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Walking bus report - UCL

VIEWS: 4 PAGES: 85

									WALKING BUSES IN HERTFORDSHIRE:
IMPACTS AND LESSONS

Roger Mackett, Lindsey Lucas, James Paskins, Jill Turbin
Centre for Transport Studies,
University College London

November 2005




For further information please contact:
Professor Roger Mackett
Centre for Transport Studies
University College London
Chadwick Building
Gower Street
London
WC1E 6BT
Tel: 020 7679 1554 (International: +44 20 7679 1554)
E-mail: rlm@transport.ucl.ac.uk
CONTENTS

                                                                               Page
          Executive summary                                                      iii
1         Introduction                                                            1
2         The evaluation framework                                                3
 2.1      The postal survey                                                       3
 2.2      The case studies                                                        4
 2.3      Research activities                                                     5
 2.4      Interviews with head teachers and walking bus co-ordinators at the      6
          case study schools
 2.5      Interviews with children at the case study schools                      6
 2.6      Interviews with parents at the case study schools                       8
 2.7      Reporting and the presentation of data                                  9
 2.8      Reporting and confidentiality                                           9
 2.9      The involvement of Hertfordshire County Council (HCC)                  10
3         The walking buses studied                                              10
 3.1      The postal survey                                                      10
 3.2      The case study approach                                                12
 3.3      Hillshott Walking Bus                                                  13
 3.4      Layston Walking Bus                                                    15
 3.5      Lordship Walking Bus                                                   17
 3.6      Mandeville Walking Bus                                                 19
 3.7      Millfield Walking Bus                                                  21
 3.8      Differences and similarities between the case study walking buses      24
4         Objectives and outcomes                                                25
 4.1      The objectives and outcomes identified in the postal survey            26
 4.2      The initial objectives for the walking buses in the case study         28
          schools
 4.3      Achieving objectives: stakeholder perceptions                          29
 4.4      Modal shift: reducing car use                                          30
  4.4.1   The schools in the postal survey                                       30
  4.4.2   Modal shift in the case study schools: children                        31
  4.4.3   Modal shift in the case study schools: families                        33
  4.4.4   Modal shift and car use in the case study schools                      35
  4.4.5   Changes in the distances travelled                                     36
  4.4.6   Overview                                                               39
5         Benefits and disadvantages: a stakeholder perspective                  41
 5.1      Head teachers and co-ordinators                                        42
 5.2      Benefits as perceived by parents and children                          42
 5.3      Negative aspects of the walking bus as perceived by parents and        46
          children
 5.4      Time savings and losses                                                49
6         The walking bus life cycle: changes in take-up and                     51
          participation
 6.1      Changes in participation of children                                   51
 6.2      Changes in participation of volunteers                                 55
 6.3      The closure of walking buses                                           56
7         Implementation and process issues                                      57
 7.1      Modal shift: a problem of implementation?                              57
 7.2      The walking bus life cycle: recruitment and retention issues           60


                                        i
8       Operation and organisation                    64
  8.1   The organisation of volunteers                65
  8.2   The role of the co-ordinator                  65
  8.3   Formal and informal walking buses             66
  8.4   The school and external sources of support    68
9       The initiative for setting up walking buses   69
10      The barriers to walking buses                 71
11      The future potential for walking buses        73
12      Conclusions                                   75
        Acknowledgements                              78
        References                                    78




                                     ii
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Walking buses have been set up at many schools in Britain as a way of providing an
alternative to the car as a means of travel to school. A walking bus is a group of
children who walk to school along a set route, collecting other children along the way
at ‘bus stops’, escorted by several adult volunteers, one of whom is at the front (‘the
driver’) and another is at the back (‘the conductor’). Each walking bus has a co-
ordinator who ensures that there are sufficient volunteers and registers the children
who wish to use it.

The report examines a number of walking buses that have been set up in
Hertfordshire, the area immediately to the north of London. The purpose of the
evaluation of walking buses is to establish what the effects of walking bus are, and, as
far as possible, establish a methodology that can be used to examine systematically
initiatives to encourage children to use alternatives to the car, such as cycle training and
pedestrian skills training, as well as walking buses. The data collected for the evaluation
exercise comprises two parts: a postal questionnaire to schools across Hertfordshire
and more detailed research on five case study walking buses within the county. This
report presents the results from these two surveys.

In Hertfordshire, the number of walking buses grew rapidly from one in early 1998.
Four years later, there were 68 in 41 schools registered in the county. One year after
that, there were 26 at 22 schools registered. This suggests that the number may have
peaked. The walking buses had an average of 14 children registered to use them, with
a range from 3 to 41. On average, 10 children used each walking bus, escorted by
three or four volunteers. The children ranged in age from Nursery (age 3-4) up to
Year 6 (age 10-11) but there was a clear peak in Year 2 (age 6-7), with a tailing off
amongst older children.

Of the 26 walking buses for which detailed information was supplied in the postal
survey, twelve had ceased to operate by the time of the survey. In nine cases this was
because of a lack of volunteers to escort the walking bus. For three of them, nobody
was available to co-ordinate that walking bus. Five walking buses closed because
there were too few children. Three of these also had a shortage of volunteers. In only
one case was the closure of the walking bus not associated with a shortage of one or
more out of children, volunteers and a co-ordinator. Walking buses have not been
closed because they did not achieve the objectives for which they were set up.

For head teachers, the main objectives of setting up walking buses were to relieve
traffic congestion around the school, and to increase walking, particularly to give the
children more exercise. The walking buses were seen as fairly successful in achieving
these objectives. When the views of the head teachers of schools that had set up
walking buses were compared with those of schools that had not, it was found that the
former had greater recognition of the social aspects of walking buses whereas the
latter have greater expectations in terms of reducing congestion, and improving the
children’s road safety skills and mental alertness.

About 62% of the children using walking buses had previously travelled to school by
car. Some children used the walking bus fewer than five days a week. Overall, the
reduction in the number of children travelling by car seems to be about 50% of the
number of children on a walking bus. On average, each child who previously


                                            iii
travelled by car who switched to walking, walked for 22 minutes on the walking bus
each time it was used. For a child that uses the walking bus every day, this is nearly
two hours of extra physical activity a week. Putting these two concepts together,
suggests that walking buses can make a significant contribution to children’s volumes
of physical activity.

Given that only a small proportion of the children at a school use a walking bus, it
would not be expected that there would be an observable reduction in traffic, except,
perhaps, in very specific locations, such as at the school gate. This lack of reduction
in traffic is compounded by the fact that many of the cars would continue to be used
by a parent travelling to work or elsewhere at the time of the school trip.

Walking buses are perceived by all those involved, to have benefits for the children,
the parents and the school, particularly the social benefits to the children and the
more indirect benefits in terms of sending out a visual message as to the importance
of walking.

Some negative outcomes or disadvantages of walking buses were reported by smaller
numbers of respondents. They centred on the perceived lack of benefits, time losses
and negative social outcomes.

Benefits or disadvantages to parents in terms of time saving or losses were seen to be
important in maintaining participation on the walking bus. This becomes even more
critical for those parents acting as volunteers.

Implementation processes were seen as being important in explaining why walking
buses do not attract more car drivers. The availability and location of volunteers
often determines the route of the walking bus such that it loses its strategic capability.
‘Trailblazers’ do not necessarily create pathways for subsequent, more targeted,
walking buses.

Responsibility for maintaining walking buses rests neither with the school, nor with
the walking bus co-ordinator. It could well be that walking buses need a ‘champion’
within the school if they are to be a long-term initiative. This, however, sits uneasily
with their selling point as necessitating little school input.

The contribution of the co-ordinator to the success of the walking bus should not be
overlooked. The personality and organisational ability of the co-ordinator will have
an impact on the operation and long-term future of the walking bus. The loss of an
effective co-ordinator may well have an impact on the continuation of the walking
bus.

There are a number of characteristics of walking buses, which may be useful for
explaining effectiveness and longevity. Formal or informal structures and benefits to
volunteers are amongst some that have been identified by this evaluation exercise.

In the schools in Hertfordshire, the key source of information about walking buses
was Hertfordshire County Council, but the initiative to set up a walking bus often
came from within the school.




                                           iv
The vast majority of head teachers of schools without walking buses were aware of
the concept. The main reason that walking buses have not been set up at these schools
is the lack of parental interest or support. For some schools the nature of the
catchment area would make it difficult to recruit enough children to form a walking
bus. Otherwise the main problems are concerns about traffic danger and the lack of
the head teacher’s time to start the process.

Most of the schools which responded to the postal questionnaire regard children’s
travel to and from school as a policy issue for the school. Of course, one reason that
some schools did not respond to the survey may be because they do not regard travel
to and from school as a relevant issue for them. The schools have taken or intend to
take a wide variety of actions to address travel to school issues, including education
and training of the children, setting up travel plans, and working with the County
Council.

This report illustrates the role and behaviour of walking buses in Hertfordshire.
Given that Hertfordshire is an area where walking buses evolved earlier than many
other parts of Great Britain, there may be useful lessons for interested parties
elsewhere. In particular, it may help to stem the potential decline after the first cohort
of children and their mothers have left the walking bus.

There are a number of good reasons to encourage children to walk rather than go by
car, in terms of their health and the environment, both in the short and long term.
Walking buses can help to break down the barriers to walking perceived by parents
and children, in terms of concerns about the children’s safety, competence and
knowledge. Therefore, walking buses should be encouraged.




                                            v
1       INTRODUCTION

The work described in this report forms part of the output from a project entitled
‘Reducing children’s car use: the health and potential car dependency impacts’ which
was carried out in the Centre for Transport Studies at University College London. The
project was carried out in co-operation with the Environment Department of
Hertfordshire County Council as well as colleagues from the Department of
Epidemiology and Public Health at UCL, the Department of Public Health at the
University of Oxford, the Children’s Health and Exercise Research Centre at the
University of Oxford, and the Royston, Buntingford and Bishop's Stortford Primary
Care Trust. It was funded by the EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences
Research Council) under the Future Integrated Transport (FIT) programme for three
years commencing January 2001.

The objectives of the project were as follows:

    •   To examine the effects of car use on children’s physical activity and health;
    •   To examine the effects of car use by children on their potential long-term car
        dependency;
    •   To develop a framework to evaluate the impacts of travel-to-school initiatives
        systematically.

All the fieldwork was carried out in Hertfordshire, the county immediately to the north
of London. It is a prosperous area with high car ownership levels.

This report is concerned with the third objective of the project which was to develop a
framework to evaluate the impacts of travel-to-school objectives (Mackett et al, 2003a).
Whilst there are many initiatives aimed at encouraging children to use alternatives to the
car to travel to school, there seems to be little evidence of systematic evaluation of them,
to see how effective they are, and whether they represent efficient use of resources.
Walking buses were chosen for evaluation because they are a relatively new
phenomenon to encourage children to use an alternative to the car to travel to school and
sufficiently small that information can be obtained from the key actors. A walking bus is
a group of children who walk to school along a set route, collecting other children along
the way at ‘bus stops’, escorted by several adult volunteers, one of whom is at the front
(‘the driver’) and another is at the back (‘the conductor’). Each walking bus has a co-
ordinator who ensures that there are sufficient volunteers and registers the children who
wish to use it. All the volunteers have undergone training and police checks (or Criminal
Record Disclosures which replaced police checks in April 2002).

The purpose of the evaluation of walking buses is to establish what the effects of
walking bus are, and, as far as possible, establish a methodology that can be used to
examine systematically initiatives to encourage children to use alternatives to the car,
such as cycle training and pedestrian skills training, as well as walking buses. The data
collected for the evaluation exercise comprises two parts: a postal questionnaire to
schools across Hertfordshire (Mackett et al, 2003b, 2003c) and more detailed research on
five case study walking buses within the county. This report presents the results from
these two surveys.

There have been several systematic evaluations of the effectiveness of walking buses as
policy instruments, particularly in New Zealand.


