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Walk and Bike to School Safely

Children need a minimum of 60 minutes of physical activity everyday. Walking or riding a bike to school, and even the short walk to the bus stop can be a great way to help your child be active and to teach them important safety skills.

Children who walk or bike to school arrive alert, having burned off a little energy, and are more ready to learn. Regardless of how your child gets to school, here are a few tips to help them arrive safely.

Basic safety tips all children should know:

  1. Always stop, look, and listen, especially while crossing. Look left, look right, then left again, before stepping past any curb or edge.
  2. Be seen!
  3. Don’t cross behind a bus, van or large SUV.
  4. Walk, don’t run!
  5. Know what traffic signs and signals mean and follow them.
  6. Choose the best place to walk:
    1. Face traffic.
    2. Use the sidewalks.
    3. If your school has designated routes for walking, use them.

When biking:

  1. Always wear a helmet and make sure it is fastened.
  2. Always check your bike using the ABCs. A for air in the tires, B for brakes and C for the chain and pedal crank.
  3. On the road, always ride in the same direction as traffic; a car is not looking for an oncoming bike on the wrong side of the road.
  4. On the sidewalk, check for cars before you cross a side street.
  5. When pulling out of a driveway, always stop, look left, right, then left again before you enter the street.

As parents, make sure your child knows the basic traffic rules and hand signals as well as the rules your child’s school has for walking, biking, and riding the bus.

Children up to eleven generally don’t have the skills to handle traffic and should be supervised. Their physical differences also present safety challenges.

  • Their height makes it difficult to see and be seen by motorists, especially around obstacles such as parked cars or buses. This is a big problem in front of schools during drop-off and pick-up.
  • Their peripheral vision is much narrower, so they may not see a car approaching from the right or left as early as an adult would.
  • They have difficulty judging a car's speed and often believe a car can stop instantly.
  • They also often believe that if they can see the driver, the driver can see them!

As an adult, be a good role model and use good pedestrian and bicycle skills. This includes always wearing a bike helmet when riding.

And a few words to motorists:

  • Observe the speed limit. The faster the car is driving the more serious the injury to a child will be. 25 mph means 25, not 30.
  • Around school zones, playgrounds and neighborhoods, drive as though you expect a child to dart into the road. 
  • When turning left at a green light or making a right on red, always look for pedestrians as well as cars. Remember, pedestrians always have the right of way in crosswalks and intersections. You are required by law to stop.

For more information on safely walking and biking to school, visit the Safe Routes to School website.