Walk and Bike to School Events

Walk and bike to school events are planned activities designed to enhance and support SRTS programs by providing a specific occasion to involve students in walking or biking to school. These events are not only fun ways to get students and parents excited about walking and biking but they also enable students to learn the benefits of walking and biking to school and begin fostering a culture of active transportation to school. Some examples of walk and bike events include:

  • Walking School Bus  Adults supervise groups of children as they walk designated routes to school and pick up kids along the way.
  • Walk to School Parade – Kids & parents meet at a specific location to walk to school together.
  • Bike Train – A group of children bike to school together accompanied by adult supervision.
  • Bike Rodeo – A fun event that provides children with a basic understanding of effective cycling through stations that teach bicycling skills and educate about bike safety and rules of the road.
  • Campus Walks/Walk at School – If conditions are unsafe for walking to school, campus walks or a walk at school event like a walk-a-thon can be held.

Why Hold Walk and Bike to School Events?

Walk and bike to school events benefit everyone!

  • Promote Healthy Lifestyles – Integrates physical activity, helping students and adults incorporate walking and biking into a daily routine.
  • Strengthen the Community – Neighbors have an opportunity to interact with each other while walking and biking to school, forging a stronger sense of community.
  • Raise Environmental Awareness – Walking and biking to school results in fewer vehicles on the streets, thereby reducing air pollution and traffic congestion.
  • Foster Safer Streets – Focus on improving street and sidewalk conditions and security throughout the community increases when there is more pedestrian and bicycle movement.
  • Promote Walking and Biking Safely – Children learn life skills from adults accompanying them on walks, helping them to develop road safety and personal awareness skills.
  • Increase School Spirit – Children and adults unite and celebrate the event while taking pride in what they are doing.
  • Help to Kick-Start an SRTS Program – Often when students and their parents try walking and bicycling, they see how fun and easy it is, as well as what needs to be done to make school route conditions better and safer.

Here are more Reasons to Participate in Walk to School Events!

Who Plans a Walk and Bike Event?

  • Planners – A leader is essential, someone who is willing and able to begin the process and take charge by getting others involved and forming a team. (Click Build your Safe Routes Team for more information.) The team can include parents, teachers, principals, local community groups, etc. Keep your team small until you are ready to build up and designate tasks to additional team members.
  • Participants – Students, parents, teachers, school  staff, law enforcement, mayors, council  members, local celebrities, community organizations and many more can take part. Invite the media to promote and share your big day. Involve local politicians and encourage sponsors for the event.
  • Facilitators – You can contact your SRTS Regional Coordinator for assistance. There are also organizations that can help you with your walk and bike to school event such as the NJ Bicycle and Pedestrian Resource Center.

When Should Walk and Bike Events Be Held?

  • Walk and Bike to School Month in October – October marks Walk to School Month in New Jersey. International Walk to School Day (iwalk) takes place on the first Wednesday of October and is celebrated in over 40 countries by millions of walking participants.  However, walk and bike to school events can take many forms, and can be held any time throughout the school year.
  • NJ Walk and Bike to School Week in May – The Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Transportation named the fourth week in May as New Jersey’s official walk and bike to school week.
  • Walk and Bike to School Anytime! – Walk and bike to school events can be held throughout the school year. Some schools have designated the first Wednesday of every month as “Walking Wednesday”. Others have chosen to promote walking and biking to school on holidays or in conjunction with school functions. Halloween is an exciting day for children to parade to school in their costumes. Walking to the polls on Election Day has also become popular. Earth Day in April is a great time to promote walking and biking to school while celebrating the environment. May is Bike Month and bike rodeos can be held on early dismissal days when students can choose to participate in activities rather than go home early.

Keep in mind for planning when to hold the event:

  • Plan early. These types of events take time to plan in order to be successful. Begin planning in the spring for an event held in the fall.
  • Do not worry about the weather if it rains. Prove that you can walk to school any day and in all kinds of conditions.

Contact your SRTS Regional Coordinator for help with planning a walk and bike event in your community.

How to Plan a Walk and Bike to School Event

Once you have decided on the type of walk and bike event you would like to hold (bike train, bike rodeo, walking school bus or parade, etc.), planning the event takes a little time and coordination.

