by the number of schools and participants involved, suggesting that it can be maintained over time. Once in place, maintenance is feasible if external factors cooperate.