                                             1
In Britain, an evaluation of the walking bus at Pirehill First School in Staffordshire was
carried out by Centre for Alternative and Sustainable Transport (2000). The evaluation
process was integrated with the process of setting up the walking bus. Much of the
information collected was about the parents’ expectations about the impacts of the
walking bus, rather than the impacts of the walking bus itself. This was partly due to the
short time scale involved. Due to the time scale and delay in setting up the walking bus,
the evaluation was short term, with the walking bus starting in the first week of
December and the evaluation period ending in the same month. The evaluation used both
quantitative and qualitative methods. Issues such as time savings for parents were
covered in a qualitative survey, while questions about the social development and health
of the children were only considered in terms of the parents’ expectations. The children’s
views were sought through group discussions and simple analysis of their drawings.
Areas of evaluation included the setting up and implementation process and outcomes of
the walking bus, both positive and negative. They attempted to establish the reduction in
traffic levels as a result of the introduction of the walking bus, but found no decrease, but
they did find some change in the methods of travel to school by the children using the
walking bus.

A more comprehensive evaluation of walking buses was carried out in four schools in
Christchurch, New Zealand (O’Fallon, 2001). As in the Pirehill First School example,
evaluation was carried out as part of the setting-up exercise. The evaluation covered 13
walking buses involving 112 children, 60% of whom had previously walked to school.
The surveys of parents included questions about time savings, changes in car use and the
parents’ perceptions of the changes in the physical activity of the children. The children
were asked what they liked and disliked about using the walking bus. The walking buses
were seen as a success in terms of modal shift, that is, changing the proportion of
children travelling by each form of transport.

Also in Christchurch, New Zealand, Kingham and Ussher (2005) evaluated the walking
bus programme in the city. They found that fifteen schools had set up walking buses in
the period September 2000 to mid-2003, and that by the end of the period, nearly half of
the walking buses had stopped operating and that few had survived for more than
eighteen months. They developed a list of recommendations for durable walking buses.

A detailed evaluation was carried out on the Zippy Walking Bus in Auckland (Kearns,
2001, Kearns et al, 2003). This involved a series of interviews with interested
stakeholders 15 months after the set up of the walking bus. The aim of the evaluation
was to assess the success of the walking bus and weigh up the evidence in support of
extending the coverage. The report focuses on results rather than process issues. The
walking bus was considered to be a success as it was still operating after 15 months with
about 40 children using the walking bus in the afternoon and 15 in the mornings. A key
factor in the success of the walking bus was the enthusiasm of the Safe Journeys
Coalition at the school, which consisted of members of the school staff, parent
representatives and representatives from the local authority. The evaluation recognised
the importance of the role of a non-parent volunteer to the continuity and conviviality
of the present Zippy Walking Bus as experienced by children. It was considered that
commitment by the school was necessary for its ongoing vitality.

Collins and Kearns (2005) carried out a survey of 54 walking buses at 29 schools in
Auckland that had adopted walking buses by November 2002, particularly focusing on


                                             2
the effects on child pedestrian injuries. They found that walking buses tend to be
concentrated in more affluent neighbourhoods, and that they do not have very much
effect on child pedestrian safety.

2         THE EVALUATION FRAMEWORK

The evaluation exercise in this research was formulated around the need to answer
two different types of research questions: firstly, impacts and outcomes, and,
secondly, process and implementation. In terms of the first of these, objectives are
considered from the perspectives of different potential stakeholders and the evaluation
encompasses questions of impact, outcome and benefit. The main research questions
that fall within the scope of impact and outcomes are:

      •   What are the impacts of walking buses on the choice of travel mode (that is,
          the method of travel)?
      •   What are the benefits and disadvantages of walking buses for participants
          (children and parents)?
      •   How sustained are such impacts or benefits?
      •   What (if any) are the broader outcomes of walking buses (for example, for the
          school, for the volunteers, or for environmental or transportation concerns)?

The second area of interest was concerned with process issues. Starting from the
assumption that studying the implementation and operation of walking buses may
offer insight into the degree of success that they demonstrate, the evaluation exercise
sought to collect information that would answer the following questions:

      •   How does the process by which walking buses are implemented influence the
          impacts and benefits?
      •   What problems are encountered in implementing and running a walking bus
          and how are they dealt with?

2.1       The postal survey

The first walking bus in Hertfordshire, and probably in Britain, was set up at Wheatfields
School in St Albans early in 1998 as part of a comprehensive package of measures to
reduce car use to school. By 2001, 50 out of 102 local authorities surveyed for the
Department for Transport had implemented one or more walking buses, and a further 31
planned            to          do            so          (see            http://www.local-
transport.dft.gov.uk/schooltravel/travelplan/index.htm).

By January 2002, 68 walking buses at 41 schools in Hertfordshire had been registered
with the County Council, as shown in Table 1. Questionnaires were sent to the head
teachers of all these schools in May 2002. As shown in the Mackett et al (2003c), it
was in two parts: Part A was about the school's part in setting up the walking bus and
the perception of the benefits, and was to be completed by the head teacher or his or
her nominee. Part B was designed to collect detailed information about each walking
bus and so one was sent for each walking bus at each school for the head teacher to
pass on to the respective co-ordinators for completion. Twenty-six completed Part As
were returned. Part Bs were returned for 26 walking buses at 23 schools. This implies
a response rate of 56% for schools completing Part A and at least one Part B, and 63%
for the return of Part A. Of the 26 walking buses for which detailed information was

                                            3
obtained, 14 were still active at the time of the survey (May 2002), and 12 had ceased
to operate. At one school a second walking bus had been planned but never started,
although the first one was active. This large decline is reflected in the overall picture
for Hertfordshire: by January 2003 there were only 26 walking buses at 22 schools
registered with the County Council.

Table 1        The number of walking buses in Hertfordshire

                                       Schools                Routes
Number at January 2002                   41                     68
Number at January 2003                   22                     26
Number responding to the                 23                    26
survey – full response
Number responding to the                   3                     0
survey – partial response
Source: The postal survey

Thus it seems that walking buses are in decline. This makes this report very timely,
because it can shed some light on the reasons for the decline and help to explain why
some schools have not been or will not be setting up walking buses. In particular, it
may help Hertfordshire County Council, which is already addressing the issues arising
from this decline, to take further action.

In addition, a questionnaire similar to the one sent to the head teachers of schools with
walking buses was sent to other schools in Hertfordshire with children under the age
of 11. It is also shown in Mackett (2003c). This was sent to 464 schools, 58 of which
were in the independent sector. Responses were received from 213 schools, giving a
response rate of 46% for the schools which have not set up walking buses.

2.2    The case studies

The case study evaluation exercise was based upon an in-depth study of five walking
buses, which serve different schools in Hertfordshire. Two of the walking buses were
in Buntingford, a small rural town in the east of Hertfordshire; two were in
Letchworth Garden City, a garden city town in north Hertfordshire; and the last was in
Sawbridgeworth in south-east Hertfordshire. Three of the walking buses were
included in the study because the school were part of Hertfordshire County Council’s
(HCC) Safer Routes to School Initiative (SRS). The other two were chosen because
they had set up walking buses outside this initiative.

The selection process was constrained by the need to select walking buses which were
in the process of being set up, or had been running for only a short period of time. The
three walking buses within SRS: Layston, Mandeville and Millfield, were chosen
because these three schools had opted to set up walking buses at the start of the
initiative. Other schools that could have been included had delayed the setting up of
walking buses. The two schools outside SRS: Hillshott and Lordship, were included
because the timescale of setting up a walking bus fitted into the time period for the
evaluation. The research team worked with the Road Safety Unit of HCC (RSU) to
identify possible launches of walking buses and this meant that a number of schools
were monitored initially but were not included as they did not manage to set up
walking buses.


                                           4
Four of the five schools, Hillshott, Layston, Mandeville and Millfield, also responded
to the postal survey. The walking bus at Lordship was launched after the postal
questionnaire had been sent out.

All the walking buses except one, are associated with schools that are above average
in terms of the children’s achievement in government-specified tests, and below
average in terms of special needs, free school meals and ethnic mix. Only Hillshott
provides an example of an ‘average’ school. Whilst it would have been useful to
include a wider mix of schools in the evaluation, in practice the schools included in
the study are typical of those that have set up walking buses. This may be because
parent participation and partnership tends to be stronger in such schools and this is a
necessary component for setting up a walking bus.

2.3       Research activities

At each of the case study schools a number of related activities were carried out.
These included:

      •   Two interviews with the head teacher;
      •   A series of interviews with the co-ordinator of the walking bus;
      •   Interviews with parents and children who participated in the walking bus;
      •   Timing and mapping the route;
      •   Observation at meetings during the implementation stage for SRS walking
          buses.

Some of these activities took place during the start-up phase of the walking bus. For
example, researchers attended as many meetings as possible prior to the launch of the
walking bus and attended key events such as a ‘walking bus special’. Others such as
the first interviews with head teachers, first interviews with co-ordinators and
interviews with parents and children took place within six months of the start of the
walking bus. This time delay was not so great that respondents could not answer
questions regarding the reasons or objectives for starting a walking bus, but allowed
the researchers to tackle questions about initial outcomes as well. For parents and
children it was also intended to ensure that the walking bus had settled into a routine
and that the initial high drop-out or joining rate of children had subsided. At this stage
the route of the walking bus was mapped and timed by researchers.

The two walking buses outside SRS were incorporated into the study after their
launch. This was caused by difficulties in incorporating other non-SRS walking buses
in the evaluation owing to their failure to launch. Although Hillshott and Lordship
were co-opted as walking buses that were in operation an effort was made at the first
interview stage to address issues of implementation.

At the end of the evaluation exercise, final interviews were carried out with the head
teachers and co-ordinators and a questionnaire sent by post to parents who had been
interviewed at the earlier stage.




                                            5
2.4    Interviews with head teachers and walking bus co-ordinators at the case
study schools

An important part of data collection was the continued input of the head teachers and
walking bus co-ordinators. The latter provided detailed information about the changes
in the walking bus participants and volunteers. This enabled the research to address
some longer term outcomes and issues.

Table 2 shows the timing of interviews with head teachers and co-ordinators.
Interviews with parents and children took place in the period between the first and
second co-ordinator interview. Only three interviews were held with the co-ordinator
of the Lordship walking bus because it was launched after the others. At Millfield, the
walking bus ceased operation in December 2002, so there was no co-ordinator to
interview and it was not possible to interview the head teacher. A new head teacher
was appointed at Hillshott Infants School between the first and second head teacher
interview, so the comments at the second interview do no reflect involvement in the
initial stages of the walking bus.

Table 2            Launch of the walking buses and timing of interviews

Walking bus        Date of    First head-      First     Second co-    Third co-      Final
                  launch of     teacher         co-      ordinator     ordinator   interviews
                   walking    interviews    ordinator    interviews   interviews
                    buses                   interviews
Hillshott            May       February       January    September      April      September
                    2001         2002          2002        2002         2003         2003

Layston           November    March 2002    March 2002    October     April 2003   September
                    2001                                   2002                      2003

Lordship            June       October       October     April 2003                September
                    2002        2002          2002                                   2003

Mandeville        September   June 2002     March 2002   September    April 2003   September
                    2001                                   2002                      2003
Millfield         November     February      February    November     March 2003
                    2001         2002          2002        2002

Source: The case study surveys

2.5         Interviews with children at the case study schools

An important part of the evaluation was the interviews carried out with children and
parents at the five case study schools. Details of all children who had registered on the
walking bus were used to request children and their parents or carers to participate in
the evaluation exercise. Interviews with children were carried out at their school
during the day.

Table 3 shows the number of interviews with children carried out at each of the five
schools. As some children interviewed were siblings, the figure in brackets shows
how many families were included in the study. It should be noted that both children
and parents who no longer used the walking bus were also included in the study and
the third column shows the number of interviews with these children. The relatively



                                               6
higher number of such interviews in Millfield reflects both a high response rate from
these children and a higher drop-off rate between first registration and interview.

