Walking School Buses and Bicycle Trains

Explanation: By encouraging groups of students to walk or bicycle to school together, Walking School Buses and Bicycle Trains effectively address a variety of parental concerns about safety.  These programs can be part of an organized school-wide effort, with trained safety leaders and multiple groups walking or bicycling from different neighborhoods to the school. Or informal groups of children can meet up to walk, skateboard, scooter, or ride together. Younger students can be accompanied by an adult volunteer or older student. Walking School Buses and Bike Trains are effective tools for reducing traffic safety risk and improving personal safety.[44] They reduce the risk of bullying and other personal harm by bringing more eyes and ears to the street, a known crime reduction technique. They also build social cohesion and can even reduce tardiness.

Option 1: District supports the creation of Walking School Bus and Bicycle Train programs at each school. 


Option 2: District encourages individual schools to promote and organize Walking School Bus and Bicycle Train programs.  If requested by an individual school, District shall work with such school to organize a Walking School Bus and Bicycle Train program.


Option 3: District requires that individual schools establish and promote regular Walking School Bus or Bicycle Train programs.  Such programs shall occur on a regular basis, at least [one per week].


Do not include this element in my policy.

Legal Note on Liability and Walking School Buses: School districts are often concerned about their potential exposure to liability if a child were to be injured while participating in a Walking School Bus or Bicycle Train program.  Although liability rules vary from state to state, districts are generally entirely immune from liability for decisions to simply sponsor or endorse a program such as a Walking School Bus or Bicycle Train program.[45]  Sponsoring a program can involve allowing it to take place, informing families about it, or providing funding or other support. 

In some states, districts are also protected from liability for running or implementing programs like a Walking School Bus or Bicycle Train program.[46] In other states they are not.[47] This means that running a program may involve more risk of liability.  However, districts can still implement Walking School Buses and Bicycle Trains, and they can limit their liability risk by taking commonsense steps.  For example, they should develop safety rules for the programs, anticipate possible hazards to participants, and, where possible, implement reasonable precautions to avoid such hazards.

Legal Note on Criminal Background Checks: As school districts increasingly require volunteers to undergo criminal background checks, adults supervising Walking School Bus and Bicycle Train programs may be subject to these same rules.

State laws regarding criminal background checks of school volunteers vary greatly in breadth and scope. Background checks are required in some states[48] and are optional in others;[49] in those states with no explicit law, the decision will fall to individual districts.[50] The requirement may extend only to volunteers who have certain specified levels of contact with students,[51] or may contain an exclusion for parents, guardians, or even grandparents of district students.[52] Some states require fingerprinting as part of the criminal background check of school volunteers[53] and some states require presentation of government-issued identification.[54]

School district volunteer policies will spell out the exact mechanisms of any criminal background check requirement (presumably in compliance in state law where applicable). Individual districts may have discretion as to whether to treat adult participants as school volunteers and subject them to any district policy requiring criminal background checks.


Getting Started

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Each policy is eligible for a given number of stars, depending upon how much the policy contributes to creating a safe and encouraging atmosphere for children to walk and bicycle to school. Some policies are only eligible for one star, others for two stars, and others for three stars. For some policies, selecting a stronger option may provide additional stars.

Users of this document should be aware that every funding source has different requirements governing the appropriate use of their funds. Under U.S. law, no federal funds are permitted to be used for lobbying or to influence, directly or indirectly, specific pieces of pending or proposed legislation at the federal, state, or local levels. Organizations should consult appropriate legal counsel to ensure compliance with all rules, regulations, and restrictions of any funding sources.