skip to main content

→ Top Stories:
Fracking
Safe Chemicals
Defending the Clean Air Act

Kaid Benfield’s Blog

Making cities healthier (and livelier) with a 'walking school bus' and vitality makeover

Kaid Benfield

Posted November 1, 2011 in Health and the Environment, Living Sustainably

Tags:
, , , , ,
Share | | |

  walking school bus in London, Ontario (by: Word Junkie1/leslie, creative commons license)

Three neighboring beach cities in Orange Los Angeles County, California – Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, and Hermosa Beach – are instituting an innovative wellness program based on active living, complete streets, good nutrition, and just plain fun.  At its heart is a “school bus” that kids don’t ride but, instead, carry with them as they walk to school alongside community volunteers.

Madison Park writes on cnn.com:

“At 7:35 a.m. in Southern California, children who've brushed their teeth, combed their hair and stuffed their wheeled backpacks rub their eyes awake and shuffle onto the street.

They gather at the intersection of Agnes Road and 35th Street in Manhattan Beach for the school bus.

“But this school bus doesn't carry the kids. The kids carry it.

“By its handles, the children hoist a yellow bus-shaped sign that reads, ‘Walking School Bus.’ The other students wave triangular orange flags to warn cars to slow down. They walk along the street and stop at another designated spot to pick up more kids at the "bus stop." Adult supervisors follow them for the half-mile walk to the elementary schools.”

walking with baby strollers (by: Stephen Davis, courtesy of Transportation for America)What a welcome change from another a nearby Orange County city, Laguna Beach, which actively discourages kids from walking to school, placing its schools away from its residents.  (My friend Lee Epstein recently wrote about the problem of siting schools in unwalkable locations.) 

According to a recent survey, 60 percent of Manhattan, Redondo and Hermosa residents are overweight or obese.  46 percent report significant stress.  I doubt the numbers for Laguna would be very different.

Manhattan, Redondo and Hermosa are among 50 cities nationwide participating in a voluntary program named Vitalty City.  The program seeks to implement “small changes that add up, such as bike lanes, better pedestrian access, encouraging personal interactions and walking to school,” according to Park.  It’s led by the enthusiastic Dan Buettner, author of Blue Zones: Lessons for living longer from the people who've lived the longest.

Buettner calls parts of the world where people live longer and, he would say, happier, “blue zones.”  His idea is to take lessons from those cultures – such as more walking, less calorie-laden fast food – and make them accessible to American lifestyles.  This is where volunteer walking groups and making streets and sidewalks safer for pedestrians and cyclists come in.

Vitality City was piloted in Albert Lea, Minnesota, a small city of 18,000.  Park’s article continues:

“In Albert Lea, they banned junk food snacking in schools, started walking school buses, organized community walking groups and identified the most socially influential people to spread healthy habits. The three-year project ended with an average weight loss of about three pounds, extended life expectancy of three years and a 40 percent drop in health care costs for the city.”

There’s more in the article, and it’s also summed up nicely in this video:

 

Move your cursor over the images for credit information.

Kaid Benfield writes (almost) daily about community, development, and the environment.  For more posts, see his blog's home page. 

Share | | |

Comments

MarissaNov 1 2011 10:01 AM

What a great idea! But, do they have to close the street for the walking bus?

Nicole MooradianNov 1 2011 01:30 PM

Nitpicky note: Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach are all in Los Angeles County.

Marissa, streets aren't closed for the walking school bus. The kids and chaperones walk on the sidewalk and cross at marked crosswalks, if I remember correctly. I know the Redondo Beach Police Department was consulted on the safest routes for kids to take to the RB elementary schools.

Though as of right now, the walking school buses are a once-per-week deal, one of my sources at the police department told me that they're thinking about expanding it.

Kaid @ NRDCNov 1 2011 02:43 PM

Nicole, thank you for that important (if embarrasing) correction. I had meant to check that before I posted. Sigh.

Comments are closed for this post.

About

Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

Send Me Updates About: Kaid Benfield

As new content on your chosen topic gets posted, you'll receive an automated email via FeedBurner. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Feeds: Stay Plugged In

Feeds: Kaid Benfield’s blog