Table 3       Interviews carried out with children

School            Pupils still using the walking    Pupil no longer using the walking
                                bus                                 bus
Hillshott                12 (10 families)                      3 (3 families)
Layston                  18 (15 families)                      4 (2 families)
Lordship                 18 (11 families)                             0
Mandeville                14 (8 families)                             0
Millfield                 11(9 families)                     14 (12 families)
Total                    73 (53 families)                    21 (17 families)
Source: The case study surveys

Table 4 shows the ages of children included in the evaluation exercise. As can be seen
the majority of the children were between the ages of 5 and 8, with the average age of
children being 6½years. The age distribution between schools differed slightly; this
was mainly because the schools themselves have such a variation. Two of the schools
are Junior and so include children up to Year 6 (10-11 years), two were First schools
and included children up to Year 4 (8-9 years) and one was an Infant school including
children up to Year 2 (6-7 years). As the schools cater for different ages of children
the walking bus participation varied by age.

Table 4       Age distribution of children interviewed

Age           Children still using the    Children no longer using         Total
(years)             walking bus               the walking bus
3                         1                          0                       1
4                         6                          1                       7
5                        11                          4                      15
6                        17                          6                      23
7                        18                          4                      22
8                         6                          4                      10
9                         6                          2                       8
10                        8                          0                       8
11                        0                          0                       0
Total                    73                         21                      94
Source: The case study surveys

In total, 44 boys and 49 girls were interviewed. Fewer boys were interviewed in all
schools except Millfield where more boys than girls were interviewed. This is
summarised in Table 5.




                                          7
Table 5        Gender distribution of children interviewed

School                      Male                   Female                  Total
Hillshott                      7                      8                     15
Layston                        9                     13                     22
Lordship                       8                     10                     18
Mandeville                     5                      9                     14
Millfield                     15                     10                     25
Total                         44                     50                     94
Source: The case study surveys

There are a number of methodological issues concerning the interviews with children.
With an average age of 6½ years the validity of any data generated from the
children’s interviews may be questioned. For the more ‘factual’ information given by
the children, for example, the number of days the walking bus was used, which stop
they joined at or how they travelled to and from school beforehand, an attempt was
made to check responses with data from the co-ordinator and, if interviewed, the
parent. In fact, there was little difference between the responses of children and the
recorded information of the co-ordinator or parent.

Questions relating to more subjective matters, such as likes and dislikes have to be
taken at face value. It is recognised that the children’s responses depend on a number
of factors. Some found it difficult to articulate likes and dislikes, whilst others were
well aware of the objectives and rationale of walking buses and responded in these
terms. Others, especially the younger children, may have responded on the basis of
events that had occurred on the morning of the interview.

Despite these potential weaknesses, there are a number of reasons for including
children in the evaluation exercise. Firstly, they are the key participants and therefore
important stakeholders in the walking bus and deserve to be given a voice in any
evaluation. Secondly, although at an individual level, subjective data may be
unreliable, the evaluation was interested in looking at the breadth and frequency of
types of responses.

2.6    Interviews with parents at the case study schools

For each walking bus, parents were also asked if they would agree to be interviewed.
The response rate for parents was not as high as it was for children, and differed from
one walking bus to another. Table 6 summarises the number of parents interviewed by
walking bus school making a distinction between those parents whose children were
still using the walking bus and those whose children had left.

With the exception of Mandeville, the number of parents agreeing to be interviewed
was good, usually a sizeable majority of parents involved with the walking bus.
Agreement from parents whose children had left the walking bus was less
forthcoming and this is reflected in the lower figures for this group. However, some of
the walking buses, for example Mandeville and Lordship, had very few parents at this
stage who had stopped using the walking bus, whereas the comparative figure for
Millfield and Layston was much higher. Overall 48 parents were interviewed,
representing 67 out of a total 93 children. With one exception, all the parents
interviewed were female.

                                           8
Table 6        Interviews carried out with parents

School           Parents of children still using    Parents of children who have left
                        the walking bus                     the walking bus
Hillshott                 7 (10 children)                     3 (4 children)
Layston                   9 (11 children)                     2 (4 children)
Lordship                 12 (20 children)                           0
Mandeville                 3 (6 children)                           0
Millfield                  7 (8 children)                     5 (7 children)
Total                   38 (52 children)                    10 (15 children)
Source: The case study surveys

In September 2003 a short questionnaire was sent to the 38 parents who had been
interviewed in the early stages of the walking bus evaluation exercise and were still
using the walking bus in September 2003. At that time, these parents represented 52
children on the walking buses.

The questionnaire was used to establish how many of these families were still using
the walking bus and how many had left. Some of these families had been using the
walking bus for over 18 months. The aim was to gather some views on the long term
use of walking bus.

2.7      Reporting and the presentation of data

The methodology of the case study evaluation was essentially a qualitative one. There
was no intention of undertaking a statistical analysis of the data collected, nor would
such an approach be appropriate for the numbers involved in each of the walking
buses. However, in presenting the data, use is made of summary tables. In some cases,
for example when examining modal shift, numerical data is given to indicate the
different responses for each of the walking buses. In other places, for example in
looking at benefits, numbers of responses for different types of comment are made.
However, it should be stressed that data is presented in this way in order to provide a
‘summary’ of the information obtained.

2.8      Reporting and confidentiality

An important part of the evaluation was to look at key differences between the
walking buses in an effort to identify ‘success factors’ or possible areas of good
practice. For this reason the report makes distinctions between walking buses and
where appropriate summary tables present information in this way.

However, in some instances information is not presented for each walking bus
because it would breach confidentiality assurances. There are parts of the analysis
where distinctions between each of the walking buses are appropriate. Their main
characteristics, route, distance, timing and numbers of participants and volunteers is
information that has to be connected to a walking bus (as a unit of analysis). In some
cases these characteristics become explanatory and it would impair the evaluation if
they were not treated separately. It is useful, for example, to determine whether
different walking buses achieved objectives more generally. Where possible, the
following discussion makes these distinctions.

                                          9
2.9    The involvement of Hertfordshire County Council (HCC)

The evaluation exercise was carried out with the co-operation of HCC. In particular
the RSU and the SRS team provided assistance in making contact with schools within
and outside SRS. Alongside this evaluation the RSU and SRS were implementing a
number of initiatives to support schools in the preparation of school travel plans and
other measures designed to promote walking to school. An important aspect of this
was the appointment of a countywide ‘Walking Bus Co-ordinator’ to promote and
support walking buses throughout the county. Many of the issues and suggestions
made by co-ordinators and raised by this evaluation were simultaneously taken up by
the countywide Walking Bus Co-ordinator. However, because of the timing of this
evaluation exercise, it would not have picked up these improvements.


3      THE WALKING BUSES STUDIED

3.1    The postal survey

The schools that completed the walking bus postal questionnaires are shown in Table
7. Five of the schools are shown as having two walking buses, but one of these never
started. It can be seen that the number of children registered varies from 41 down to 3,
with an average of 14. In fact, the 41 is an extreme value. The second largest is 28,
and then there are four with 20 children registered.




                                          10
Table 7         Schools which have set up walking buses in Hertfordshire which
                responded to the postal survey

School                                       Route    Status       No of       No of     No of
                                              no                  children    children   volun-
                                                                 registered    using      teers
Beech Hyde Primary, Wheathampstead                1   Active         12          12         4

Downfield JMI, Cheshunt                           1   Inactive       5           4         nr
High Wych C of E Primary,                         1    Active        5           3         1
Sawbridgeworth
Hillshott Infant, Letchworth                      1    Active        nr          9         3
                                                  2    Never         nr          nr        nr
                                                       started
Holy Trinity C of E Primary, Waltham              1   Inactive       6           6         nr
Cross
Kingshill Infant and St Mary’s JM, Ware           1      nr         nr          nr         nr
Layston C of E First, Buntingford                 1    Active       15          11         3
Longmeadow Infant, Stevenage                      1    Active       16          16         4
Mandeville Primary, Sawbridgeworth                1      nr         nr          nr         nr
                                                  2    Active        3           3         2
Maple, St Albans                                  1      nr         nr          nr         nr
Martins Wood Primary, Stevenage                   1   Inactive      20          12         nr
Millfield First and Nursery, Buntingford          1    Active       13          11         5
Newberries Primary, Radlett                       1    Active       13          13         4
                                                  2    Active       14          13         4
Park Street C of E VA Primary, Park Street        1    Active       14          12         3
Rickmansworth Park JMI, Rickmansworth             1   Inactive       6           6         nr
Shenley Primary, Shenley                          1   Inactive      20          10         nr
St Bernadette RC Nursery and Primary,             1   Inactive      20          15         nr
London Colney
St Helen’s C of E Primary,                        1    Active       18          11         5
Wheathampstead                                    2   Inactive       6           2         nr
St John’s VA C of E Primary, Lemsford             1    Active       41          15         6
Village
St Paul’s Walden Primary, Hitchin                 1   Inactive      10          nr         nr
Sunny Bank Primary, Potters Bar                   1   Inactive      18          14         nr
Templewood Primary, Welwyn Garden                 1    Active        8           8         3
City                                              2   Inactive      15          10         nr
The Richard Whittington Primary, Bishops          1    Active       28          13         3
Stortford
The Russell, Chorleywood                          1   Inactive      15          15         nr
Welwyn St Mary’s C of E VA Primary,               1      nr         nr          nr         nr
Welwyn
Wood End, Harpenden                               1   Inactive      20          15         nr
Source: The postal survey
Note: The number of children using is the average on the days that the walking bus
operates for active walking buses and the typical number for non-active walking
buses. The number of volunteers for the active walking buses is the average for the
days it operates. Some walking buses do not operate every day. nr = no reply




                                             11
Table 7 also shows the number of children and volunteers on the walking buses. For
the active walking buses this is the average for the days it operated, and so there could
be more children using it during a week because some children used it on fewer than
five days a week. One walking bus only operated on two days, while the rest operated
five days a week. For the inactive walking buses, the figure is the typical number
using it on any one day. As Table 8 shows, a total of 361 children were registered to
use walking buses and 259 used them each day, on average, on the 26 walking buses
covered in the postal survey. This gives an average of 10 children on a walking bus on
the days it operated. It is known from information supplied by Hertfordshire County
Council that all except one of the walking buses operated only in the morning.

The average number of volunteers on one day on each active walking bus is also
shown in Table 7. The total is 50, as shown in Table 8, implying that, on average,
between three and four volunteers escort a walking bus, with a ratio of three children
to each volunteer.

Table 8        Numbers involved in walking buses in Hertfordshire in the postal
               survey

          Number      Number of       Number of        Mean            Mean         Number of
            of         children        children      number of       number of      volunteers
          walking     registered        using         children        children
           buses                                     registered        using
Active      14            200            150             14              11            50
walking
buses
Inactive      12          161            109             13            10               -
walking
buses
Total         26          361            259             14            10               -
Source: The postal survey
Note: These figures are based on those in Table 2 and the same definitions apply here.
The mean number of children using the inactive walking buses is based on 11 walking
buses because the number of children was not provided in one case.

Table 8 distinguishes between active and inactive walking buses. It can be seen that
the active walking buses were only slightly larger than the inactive ones in terms of
the numbers of children registered and using them. This suggests that, in general, the
walking buses did not cease to operate simply because there were insufficient children
using them, although it is quite possible that significant numbers had moved on to
other schools.

3.2 The case study approach

The following section provides descriptive information on each of the five case study
walking buses with respect to the following:

   •   Characteristics and location of the school and walking bus
   •   Route characteristics and description
   •   Walking bus operation
   •   Volunteers and children at registration and first interview

                                           12
In addition, a route map of each of the walking buses can be found alongside the
description of each. Information on objectives and outcomes, benefits, disadvantages
and lifecycle issues can be found Sections 4, 5 and 6, whilst process information on
how the walking buses were set up and operated is dealt with in Sections 7 and 8.

