Alternative Fuel and Transportation

Published on September 3rd, 2009 | by Jennifer Lance


Back to School Transportation: Walk, Carpool, Bike, or Bus?

It’s back to school time, with many districts already well underway and other schools just beginning their academic years.  Each year, families make decisions on how best to transport their children to and from school based upon financial and scheduling concerns, but how many families consider the carbon footprint of their child’s pathways from home to school?  Here’s a low down on the most popular methods of getting to school:

Photo by pawpaw67How does your child get to school?

How does your child get to school?

Riding the Bus: If you live several miles from school or in an unsafe neighborhood, riding the bus is your best solution for school transportation. Whether it is the big yellow bus provided by the school district or riding on public transportation, mass transit is always a carbon friendly solution. Consider what New Dreams News says on the subject:

What is less known is that school buses are far and away the safest form of motorized transport in the US.  What’s more, full school buses get better per person gas mileage and lower carbon emissions.  And consider this: You might also be robbing your child of one of the greatest exercises in socialization ever–think the closing scenes of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, directed by the late John Hughes.

Of course, many school buses are grossly inefficient and emit dangerous emissions, but some districts have moved towards biodiesel and hybrid models.

Pedal Your Bike: Riding a bike to school is faster than walking, and a great way to combat childhood obesity.  Even the youngest child can ride to school with their parents.  Bike riding doesn’t have to be done solo, and it will lay a great foundation for running errands via pedal power later in life.

Pedestrian Style: When I was a child, I loved to walk to school. The truth be told, I was afraid of the big yellow bus, and my friends teased me when my mom would drop me off in her car.  I didn’t like pedaling uphill, and all my friends walked. Yes, peer pressure made me a walker, and I am thankful for it to this day!  Of course, there’s safety in numbers, so if you cannot walk your child in the morning, perhaps they can buddy up with a school aged neighbor or senior citizen for a little morning promenade.  Unfortunately, walking to school has declined in popularity.  New American Dream writes, “According to the National Household Travel Survey ‘In 1969, 40 percent of students in the United States walked to school; in 2001, the most recent year data was collected, 13 percent did.'”

Carpool: Carpooling is a better alternative to one family driving to school, but ahhh, the horror stories!

Walking school buses is a new concept that organizes students to walk to school together, so they don’t miss those wonderful social experiences on the big yellow bus.  Planet Green explains:

The concept is simple: Like a carpool without the car, a group of neighborhood children walk together to school, picking each child up along way; with adult supervision of course. It doesn’t have to be a bus load of kids, even two or three families can figure out convenient meeting places, come up with a route, agree on a time table and a rotating schedule of volunteers, and create their own walking school bus.  If your child prefers to bike ride, easy fix– take the walking bus concept and create a bicycle train instead. It’s a perfect alternative for families who live slightly further away from school.

Walking school buses and bicycle trains, now that’s a carbon friendly way to get to school!

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