Completing a planning document such as a Safe Routes School Travel Plan is recommended for any community interested in implementing a walk or bike to school event or any SRTS program such as a walking school bus or parade.  The main goal of the travel plan is to create safer routes for walking and bicycling by identifying problem areas and proposing solutions.

To plan a walk or bike to school event, here is a list of steps with details and sample documents to get one going in your community:

Start Small and Keep It Manageable

Select one person from each list to be your partners and begin planning your event (however, you can and will want bring others in later as you move ahead with the planning and implementation of your event):

  • School:  Board of Education, School Superintendent, Principal, Teacher, Nurse
  • Municipality:  Mayor or Administrator, City Council Member, Police, Health Department
  • Community:  Parent(s), Advocacy Group(s), Community Group(s), Local Business(es)

Identify Goals and Roles

  • Decide on the Type of Event – Make sure it is compatible with your community and available resources. If your school has a Travel Plan, use it as a guide to plan your event.
  • Pick a date – Decide when to hold your Walk or Bike to School Day. Begin planning 4-5 months prior to event date. Will it be during International Walk to School Month? Will it be for one day? A whole week? Every week? Check for scheduling conflicts and develop a schedule.
  • Form a Team – Determine what types of and how many volunteers will be needed. For example, will you need crossing guards? Click Build your Safe Routes Team for more information on recruiting volunteers to help with your walk and bike to school event.
  • Reach out to local businesses to see if they would be interested in sponsoring the event or supplying food/small rewards to the participants at the end of their walk. Here are some documents that can help with recruiting partners and sponsors:
  • Determine whether or not you want to hold other activities during your event or leading up to it.
  • Identify responsibilities (who does what) and get commitments to participate.
  • Plan for contingencies, such as inclement weather.   Some schools provide promotional ponchos for rainy walks; others move their celebrations into the gym; other events occur rain or shine.
  • Contact your SRTS Regional Coordinator for assistance.  There are also organizations that can help you with your walk and bike to school event such as the NJ Bicycle and Pedestrian Resource Center.

Publicize, Promote, Advertise!

  • Pick a theme for your event – pedestrian safety, physical activity, the environment, etc.
  • Inform and invite the media to the event.  Use the Sample Media Advisory Template which  can be tailored to your walk and bike event.
  • Invite local officials/celebrities to be part of your event.  Ask your municipal government and/or Board of Education to pass a Sample Model Resolution of Support–Municipality and BOE or Sample Proclamation to show support of your walk and bike to school event(s).
  • Distribute promotional material and safety information to potential participants.

Hold the Event

  • Appoint someone as a leader to make “on the spot” decisions.
  • Don’t worry about the weather — walking in the rain can be fun!
  • Be flexible, have fun and afterwards, celebrate!

Document the Event and Start Planning for More!

  • Record your successes and note any improvements or adjustments that could be made.
  • Take lots of photos!
  • Start planning another walk and bike event!  Here are some ideas to create a Month of Walking Activities

Provide Incentives

The following are suggestions for incentives that might be offered to increase participation in walk and bike to school events. Prizes should be fun, not elaborate or expensive.

  • Golden Sneakers – A “golden sneaker” award is a lot like ice hockey’s Stanley Cup. Paint some sneakers gold to make a trophy and reward a student or class for their walking efforts. The trophy can be passed on to new winners of walking events.
  • Small Tokens – Greet students and provide stickers or certificates for walking to school.
  • Frequent Walker Cards – Distribute cards that can be punched when students walk or bike to school. When the card is full, congratulate the student with a prize and award a new card.
  • Walk/Bike Across America – Students calculate the distance traveled by the entire class within a given time period and plot it on a map. Classes with the longest distance traveled are rewarded.
  • School Breakfast – Host a healthy breakfast when children arrive on a walk to school day.
  • Partner with local bicycle stores – Invite local bicycle stores to your event and have them demonstrate safe riding skills to the students.
  • Local Police – Invite local police enforcement to promote safety on the streets and sidewalks.
  • Other ideas – here are some more Ideas to Make Walk and Bike Events Memorable

Print out a Walk and Bike Event Check List to help with planning!

Getting Started Toolkit