3.3     Hillshott Walking bus

Hillshott Walking Bus was launched on 14 May 2001 as an independent initiative. It
serves Hillshott Infant School, a non-denominational school in the town of
Letchworth Garden City. The catchment of the school is primarily local although the
school also has a specialist unit for children with speech and language needs and
includes a small number of children from a larger catchment across North
Hertfordshire for this reason. Hillshott1 is set in a mixed residential area with both
owner-occupied and rented housing. The school has broadly average attainment
although it has a wide social and cultural mix with 17% of the children coming from
homes where English is not the first language. The proportion of children with free
school meals is below the national average but special educational needs are above
average.

At the latest Ofsted Inspection (September 1999) there were 135 full-time equivalent
(FTE) children from Reception to Year 2 and 41 nursery children who attended part-
time. Hillshott Infants School was not included in the SRS initiative and no
information on travel mode and pattern for the school as a whole was available.
However, despite the local catchment of the school, it is thought that a significant
number of parents drive their children to school particularly as many parents have
children at both Hillshott and the linked junior school, Pixmore.

The walking bus included in the evaluation exercise was the only one operating at the
school at the time. A second walking bus was planned but not launched due to the
lack of adult volunteers and a co-ordinator. As shown on the map, the walking bus
starts at the corner of Baldock Road and Lawrence Avenue. The route crosses two
main roads, Baldock Road and Pixmore Way. There is a pelican crossing on Baldock
Road that has a school crossing patrol, but this position was unfilled for a long period
during the life of the walking bus. Pixmore Way is crossed with the help of a school
crossing patrol. Since the walking bus started, this crossing has been redesigned and
now there is a zebra crossing. The route is primarily through residential areas, passing
the linked junior school on its way. With the exception of the two main road crossing
and the road that passes the junior school, the route is unproblematic and all roads can
be




1
 Figures on school numbers and characteristics of pupils are taken from the latest Ofsted Report,
September 1999

                                                  13
crossed with relative ease. The distance from the first stop to the entrance of the
school is 1033 metres. On the day the walking bus was timed, this journey took 20
minutes 52 seconds, 16 minutes 58 seconds of which were spent walking. Road works
at the time may have increased the non-walking time on this day but would not have
affected the overall walking time.

The walking bus runs every school day morning. It had five stops at the start of
operation but one was cut out due to lack of demand. It also starts at the third stop on


                                          14
one day of the week due to volunteer availability. Although most children join at the
beginning of the route, children are picked up from the other stops on a regular basis.

The walking bus had 15 children registered with the walking bus at the start. By the
time of the first interview this figure had fallen 14 through children both joining and
leaving. At the launch of the walking bus there were 9 parent volunteers running the
walking bus, by the time of the first interview this figure was 8, again as a result of
parents joining and leaving.

3.4       Layston Walking Bus

Layston Walking Bus was launched on 20 November 2001 under the SRS initiative. It
serves Layston First School, a Church of England school on the eastern edge of
Buntingford. Buntingford is a small market town in the East of Hertfordshire with a
catchment which includes children from the town and surrounding rural villages. The
school is situated amongst mostly privately-owned housing and has above average
attainment for children starting the school. It is below average for special needs,
ethnic minority groups and free school meals2.

At the time of the latest Ofsted Inspection (May 2000) there were 157 FTE children at
the school. As a first school the school takes children from Reception to the end of
Year 4. A significant majority of children transfer to the local middle school although
a few travel to schools further away.

In the travel to school survey conducted by HCC, it was found that 42% of the pupils
travelled to school by car, 3% by taxi, 10% cycled or came on scooters and 45%
walked. Although some came to school by car because they lived in surrounding
villages, a significant proportion of car drivers were believed to be local to the town.

The walking bus included in the evaluation was one of two walking buses at the
school and the first to be set up. As the map shows it starts on the outskirts of a large
housing estate on the south side of town, crosses the town centre and cuts through a
park before rejoining the roads nearby the school. With the exception of the town
centre much of the route is pedestrian only, making use of the pathways through the
housing estate, the park and a walkway next to the river. The total distance of the
route, from the starting point at the community centre was 1154 metres. On the day
the walking bus was timed this journey took 16 minutes and 11 seconds, 14 minutes
and 54 seconds of which were spent walking.

The walking bus runs every school day morning. It has two stops, the first at the
community centre and a second outside the chemists shop in the town centre. In
practice most of the children join at the start of the walking bus, with a few joining at
the other stop on a regular basis. At the launch, the total number of children registered
on the walking bus was 26. However, by the time of the first interview this number
had fallen to 18. The majority of the children on the walking bus lived on or near the
housing estate at the start of the route although a small number drove to the start of
the route at the community centre.




2
    Ofsted Report 15 May 2000

                                           15
The walking bus had 15 volunteers at the launch, including 5 ‘spares’ who were called
upon only occasionally. By the time of the first interview this figure had fallen to 10
volunteers.




                                          16
3.5        Lordship Walking Bus

Lordship Walking Bus began on 17 June 2002 and was initiated independently of
SRS. It serves Lordship Farm Infant and Junior School. The school is set within a
desirable residential area of Letchworth Garden City, predominantly owner-occupied.
The catchment of the school is predominantly local with few children coming from
further away. Lordship Farm JMI3 has children entering the school with above
average attainment. It has an average number of children coming from homes where
English is not the first language, a below-average number eligible for free school
meals and very few children with special needs.

At the latest Ofsted inspection the school had 336 FTE children from Reception
through to the end of Year 6 and a further 24 FTE nursery places. At the end of year 6
most children from the school transfer to local schools although there are a proportion
that travel to neighbouring towns for their secondary education.

The school carried out its own survey on travel in May 2002 and their school travel
plan reports that at that time, 38% of pupils came to school by car, 57% walked and
5% cycled.

The walking bus was the only one operating at the school at the time of the
evaluation. It starts on the corner of Baldock Road, the A505 and Willian Way. The
walking bus was originally intended to start at a point further away from the school
but the crossing of Baldock Road at this junction was deemed too dangerous by the
RSU and could not be part of the official route. Unofficially a number of children and
volunteers start the walking bus before this point. From the official start of the
walking bus there are no major roads to cross and the route follows a wide pathway
up to the school. There are three ‘official’ stops on the route although there are a
number of points where additional children join the walking bus and one of the stops
is no longer used. The distance from the official start of the walking bus to the school
was 897 metres. On the day the walking bus was timed the total time taken was 13
minutes 53 seconds, which included 12 minutes and 49 seconds of walking time. The
lack of difference between these two figures can be accounted for because the walking
bus does not stop to pick up children who simply join in as the walking bus passes
them. There are also few crossing points where it is necessary to stop.

The walking bus runs every school day morning. A significant number of children
join at the start although on the day the route was timed a similar number joined along
the way. At its launch the walking bus had 16 children registered on the walking bus.
By the time of the first interview this had grown to 26. By the second interview there
were 32 children registered with the walking bus. On a daily basis there are usually
between 15 and 19 children on the walking bus.




3
    Ofsted Report 27th April 1998

                                          17
18
3.6        Mandeville Walking Bus

Mandeville Walking Bus was launched on 17 September 2001 under SRS. The
walking bus serves Mandeville Infant and Junior School, set within the town of
Sawbridgeworth in South East Hertfordshire. The school is located within a
residential area made up primarily of owner-occupied housing and has a large local
catchment. The children entering the school are of average ability and the proportion
of free school meals is average. A higher than average proportion (6%) of children are
from ethnic backgrounds and 5% of the children are from homes where English is not
the first language. Although none of the children are statemented there are 60 children
on the school’s register of special needs.4

According to the latest Ofsted Report (March 2000) the school has 220 FTE children
between reception and Year 6. There are an additional 29 part-time children in its
nursery unit. At the end of Year 6 children leave to join one of several schools in the
surrounding area. The travel to school survey undertaken by HCC under the SRS
initiative found that 47% walk to school, 39% travel to school by car and 14% use a
mixture.

The walking bus included in this survey was one of two walking buses operating at
the school, both set up within the initial stages of SRS. although they were planned
before this time. As the map shows, the Mandeville route starts off in on the edge of a
residential estate and continues through a large housing estate. Most of the roads that
are crossed are within this estate and none form main roads or through routes for
traffic. The most difficult crossing is directly outside the school on West Road
although structural work as part of SRS has made this area safer in recent months. The
school crossing patrol post on West Road was vacant when the pupils were
interviewed following the retirement of the previous holder. The total distance from
the start point to the school was 1072 metres. On the day the walking bus was timed
the journey took a total of 17 minutes 15 seconds of which 14 minutes 18 seconds was
spent walking. Most of the time not walking was spent waiting at one of the stops for
children who usually caught the walking bus but on that day had gone ahead. Very
little other stop time was recorded.

At the time of the evaluation the walking bus ran three mornings a week: Monday,
Wednesday and Friday. It has no formal stops but picks up children along the route, in
some cases outside their houses. The number of children registered on the walking
bus at the launch date was 15. By the time of the first interview one child had left and
14 remained on the walking bus. The number of volunteers at the launch was 6. This
figure had remained stable and by the first interview no volunteers had left or joined.




4
    Ofsted Report 20th March 2000

                                          19
20
3.7       Millfield Walking Bus

Millfield Walking Bus was launched, along with Layston, on 20 November as part of
a SRS initiative. Millfield First School is situated within Buntingford on the south
side of the town. The school is located at the heart of a major residential estate but
like Layston also takes children from outlying villages. Children entering the school
have average to above average levels of attainment. The school has a below average
number of children from ethnic minority groups and a below average number who do
not have English as a first language. Only 4% are eligible for free school meals and
the number of children with special needs is below average5.

Millfield is a First School taking children from Reception through to Year 4. It also
has a nursery unit which serves both Millfield and Layston Schools. At the time of the
latest Ofsted Report (November 2000) there were 173 children in full-time education
plus an additional 20 FTE children in the nursery unit. Like Layston the majority of
children who leave at the end of Year 4 transfer to the local middle school although a
number go to schools further away.

In the travel to school survey conducted by HCC, it was found that 60% of the
children surveyed travel to school by car, 4% came by walking bus, 4% used bikes or
scooters and 32% walked. Although some came to school by car because they live in
surrounding villages, a significant proportion of car drivers were believed to be local
to the town.

The walking bus included in the evaluation was the only walking bus at the school
and was set up during the SRS initiative. As the map shows it starts on the corner of a
main road and the road which leads to the school. Despite the fact that the route
proceeds through a residential area, it has to negotiate a number of difficult crossings
caused by the undulating nature of the residential layout. The crossing to the school is
particularly dangerous although this area has been the subject of improvements by
HCC. Like Lordship Farm, and for the same reason of road safety, at the time of the
evaluation, it also had an official and unofficial start. The unofficial start begins on
the other side of the main road near the middle school. This unofficial starting point is
marked on the route map as a number of children join at this point although they have
to be supervised by their own parents. The official route is 546 metres and on the day
it was timed took 8 minutes and 49 seconds of which 7 minutes and 40 seconds was
spent walking. For such a short distance the stop time can be explained by the
disproportionate number of crossings. The distance from the unofficial start to the
school was 1022 metres and this journey took 18 minutes and 29 seconds of which 13
minutes and 49 seconds was spent walking. The long period of stop time can be
accounted for primarily by the wait at the corner of Baldock Road at the official start
of the walking bus. In other walking buses this wait time was not recorded.

At the start of the evaluation the walking bus operated every morning although this
had reduced to three mornings per week at the time of writing. After its first official
stop it picks up children along Monks Walk. The ‘stops’ depend on the location of the
children joining the walking bus and, like Mandeville, children tend to join the
walking bus at or near their homes. At its launch date the walking bus had 29 children
registered on it but this figure had fallen to 15 by the time of the first interview, all

5
    Ofsted Report 6th November 2000

                                           21
accounted for by children leaving the walking bus. Like Layston many of these
children failed to use the walking bus for very long, if at all.

