Walking-bus: groups of children walking together to school on a regular route under supervision of adults.

Key Innovation
To go to school in safety, walking in small groups

Problematic background and context
Walking bus is an initiative which was taken from some teachers in the Elementary School in Milan to improve the health and the well-being of children by enabling and encouraging them to walk to school. Unfortunately, some negative factors don’t provide safe routes to school. First of all, the position of the school in this zone and the unable urban structure of the sidewalks are main elements for the minimum participation on the “walking bus”. The school is between two basic, frequent avenues and on the narrow sidewalks often parked cars and excrements prevent children from walking safety. Moreover, the lack of communication and cooperation between the users and the administrator, the citizens and the parents doesn’t improve this service. Important note is that the cultural level of the citizens near to school is low and there are many foreigners. The function of this program in another city of Italy some years ago was the main motivation to start this project. After that many problems like the traffic jam outside the school created the necessity to do actively the walking bus.

Solution description
The “walk to school alone” is a project that encourages many children to walk to and from school with the safety of a group under supervision of one or more adults. This kind of activity is supportive by creating safe routes and can be again a safe, fun and pleasant part of children’s daily routine. In this way the children have the opportunity to meet their friends, talk and play with them and share their experiences outside the school. With slow motions the children get their autonomy, and build their personality. Also it is a good exercise for their physical condition and provides parents with an alternative option to take advantage of this daily commitment and exploit their time with other important activities. This project raises the children’s awareness on vital road safety skills, improves the pedestrian safety, the healthy and walkable community environments and gives the possibility for friendlier neighbourhoods as people get out and interact with one another. Finally, it reduces traffic pollution near the school and road traffic crashes involving child pedestrians.

The “walk to school alone” project began in 2000 and is closed in August 2004. Now, the program continues to complete with few voluntaries grandfathers-friends and teachers.

Development phase
The system is based on a service-idea that firstly has been proposed in other countries such as in Usa and Uk which had the same or other kind of problems, and after was developed and expanded here in Italy. Unfortunately there are few cases that have been involved in this situation. But the advantage in the Milanese and in the Italian urban contexts is that this kind of solution was enriched with many activities inside and outside the school.
The overall system can be considered as improved, especially because it has been enriched with other activities inside and outside the project. There were many cultural and art festivals which had main subject “walk to school alone”; those initiaves were useful to improve neighborhood and to sensibilize and activate people to respect children and environment. Many activities such as board game, games outside the school and huge art structure for reducing the noise of the city have enhanced the program.

Revenue/costs model
Nowadays, there aren’t any costs. Before the program was determinated, was supported from a governmental financing. The grandfathers-friends were voluntaries and some teachers for educational programs were paid. Also, was paid the architectural- urban practice ECOPOLIS for urban, environmental, educational activities that it did. Mainly, the amount was exploiting in festivals and stuff for them.

Social evaluation
First of all, walk to school alone refers to a sustainable context in which people don’t use their car, and afterwards they contribute to reducing the traffic, the accidents and the pollution. At the same time it provides the good function of public transport. On a social plane, this system is able to re-build the neighbourhood that existed a lot of time ago and has been lost in the big cities. Improving this system we could have school as a promoter of new ways of living, involving all the people of the community even if they aren’t directly related to it. In this way common people will feel a sense of responsibility towards children, in order to pay attention to younger.

Environmental evaluation
This system contributes to reduce traffic jam, air and acoustic pollution near to school by walking and living the streets with safety and health. In sequence this solution gives an alternative option for the people that are using the car giving them other possibility of sustainable transportation. In this way they reduce the consumption of fuel and improve the environment.

Economical evaluation
This solution gives alternative opportunities to the parents to exploit time for doing other activities and simultaneously save money from the consumption of fuel.

Emilia Douka, Luca Peluso / Politecnico di Milano / Italy