At the launch of the walking bus there were 4 official volunteers. A number of parents
also walked along with the walking bus with their children but were not part of a rota
system. At the time of the first interview most of the unofficial volunteers had stopped
walking on the walking bus (many along with their children) but the original 4
volunteers remained.

Millfield walking bus went through a number of changes of both route and co-
ordinator in its lifetime. In Autumn 2002 it was cut back to a three-day week, and at
the end of the autumn term it disbanded.




                                          22
23
3.8    Differences and similarities between the case study walking buses

It is useful to look at some of the differences and similarities between the walking
buses. First the routes themselves varied. Layston Walking Bus route stands out as
being relatively unproblematic and extremely pleasant. Mandeville, though lacking
scenery comparable with that on the Layston Walking Bus, is a relatively easy route
with no real safety issues or problems. The official part of Lordship is similar in that
once the walking bus is under way, there is little reason to stop and the volunteers do
not have to negotiate road crossings. By comparison Hillshott and Millfield are more
difficult routes, Hillshott because it takes in so many road crossings and Millfield
because the housing estate it walks through is difficult to cross and, at that time of
day, relatively busy. Although all the routes have been checked and are deemed safe
by the RSU of HCC, Hillshott and Millfield may well create a more stressful journey
for the volunteers. For Millfield the shortening of the route, coupled with the
difficulty of the crossings made this walking bus vulnerable from the start.

Table 9 shows summary information on the routes of all five walking buses. The
distances of each of the routes are similar with the exception of Millfield which is
shorter if the ‘unofficial’ part of the journey is not counted. The pace of the walking
bus (excluding stop times) varies between 3.6km/h and 4.6km/h, with Hillshott having
the slowest pace. This could be related to the younger age range of the children on this
walking bus, but as timings were only taken on one day, it is likely that any variations
may well be reversed if the routes were timed on another day. What is more
noticeable is that the total time, including stop times does vary with Hillshott taking
over 20 minutes and Millfield, from the official start nearly 9 minutes. Although this
may not seem an issue when recording time, in terms of potential time saving for
parents this may be an important difference. The time from the first volunteer arriving
at the start point to the start of walking was not recorded. However in some cases,
notably Layston and Hillshott, this was a significant amount of time.

At the time of the first interview, all the walking buses except Mandeville operated on
5 days of the week. The number of stops varied – from 5 through to 1, but in fact
some of those walking buses that had fewer stops also picked up children along the
way in a more informal way.

Table 9        Summary information on the five walking buses: distance, time
               and operation

       Walking bus      Distance     Total     Walking      Number of        No of
                                     Time       Time          Stops         days in
                                     Taken                                 operation
       Hillshott         1033m       20:52       16:58       5 (reduced        5
                                                             to 4 later)
       Layston          1154m       16:11        14:54            2             5
       Lordship          897m       13:53        12:49       3 (2 used)         5
       Mandeville       1072m       17:15        14:18            3             3
       Millfield:
       unofficial
       start            1022m       18:29        13.49            2        5 (reduced
       official start    546m        8:49        7:40             1        to 3 later)
       Source: The case study surveys


                                          24
It is also useful to compare the number of children and volunteers at registration and
first interview, for each walking bus. Table 10 draws together the data on this, as
discussed above for the five walking buses. There is no particular pattern. The two
Buntingford walking buses, at Layston and Millfield, started off with a large number
of children but quickly lost a number, whereas Mandeville and Hillshott showed little
difference. Lordship gained a significant number of children after its launch.

Table 10        Summary information on the five walking buses: children and
                volunteers

    Walking     At the launch      First interview        Second             Final
     bus                                                interview         interview
              child- volun- child-          volun-    child- volun-     child- volun-
               ren      teers  ren           teers     ren     teers     ren     teers
Hillshott      15         9    14              8        9        6        8        5
Layston        26        15    18             10       14        5        5        4
Lordship       16        10    26             10       32       10       31        8
Mandeville     15         6    14              6       12        6        5        2
Millfield      29         4    15              4       12        4        0        0
Source: The case study surveys

When looking at the number of volunteers there appears to be no straightforward
connection between the number of children on a walking bus and the number of
volunteers. It must be remembered that the RSU have set out the recommended ratios
of volunteers to children and this varies with age as follows:

•    For nursery age children - 1 adult to 2 children
•    For children up to Year 2 - 1 adult to 4 children, and
•    For junior children (Years 3 to 6) - 1 adult to 8 children.

It should be noted that Millfield had a number of unofficial volunteers.

Given this, there is no pattern over the recruitment and retention of volunteers either.
As shown in Table 10, at Layston, the number of volunteers reduced in line with the
number of children, but in others, for example Millfield it stayed stable until it closed.
Lordship had a large number of children joining the walking bus but did not gain any
volunteers.

These figures do not show how many days per week each registered child actually
used the walking bus, or how many days per week each volunteer had to walk with
the walking bus. At Millfield the four volunteers all walked every day, whereas at
Layston they tended to walk two days each. These operational differences are
discussed in more detail later on in this report.


4       OBJECTIVES AND OUTCOMES

In this section the different objectives for the walking bus, and the extent to which
such objectives have been met, are examined. In the following discussion, this is
presented first for the schools covered in the postal survey, then for the five case study

                                             25
schools. The latter is considered in two ways, firstly by reporting on the perception
and judgement of key actors and stakeholders (head teachers, co-ordinators, parents
and children), and secondly by looking at data that provides a more objective measure
of outcomes (for example, travel mode).

4.1    The objectives and outcomes identified in the postal survey

The impacts of walking buses can be identified in two ways from the questionnaires:
firstly by asking about the objectives of the walking buses and whether they were
achieved, and secondly, by presenting a list of possible outcomes and seeking views
on whether the respondents would expect them. The first can only be presented for the
schools where walking buses have been set up whereas the latter can be answered as a
hypothetical question for schools where walking buses have not been set up.

Table 11 shows the achievement of objectives by walking buses for 22 of the schools
which have set them up. These answers were not structured on the questionnaire: they
were written in and coded, using the categories for the perceived impacts as far as
possible (shown in Table 12), adding further categories where necessary.

Table 11      Achievement of objectives by the walking buses covered in the
              postal survey

Objective                                      Number      Objective achieved?      Success
                                              of schools   Yes Partially No          rate
                                              with this                              (%)
                                              objective
To reduce congestion at the school entrance       20         10         4    6           60
To give the children more exercise                12          9         1    2           79
To increase walking to school                      7          3         1    3           50
To reduce car use to school                        2          2         -    -          100
To ensure children reach school on time            2          1         1    -           75
To improve the children’s road safety skills       1          1         -    -          100
To create safer routes to school                   1          1         -    -          100
To increase social interaction between the         1          1         -    -          100
children
To be environmentally friendly                    1           -         1    -          50
To slow down the traffic                          1           -         1    -          50
To escort children who currently walk             1           -         -    1           0
unsupervised
To reduce the need to bring younger               1           -         -    1           0
siblings to school
To increase social interaction between the        0           -         -    -           -
parents
To make the children more mentally alert          0           -         -    -           -
at school
Total                                            50          28         9   13          65
Source: The postal survey
Note: This table is based on 22 responses from schools which have set up walking
buses. Some respondents provided multiple answers. The success rate has been
calculated by dividing the number of achieving the objective plus half the number
achieving partial success by the number of schools setting that objective.

                                         26
Of the 22 schools, twenty said that reducing congestion at the school entrance was an
objective. The second most popular objective, with twelve schools mentioning it, was
to give children more exercise, followed by the general desire to increase walking to
school, cited by seven schools. Two schools mentioned reducing car use to school,
and two others cited ensuring that children reach school on time. The other objectives
given, each stated by one school were: to improve the children’s road safety skills, to
create safer routes to schools, to increase social interaction between the children, to be
environmentally friendly, to slow down the traffic, to escort children who currently
walk unsupervised, and to reduce the need to bring younger siblings to school. No
schools set the objectives of increasing social interaction between the parents or
making the children more mentally alert at school, which were amongst the possible
impacts discussed below.

Table 11 also shows whether the objective was achieved. In some cases they were
achieved partially. A success rate has been calculated by summing the number of
schools achieving the objective, plus half those partially achieving the objective, and
dividing by the number of schools which set that objective. Overall, 65% of the
objectives were achieved. Of the three main objectives (in terms of the number of
schools setting them), giving the children more exercise had a success rate of 79%,
followed by reducing congestion at the school entrance at 60%, and increasing
walking to school at 50%. Most of the other objectives were achieved. Overall, it can
be argued that walking buses are seen as fairly successful. Nearly all the schools at
which walking buses were still operating at the time of the survey, regarded them as
successful, whereas some of the schools where they were no longer operating
recorded them as not achieving their objectives simply because they were no longer
operating. Of course a walking bus that is inactive cannot achieve any objectives, but,
as discussed above, the reasons for abandoning them was not the failure to achieve
positive outcomes, but the lack of volunteers, co-ordinators or children. Hence it can
be argued, that the success rate in terms of achievement of objectives is probably
higher than the figure of 65% implied above. In terms of continuity it is rather lower
than this since, in the survey, only 14 out of the 26 that started were still operating
(54%).

Another way to assess the impacts of walking buses is to ask the respondents what they
perceive the potential impacts to be. This question was asked of head teachers at both
schools which have set up walking buses and those which had not. Table 12 shows the
results separately for these two groups. The possible responses were defined on the
questionnaire. The responses are shown in order of declining percentages of responses
from the head teachers at the schools which have set up walking buses.

The most popular response in each case was, ‘Give children more exercise’, with all the
head teachers at schools which have set up walking buses identifying this as a potential
impact. The second most popular response in each case was ‘Improve children’s road
safety skills’, followed by ‘Reduce car use to school’. ‘Increase social interaction
between the children’ and ‘Reduce congestion at the school entrance’ were the next two
factors for the schools where walking buses had been set up, each cited in about three-
quarters of the cases. The latter was cited rather more at the schools where walking buses
have not been set up and the former rather less. ‘Increase social interaction between the
parents’ came next in each case. Last in each case was ‘Make the children more mentally
alert’, which was cited much more in the schools where walking buses have not been set


                                           27
up.

The main differences between the two groups seem to be that the head teachers at
schools which have set up walking buses have a greater recognition of the social aspects
of walking buses, while the schools which have not, have greater expectations in terms
of reducing congestion and improving the children’s road safety skills and mental
alertness.

For the schools where walking buses have been set up the results are fairly consistent
with the success of the walking buses in achieving the objectives set for them, as shown
in Table 11. (These were asked in an unstructured form, and asked prior to the
suggestions of possible impacts shown in Table 12).

Table 12       Perceived impacts of walking buses from the postal survey

                                      Schools which have set up       Schools which have not set
                                          walking buses (%)             up walking buses (%)
                                      Yes No       Do     Total       Yes No       Do     Total
                                                   not                            not
                                                  know                           know
Give children more exercise           100    0      0      100         94    5      2      100
Improve children’s road safety        82     9      9      100         90    4      6      100
skills
Reduce car use to school            82         14     5      100       86     9       5    100
Increase     social    interaction 77          5     18      100       65    13      22    100
between the children
Reduce congestion at the school 73             27     0      100       84    10       6    100
entrance
Increase     social    interaction 59          14    27      100       54    19      27    100
between the parents
Make the children more mentally 27             0     73      100       52     8      40    100
alert
Source: The postal survey
Note: This table is based on 22 responses      from schools which have set up walking
buses and 191 which have not.

4.2    The initial objectives for the walking buses in the case study schools

Both head teachers and co-ordinators were asked about the initial objectives for the
walking buses. Not surprisingly, there was a high degree of consistency both across
the two groups and between them. Most of the head teachers saw a walking bus as a
way of tackling traffic and parking problems outside their school. The need to address
complaints by local residents was a large part of this, although it was also
acknowledged that safety was an issue. The congestion caused by parents or other
carers bringing children to school each morning was seen as something that could be
improved by getting more children to walk to school. This objective was usually the
first one mentioned by both head teachers and co-ordinators.

A second objective was to get more children to walk to school. For co-ordinators this
was often a prime motivation for their involvement in the walking bus, whereas for
head teachers it was a positive by-product of the first objective. Having said this both

                                          28
groups also mentioned the positive effects of exercise on children and some
specifically claimed that children who walked to school were more mentally alert and
‘ready to learn’ than those who were driven. So a further objective of walking buses
might be seen as improving the health, fitness and mental alertness of children by
altering the way they travel to school.

More minor objectives mentioned involved the possible role walking buses could
have in providing an escort for unaccompanied children who arrived at school earlier
than the norm. Lastly, and more strategically, starting up a walking bus has been seen
as a way of gaining support from HCC for traffic solutions at or around the school. As
schools with walking buses are given ‘points’ in the SRS selection exercise, this
objective cannot be ignored as insignificant.

4.3    Achieving objectives: stakeholder perceptions

An important part of the case study evaluation was to consider how far walking buses
had achieved their objectives, as defined by key stakeholders. In this section, the
reports of both head teachers and walking bus co-ordinators are examined in terms of
their original stated objectives for the walking bus. This sub-section takes this
discussion further with reference to data collected from children and parents.

In fact, few of the stated objectives were perceived to have been met by the co-
ordinator or head teacher. In particular, none of the head teachers reported that the
walking bus had reduced congestion or parking around the school. There was some
acknowledgement by two of the head teachers that it would take more than one
walking bus to produce a noticeable effect. However, there was an expectation that a
walking bus would have more of an immediate effect and this had not been achieved.

Co-ordinators reported that most of the children who regularly used the walking bus
walked beforehand. Thus it was unlikely that the walking bus had made much of an
impact on car journeys to school. Although none of the walking buses included in the
case study evaluation were comprised entirely of children who walked all the time,
co-ordinators did not believe that the existence of the walking bus had produced a
significant modal shift.

Despite this assertion by both head teachers and co-ordinators, most saw the walking
bus as having a positive effect on activity levels and health of the children involved.
Head teachers in particular had some belief that the children on the walking bus
arrived at the school in a better mental state than those who were driven to school and
co-ordinators also made the same point. However, it should be noted that this is an
assertion that is not backed up by further analysis.

In terms of other possible objectives, the walking bus was also perceived not to have
met expectations. The walking bus had made no difference to those children who
were bought to school early, nor unaccompanied. Neither had it had any effect in the
short term on road safety issues although in some schools these were being addressed
as part of SRS.

Regardless of its failure to meet specific objectives both co-ordinators and head
teachers were very positive about the initiative. Walking buses were seen to be a
‘good thing’ all round as walking was good for both the children and the parents and


                                          29
the existence of a walking bus demonstrated the school’s commitment towards
healthy lifestyles. As will be seen in the next section, this perception is of immense
importance, regardless of whether it can be proved.

4.4       Modal shift: reducing car use

Whilst the previous discussion of objectives was based primarily on perception or
judgement, this section looks at the information provided by children and parents on
previous and current travel mode to school. This focuses on the contribution of the
walking buses to modal shift.

Modal shift is looked at in a number of ways:

      •   Numbers of children using the walking bus who previously walked
      •   Numbers of families (that is, cars) using the walking bus whose mode of
          transport was the car
      •   Number of car journeys likely to be affected by switching to walking bus use.

4.4.1 The schools in the postal survey

One of the key objectives of setting up a walking bus is to reduce car use to school.
This desire may manifest itself in various ways, such as reducing congestion at the
school entrance, or giving the children more exercise. Such factors dominate the
objectives cited in the postal survey, shown in Table 11. Table 13 shows the number
and percentage of children using the walking bus who used to travel by car for eleven
of the walking buses in the postal survey. This shows an average of 62% of the
children using the walking bus used to travel by car, with a range from 31% to 100%.
It should be recognised that these are estimates by the co-ordinators and that the
children who used to travel by car might not have done so every day. Indeed, some of
them could still travel by car if they were dropped off at the starting point of the
walking bus. It does seem that setting up a walking bus can attract children out of
their cars, although it should be acknowledged that 107 children are a small
proportion of all the children in Hertfordshire who travel to school by car.




                                           30
Table 13 Estimated shift from the car in the schools with active walking buses
(where information was provided)

Walking bus               Number of children        Number of children         Percentage of
                             registered             who used to travel       children who used
                                                         by car               to travel by car
Beech Hyde                         12                      7                         58
High Wych C of E                    5                      2                         40
Primary
Layston                            15                         7                       47
Mandeville WB 2                     5                         3                       60
Millfield First and                13                         4                       31
Primary
Newberries WB 1                    13                         6                       46
Newberries WB 2                    14                         7                       50
Richard Whittington                28                         9                       32
St Helen’s                         18                        18                      100
St John’s VA C of E                41                        39                       95
Primary
Templewood                          8                         5                       63
Total (for schools                 172                       107                      62
providing data)
Source: The postal survey

4.4.2   Modal shift in the case study schools: children

Interview data from both children and parents have been used to ascertain how many
of the children registered to use the walking bus were previously driven to school.
However, an analysis of the responses of both children and parents reveals a number
of issues that make it difficult to provide accurate data on modal shift.

First, the previous mode of transport to school is often a mixture of both car journeys
and walking for many children. The way in which some children in the sample travel
to school changes from day-to-day. Bad weather, the need to transport musical
instruments or other heavy equipment, recovery from illness are all ‘child’ related
factors, but on top of these, parents’ working hours and days, and other commitments,
may also make the car necessary on one day and not on another. In the interviews
with both children and parents this has had to be recorded as a ‘mixture’ as
respondents were not able to place themselves firmly in one category or another.

Secondly, children do not necessarily use the walking bus on all the days it operates.
Some children only use the walking bus on one day of the week and if these children
are driven to school on all other days, then the impact on modal usage is significantly
reduced.

That being said it is still useful to look at modal shift as an indicator of the potential
impact of a walking bus. Table 14 below how many children using each of the
walking buses previously came to school by car, walking or a mixture of the two. As
can be seen the majority of children using the walking buses walked to school
previously. Out of the 73 children still using the walking bus 35 were walking
regularly previously. However, according to these figures 17 children had switched

                                           31
from using the car to walking, and a further 14 who used a mixture of walking and the
car were now walking. This suggests a reasonable level of modal shift across the five
walking buses. Looking at each of the walking buses in turn suggests that, in most
cases, one or two children on each walking bus switched from being driven to school.
This figure is higher if children who sometimes used the car are included. The
walking bus at Layston indicates a higher number of children switching from car use
to walking.

Table 14       Modal shift of pupils by walking bus

School                   Method of travel before walking bus
                              No          Car      Mixture   Walk             Total
                         information
Hillshott                      3            2          4       3               12
Layston                        0           10          4       4               18
Lordship                       1            2          2      13               18
Mandeville                     2            2          2       8               14
Millfield                      1            1          2       7               11
Total                          7           17         14      35               73
Source: The case study surveys

Ideally, estimates of modal shift need to take into account how many days children
were using the walking bus. This can be compared either with their previous mode of
transport, or with their mode of transport on the days that the walking bus was not
used. Table 15 shows modal shift by the number of days the walking bus was used.
As can be seen the number of children using the walking bus every day remained high
(and is higher still if Mandeville which only operated for 3 days is taken into
account). Of the 31 children who reported using the walking bus every day, 18 were
already walking. The respective figure for the car as the prior mode of transport is 6,
whilst 5 children who used a mixture of walking and the car switched to using the
walking bus every day.

Table 15       Modal shift of pupils: number of days on walking bus by prior
               mode of travel

Number       of                Method of travel before walking bus
days        on         No            Car             Mixture      Walk          Total
walking bus       information
No information          0              3                1           0                4
       1                1              3                3           2                9
       2                0              0                3           4                7
       3                2              4                1           8               15
       4                2              1                1           3                7
       5                2              6                5          18               31
Total                   7             17                14         35               73
Source: The case study surveys

Another way of looking at the real extent of modal shift is to look at the way children
travel to school on the days they did not use the walking bus. Table 16 provides a
similar table but shows how children travel to school on the days they do not use the


                                          32
walking bus. Information is not provided for those children who use the walking bus
every day.

Table 16       Modal shift of pupils: travel on days that the walking bus is not
               used

Number       of Mode of transport on non-walking bus days                Total
days walking           Car       Mixture of        Walk
bus is used                      car or walk
       1                4             3               2                           9
       2                0             5               2                           7
       3                3             0              12                          15
       4                2             1               4                           7
       5               n/a           n/a             n/a                         31
No information           4            0               0                           4
Total                   13            9              20                          73
Source: The case study surveys

The figures above suggest that whilst about half of the children also walked on non-
walking bus days, the same number are driven at least some of the time. So although
the walking bus may have resulted in a partial modal shift it should not be assumed
that children who used the walking bus and who were previously taken to school by
car, then always walked. As can be seen, a number of children only used the walking
bus on one day a week and were often taken to school by car on the other four days.

4.4.3   Modal shift in the case study schools: families

A second way of looking at modal shift is to look, not at the number of children using
the walking bus, but at the number of families. This information provides a more
accurate picture of the impact the walking bus has had on the number of car journeys
made to the school. Although this assumes that the children are driven by a family
member and not by another adult who is still doing so, the interview data with parents
suggests that, for these parents at least, this is the case.

Again, it is useful to first look at this by comparing previous mode of transport for the
different walking buses. Table 17 provides a summary of this information. Whilst the
figures on children indicated that 17 children across the five walking buses had
changed from using the car to walking, family data indicates that this represents 14
families, with 11 families using a mixture of walking and car and 25 families making
no change.




                                           33
Table 17       Modal shift of families by walking bus

School          Method of travel before using the walking bus                   Total

                    No               Car           Mixture          Walk
               information
Hillshott            1                 2                4             3           10
Layston              0                 7                4             4           15
Lordship             1                 2                0             8           11
Mandeville           0                 2                2             4            8
Millfield            1                 1                1             6            9
Total                3                14               11            25           53
Source: The case study surveys

Table 18 provides a summary of how many days a week each family used the walking
bus. As shown above, 14 families switched from using the car to using the walking
bus, but only 6 of these use the walking bus every day and one family (representing 3
children) only used the walking bus for one day. By contrast, 13 families who walked
previously used the walking bus every day. As Mandeville ran a walking bus only
three days a week, this figure is higher as all the Mandeville families who walked to
school previously, walked on the days the walking bus was not running.

Table 18     Modal shift of families: number of days on the walking bus by
prior mode of travel

Number       of Method of travel before walking bus
days walking           No            Car         Mixture              Walk       Total
bus used          information
No information          0              3             1                  2           6
       1                1              1            2                   1           5
       2                0              0            2                   1           3
       3                0              3            1                   5           9
       4                0              1            1                   3           5
       5                2              6            4                  13          25
    Total               3             14            11                 25          53
Source: The case study surveys

Table 19 shows how families travel to school on the days they do not use the walking
bus. This provides similar information to the information in Table 14 and
demonstrates that whilst many of the ‘walkers’ continued to walk even on non-
walking bus days, another group used the car or a mixture. It is not surprising to learn
that for the most part, families and children who were driven to school previously,
usually travelled by car on the days that they did not go on the walking bus. It appears
that some ‘walkers’ opted not to use the walking bus every day. Some of the reasons
for this were to retain some flexibility for parents, to gain time with their own child or
because they had another child that needed to be escorted somewhere on that day.




                                           34
Table 19       Modal shift of families: travel on non-walking bus days


Number       of              Mode of travel on non walking bus days
days walking           Car          Mixture             Walk                  Total
bus is used
No information          4               0                 0                        4
       1                2               3                  2                       7
       2                0               2                  2                       4
       3                2               0                  6                       8
       4                2               1                  2                       5
       5               n/a             n/a               n/a                      25
     Total              10              6                 12                      53
Source: The case study surveys

4.4.4   Modal shift and car use in the case study schools

A third area relating to modal shift is the actual reduction in car use. Although there
were families who used the walking bus instead of driving to school, this does not
necessarily mean that there was an overall reduction in actual car use. For some
parents it merely changed the nature of the journey from one to the school to one to
the walking bus stop, often on the way to work. Others might have walked to the
walking bus stop and then go back and collect their cars. Table 20 shows how car use
was affected.

Table 20       The impact of walking buses on car use

Travel    mode               Whether the car was still used for a journey.
before    using      Car used           Mixture       Car not used         Total
walking bus          every day
Car                      11                 1                0               12
Mixture                   0                10                0               10
Walk                      0                 0               16               16
Total                    11                11               16               38
Source: The case study surveys

It can be seen that for those families who used the car before the walking bus, in
general, using the walking bus changed only the nature of the journey, not the level of
car use. Of the 11 families who used the car every day, many reported that they
changed to driving the car to the walking bus stop. Not surprisingly, all but one of
these parents was employed and the journey being made was to get to work. The
situation is similar for those parents reporting a mixture of car use and walking to
school. About half of these parents were employed part-time and the car tended to be
used on those days when they needed to go on to work. Other parents not employed
often had other commitments, for example, taking younger children to nursery or
playgroups, which meant that they still used the car on those days. Overall, even
where the walking bus has had an impact on the way the child travels to school and
thus the number of cars around the vicinity of the school, the actual impact on car use
may be negligible.



                                          35
Parents were also asked whether the journey was made especially to get to school. As
can be seen in Table 21, the results of this are broadly in line with the analysis above.
Of the 12 parents who took the children to school by car, only 3 reported that this was
mainly to get the children to school, for the other 9 parents it was part of a journey,
usually to work or another school. All the walk journeys, as might be expected, were
made solely to get the child to school. Parents who previously used a mixture of using
the car or walking show the most variation, possibly because their needs changed
from one day to another.

Table 21       The main purpose of the car journey

Travel before Mainly to get          Sometimes         Rarely just to       Total
using walking       to school                          get to school
bus
Car                      3                 0                 9                12
Mixture                 4                  5                 1                10
Walk                    16                 0                 0                16
Source: The case study surveys

4.4.5   Changes in the distances travelled

For 64 of the children, who live in 47 families, as shown in Table 22, it is possible to
calculate how far they travelled to school when using the walking bus and to compare
this with the distance travelled before using the walking bus. The number of children
being considered here is small, but it gives an indication of the potential for walking
buses to increase physical activity.

Table 22     Number of participants on each walking bus included in distance
calculations

                          Families                Children
Hillshott                   10                      12
Layston                     15                      18
Lordship                     8                      14
Mandeville                   5                       9
Millfield                    9                      11
Total                       47                      64

As Table 23 shows, on average the children walk an extra 513 metres a day each
when using the walking bus. From the figures in Table 9, it is possible to calculate the
average speed the children walk at on the walking bus, which is 4.2 km/hour or 70.6
metres/minute. Assuming all the walking is at this speed, this implies that the children
are receiving an extra 7.3 minutes of physical activity a day on average or 36 minutes
each week. This is not a huge amount, but given that they have to travel to school
anyway, this suggests that walking buses can provide a useful opportunity for extra
exercise. This is in addition to the other benefits that will be discussed in Section 5.

It may be noted that there is wide variation across the five schools, from Layston with
an extra 1,011 metres a day on average to Millfield with an increase of only 75 metres
on average. As shown in Table 14, Layston was the school with the greatest number
of children switching from car to walk on taking up the walking bus. Millfield had the

                                             36
smallest proportion of children switching from car. Part of the reason that the figure is
low for Mandeville is that it operates on only three days a week.

Table 23      Average distance (in metres) walked to school each day by each
child before and after the introduction of the walking bus

               Before                          After                         Difference
              Distance       Distance           Distance          Total       between
              walked         walked on       walked on days      distance    after and
                              days the           that the        walked        before
                            walking bus       walking bus
                             was used         was not used
                           averaged over     averaged over
                             the week           the week
Hillshott           508             1,082                 134       1,216            708
Layston             356             1,248                 119       1,367          1,011
Lordship            776               957                 148       1,105            329
Mandeville          997               616                 465       1,081             84
Millfield           630               700                   5         705             75
Total               614               970                 157       1,127            513

It is interesting to distinguish between the extra physical activity by those who
formerly travelled by car and those who formerly walked. Table 24 shows the change
in the average distance walked each day disaggregated by the mode of travel used
previously, across all five schools because the numbers at the individual schools are
small.

Table 24      Average distance (in metres) walked to school each day by each
child before and after the introduction of the walking bus disaggregated by the
mode of travel used previously

Mode of        Before                          After                         Difference
travel        Distance       Distance           Distance          Total       between
used          walked         walked on       walked on days      distance    after and
previously                    days the           that the        walked        before
                            walking bus       walking bus
                             was used         was not used
                           averaged over     averaged over
                             the week           the week
Walk                950               839                 129         968             19
Mixture             567               494                 382         876            309
Car                   0             1,445                 105       1,549          1,549
Total               614               970                 157       1,127            513

It can be seen that that the children who walked previously were only walking an
extra 19 metres a day on average, but those who regularly travelled by car previously
were walking an average of 1,549 metres each day, which is considerably further than
the average total distance of 968 metres walked by children who walked previously. It
may be the case that some of them lived further from the school than those who
previously walked which is why they were previously brought by car. At an average
speed of 4.2 km/hour a walk of 1,549 metres implies an extra 22 minutes of physical

                                            37
activity each day. This is consistent with a rather longer walk than the time that the
walking buses take, as shown in Table 9. It is 110 minutes of walking each week. This
is very close to the recommended standard of 2 hours a week of physical education
(PE) and games lessons. It has been shown elsewhere in the research project of which
this work is part (Mackett et al, 2005), that walking uses more calories per minute
than all other activities that children do, other than PE and games lessons and ball
games. This all suggests that there is a significant physical activity benefit for a child
who switches to using a walking bus to go to school rather than travelling by car.

As a result of using the walking bus there is a reduction in the distance travelled by
car, as shown in Table 25. The reduction is 408 metres a day by each child on
average, with Layston showing the largest decrease because it has the greatest
reduction in car use.

Table 25      Average distance travelled to school by car each day by each child
before and after the introduction of the walking bus by children providing such
data (in metres)

                Before      After      Difference between
                                        after and before
Hillshott           601         107                   -494
Layston           1,382         564                   -818
Lordship            405          85                   -320
Mandeville          134          51                    -83
Millfield            69          53                    -16
Total               621         213                   -408

As implied by Table 22, some of the children using the walking bus are siblings and
so travel to school together. This means that the total reduction in the distance that
the cars travelled is less than that implied by the figures shown in Table 25. Table 26
shows the reduction in the distance travelled to school by cars as a result of the use of
the walking bus.

Table 26      Total distance (in metres) travelled to school by cars each day
before and after the introduction of the walking bus by children

                 Before        After       Difference between
                                            after and before
Hillshott           7,216         1,281                 -5,935
Layston            20,484         6,952                -13,532
Lordship            4,489           237                 -4,252
Mandeville            924           228                   -696
Millfield             763           584                   -179
Total              33,876         9,281                -24,594
Average per
school              6,775         1,856                   -4,919

As Table 26 shows, this implies that the cars previously taking the 64 children from
the 47 families travelled nearly 25 km less each day between them each day.
However, it is possible that some of the car journeys to school made previously were
part of a longer trip, such as commuting to work which would still be made even if the

                                           38
child used the walking bus. Table 27 shows the frequency that each mode of travel
was used previously especially to take the child to school.

Table 27       Frequency that the previous mode of travel was used especially to
take the child to school

Mode        of     Frequency that the previous mode of travel was used especially
travel    used                       to take the child to school
previously            Rarely        Sometimes           Mainly         Total
Walk                    0                3                 16            19
Mixture                 1                1                  2             4
Car                     7                1                  3            11
Total                   8                5                 21            34

Table 27 shows that for seven out of the eleven former car users, the car was rarely
used solely to take the child to school: usually the journey to school was part of a
longer trip; hence, even though the child was using the walking bus, the car was still
be used, so there was unlikely to be a significant reduction in car use for that overall
trip (It is even conceivable that there could be an increase in car use if the parent had
to drive further to take the child to the walking bus than he or she did to go straight to
school, but this is likely to be rare). By contrast, it can be seen that the parents who
previously walked with their child were usually making the trip especially for that
purpose.

This suggests that the reduction in the distance that cars travel as a result of the
introduction of a walking bus is likely to be considerably less than the 25 km overall
shown in Table 26.

It is recognised that the numbers of children being considered here are small, but the
results seem intuitively to be about right. The main conclusions that can be drawn are
that a walking bus can provide a very useful volume of physical activity for a child
who previously travelled by car, but that there is likely to be a very small reduction in
car use in terms of total distance travelled. (There may however be a reduction in
congestion at the school entrance). There does not seem to much benefit in physical
activity terms for children who were walking previously, but there are other benefits,
as will be shown later in Section 5 and they may help to make the walking bus viable
so that the former car users can use it.

4.4.6   Overview

There is some evidence on car use by those using the walking bus from the interviews
about the five walking buses. Table 14 showed the mode used before they started
using the walking bus by the 73 children interviewed. It also showed the mode used
on days when the walking bus is not used. This suggests that about 26% (17 out of 66
for whom information is available) of the children previously used the car every day.
If those using a mixture of car and walk are counted as 0.5 this increases to 36% (24
out of 66). This is lower than the figure of 62% in Table 13. However, if the three
schools in both surveys are examined, and the children who previously used a mix of
walk and car are counted as 0.5, the mean from the postal survey is 42.4% (14
children out of 33) and the mean from the interviews is 42.5% (17 out of 40). (One of
the four schools that was interviewed and responded to the postal survey, did not


                                           39
answer this question in the latter survey, so the comparison here is based on three
schools). The surveys were done at different times, which explains the difference
between the total numbers. This comparison suggests that the differences between the
two data collection exercises reflects the different sets of schools covered rather that a
difference arising from the methods used. This partly arises from the small numbers
providing this information, namely 172 children in this part of the postal survey and
66 in the interviews. It is recognised that these are small numbers, but walking buses
are small-scale initiatives, and it is unusual to obtain data about the dynamics of
modal shift from any sector of the population, let alone for young children.

As shown in Table 16, quite a few children do not use the walking bus every day, and
some use car on other days. This means that even if a child has switched from car to
using the walking bus, he or she may not be making five fewer car trips to school each
week. (It is worth noting that most walking buses only operate in the morning. This is
usually because of the variation in the times that children leave school because of
after-school activities).

Because of the relatively small numbers involved, and because some children did not
previously go to school by car on five days a week, and because some do not use the
walking bus every day, it is difficult to reach a firm estimate of the reduction in the
number of car trips to school by children. (It is worth bearing in mind that the figures
presented here are based on a survey of the whole of Hertfordshire, which is wider
than many other travel surveys. Potentially, every child on a walking bus in the
county was covered and the response rate in the postal survey was well over 50%,
which is very high for this type of survey sent out ‘cold’). Given these caveats, the
reduction in the number of children travelling by car seems to be about 50% of the
number of children on the walking bus. As discussed in Section 3.1, a walking bus
typically has 10 children using it and at January 2003 there were 26 active walking
buses in Hertfordshire. Putting these figures together suggests that there are about 130
children on walking buses rather than using the car each day in Hertfordshire. This is
not a huge reduction in the number of car trips in a county with a population of just
over one million.

Just because a child has switched from using the car to going by walking bus, it does
not mean that the car is not being used for a trip. For example, if a parent previously
dropped a child off outside the school on the way to work and now drops the child off
at the beginning of the walking bus, then there will not be a significant reduction in
the number of cars on the road, but there could be a reduction in the amount of
parking near the school entrance, which would be a small benefit on road safety
grounds. The figures from the five case study interviews, shown in Table 20, confirm
that the cars used to bring the children to school previously are still being used for a
trip at about the same time. It seems likely that the car is being used to go to work by
a parent even though the child is using the walking bus. In other words, even though
the child has started using the walking bus, there is not a reduction in the number of
car trips. This is confirmed by the figures in Table 27 in which it was shown that, for
the majority of those who formerly travelled by car, rarely was the car used solely to
take the child to school: usually it was part of a longer trip, probably by a parent on
the way to work. More generally, in the questionnaire surveys undertaken in another
part of this project (Mackett et al, 2002), it was found that 28% of the trips to school
by car were made solely to take a child to school. The rest were made in the course of



                                           40
trips to other destinations, mainly workplaces. This confirms the limited scope for
walking buses to reduce the number of cars on the road.

However, whilst the actual numbers may not be high this does not mean that walking
buses do not have any impact on travel to school. Although it is common for only one
or two families to have switched from driving to walking, this still represents a change
in travel mode for these families. There was an acceptance from the head teachers that
one walking bus could not be expected to make a significant direct contribution to
congestion around the school

Moreover, a number of parents reported that using the walking bus had made them
more rigorous about walking to school. Whereas once they might have used the car a
number of times a week, now they were more likely to walk every day, regardless of
weather or other constraints, though it should be noted that this is sometimes given as
a reason why parents stopped using the walking bus. It was also suggested that using
the walking bus one or two days a week was a way of building up to either a higher
usage or walking to school regularly, although there is no evidence to suggest that this
occurs. More indirectly, this evaluation exercise has not looked at whether the
walking bus contributed to a change in travel mode across the school. It is possible
that walking buses help to raise awareness of the benefits of walking to school.
Children not on the walking bus may be influenced by measures such as these, which
encourage walking. The evaluation did not look at this potential wider impact.

To sum up, the measurable benefits that come out of this analysis are that about half
the trips on walking buses were previously made by car, and that, on average, each
child who previously travelled by car who switched to walking, walked for 22
minutes on the walking bus each time it was used. For a child that uses the walking
bus every day, this is nearly two hours of extra physical activity a week. Putting these
two concepts together, suggests that walking buses can make a significant
contribution to children’s volumes of physical activity.

5      BENEFITS   AND             DISADVANTAGES:              A     STAKEHOLDER
       PERSPECTIVE

As shown in Section 4 above, modal shift, as a direct result of walking buses, is not
very high. Nevertheless it would be wrong to dismiss the walking bus initiative as
being without benefits to schools, parents and children – even if these benefits are a
matter of perception. This section looks more broadly at the benefits to these groups
outside the more narrowly defined objectives. In the first sub-section the views of co-
ordinators and head teachers are considered. The second section looks at the views of
parents and the children including those who have left the walking bus.

A third section looks at disadvantages of walking buses, as reported by those
interviewed. As some participants (children or parents) were previous users of the
walking bus, where possible, the discussion distinguishes between the responses made
by those who had left the walking bus and those who had remained on it at the time of
the interview. The issue of time saving and loss is treated separately in Section 5.4.




                                          41
5.1 Head teachers and co-ordinators

As shown in Section 4 above, most of the stated objectives of walking buses were not
seen as being realised by either head teachers or co-ordinators. Despite this, both these
groups were broadly supportive and positive about walking buses and saw them as
having a number of positive attributes.

First and foremost, walking buses are seen as a public statement of the benefits of
walking. Regardless of whether the children on such walking buses actually changed
the travel mode to school, this sends out important messages to others around the
school. For head teachers walking buses can be conceived as part of a larger strategy
to try to change the ‘car culture’ which results in so many children being driven to
school. Walking buses are seen as a positive step in addressing both parking and
health issues throughout the school even where it is acknowledged that the
contribution of a single walking bus may be small. The evaluation did not attempt to
measure these wider benefits so it is not possible to comment on how far walking
buses, as part of a package of measures, may have such outcomes.

For some of the head teachers the walking bus was also a way of reassuring residents
living near the school that their concerns were taken seriously. The tension between
local residents and schools over parking and congestion is detrimental to good
relationships in the community. A walking bus is a positive statement of the school’s
policy towards walking and driving. Some of the head teachers were of the opinion
that this was a major benefit of having a walking bus at the school although it was not
possible to comment on whether community relationships had improved as a result.

Co-ordinators also felt that the walking bus was important for a number of other
reasons. First, they bring together groups of children who may not ordinarily mix.
Younger and older children learn to co-operate and socialise in a supervised setting.
The social aspects of a walking bus were mentioned by virtually all co-ordinators. A
number also felt that the interaction between children and adults who were not their
parents or teachers was important. Second, walking buses make road safety issues
explicit in a way that is not necessarily the case when children walk with parents. Co-
ordinators reported that learning about road safety was an important by-product of
being on a walking bus. Third, walking buses impose a level of discipline on children
in terms of the time they leave home and the means by which they travel to school.

Neither head teachers nor co-ordinators thought that there were many, if any,
disadvantages to walking buses. However, it should be noted that a number of schools
reported that they had thought the walking bus would place more of a burden on the
school whereas in fact, once up and running, school involvement was actually
minimal. As one of the conclusions arising from this report is that schools need to
take more responsibility for walking buses, this finding should be treated with some
reservation.

5.2       Benefits as perceived by parents and children

This section discusses the benefits as reported by parents and children interviewed. In
the discussion and parents a distinction is made between:

      •   benefits or ‘likes’ as reported by children


                                              42
   •   benefits for children as reported by parents
   •   benefits for parents as reported by parents

Children were asked what they liked about the walking bus. Parents were asked to
look at benefits from two viewpoints, those for their children and any they themselves
gained. Both children and parents still using the walking bus, and those who had left,
are included in this analysis.

The comments made by both children and parents varied but could be seen to fall
within general categories. Table 28 provides a summary of the number of times
different types of comments were made by children and parents across the five
walking buses. Figures in brackets are given to distinguish parents and children who
no longer use the walking bus.

As can be seen, the most reported benefit for children, as reported by parents and
children, was a social one. Parents reporting this benefit often voiced it in terms of the
benefit of being with other children. In particular, walking buses can provide a setting
where children who would not normally mix, are put together. Younger children walk
alongside older children and children in different classes become friends. For some
parents the social aspects of the walking bus were paramount and in one or two cases
explained why they went out of their way to ensure that there child used the walking
bus. However, some parents also thought that it was beneficial for their children to
mix with other adults.

Children reported social benefits in a similar way. Many children liked the walking
bus simply because they liked to walk with friends, older or younger children and
other adults. The social aspects of a walking bus, though difficult to quantify, are
easily the most reported benefit by both parents and children. However, social
benefits were not seen as extending to parents themselves and only two parents using
walking buses reported that they benefited from the social aspects themselves.




                                           43
Table 28       Summary table to show reported benefits as perceived by children
               and parents

Benefits                       For children         For children         For parents
As perceived                   By parents           By children          By parents
Social aspects - mixing       33 (including 5     61 (including 13             2
with adults and children       who had left)       who had left)
of other ages
Exercise and fresh air              20             10 (including 1      7 (including 2
                                                    who had left)       who had left)
Enjoyment of walking                 -             19 (including 1             -
                                                    who had left)
Settle more quickly at              10                    -                    -
school and alertness
Supervised                    11(including 2                                   3
independence from              who had left)
parent
Road safety and good          7 (including 1        2 (including 1             -
walking habits                who had left)         who had left)
Discipline                           2                     -                  -
None                          6 (including 4       12 (including 5     14 (including 3
                              who had left)         who had left)       who had left)
Pollution                            -                     1                  -
Fall back option or                  -                     -                  9
childcare
Source: The case study surveys

Both parents and children reported that it was good for them to walk. More parents
than children reported this, although it was also an area where parents felt that they
themselves could benefit. It should be pointed out though that this benefit was
reported irrespective of previous mode of travel to school. Parents and children who
already walked every day are amongst those who saw exercise and fresh air as a
benefit of walking buses.

However, if parents reported walking as a benefit because of exercise and fresh air,
children often vocalised this in more simple terms and many (19) just said that the
‘liked walking’, or in some cases, they ‘didn’t like going in the car’.

Although, as argued earlier, it is difficult to demonstrate any benefits in terms of
health or mental alertness, a number of parents clearly see these as benefits of walking
buses. A number (10) mentioned that they believed walking to school helped their
child settle better into class and that driving them to school meant that they still had
‘too much energy’. However, as above, parents of children who were already walking
to school often make these comments. They are reported as benefits for walking
buses, but are in fact benefits their children were already accruing prior to the start of
the walking bus.

Parents also saw the walking bus as a means by which children could gain
independence, yet still be supervised. For some this was a step towards walking to
school themselves whereas for others it was more about confidence building or

                                           44
building up road safety skills. One parent had started her children on the walking bus
specifically because of the role she felt it played in teaching road safety skills,
whereas another felt that the adult volunteers were better at teaching road safety skills
because they were in a disciplined setting.

Overall, social aspects are by far the most reported benefits of walking buses, as seen
by parents and children. Benefits to do with walking, getting exercise and fresh air are
also seen as important – perhaps more by parents than children. Less mentioned were
road safety benefits, environmental benefits and independence. Interestingly very few
parents could see benefits for themselves (although time saving is considered
elsewhere). The most reported benefit in this regard was as a childcare option or
fallback.

Table 29 illustrates some typical comments from children regarding what they liked
about the walking buses, whilst Table 30 presents this information from a parental
perspective.

Table 29         Comments made by children about what they liked about the
                 walking bus6

Social Aspects         •
                       You get to see friends on the walking bus. I have lots of
                       friends on the walking bus
                   • (You) get to wear the yellow and silver jackets and get to be
                       with your friends.
                   • They let us walk slowly and have a play
                   • (You) get partners and don’t have to walk on your own
Exercise and       • It gives you more energy and you get to talk to your friends.
energy             • We sing songs on the way. Sometimes I get leg ache but this is
                       good.
                   • When you walk on the walking bus you get lots of fresh air
                       and energy
Like walking       • I like it ’cause I can walk, more than going in the car. (I) like
                       walking and holding hands with Lindsey (adult volunteer)
                   • It’s nice to walk if you’re not tired
Safety and         • It’s good for the environment because the air is not so polluted
pollution          • (Its) safer because (we’re) walking in a group
Source: The case study surveys




6
 These comments are illustrative. Whilst comments that were complete have been selected, editing has
been undertaken so they make sense to the reader. This editing occurs in brackets.

                                                45
Table 30         Comments made by parents about the benefits for their children of
                 the walking bus7

Social Aspects         •
                       (My) younger child really liked the walking bus - all her
                       friends used it
                   • (Its) nice to help others
Exercise and       • (It) gets them fitter. Now they don't complain about walking;
energy                 they did to begin with
Settle more        • (My) son is like a playful puppy - he has bags of energy and
quickly at             finds it difficult to sit still at school
school and         • He's not stuck in the car and it wakes him up
alertness          • (My) eldest daughter uses up surplus energy walking to
                       school. (It’s) good for them to be out in the fresh air, good for
                       their fitness. (It) helps them prepare for the school day.
                   • Walking gives him a burst of exercise - then (he’s) more likely
                       to concentrate at school
Supervised         • (My) child is quite clingy and this helps give him some
independence           independence.
from parent        • A bit of independence especially when they go on their own
Safety             • feeling that she was safer - the traffic is stopped for them and
                       they learn about road skills
                   • (It) teaches (them) about road skills and crossing the road
                   • Peace of mind that (my) daughter is supervised. She is too
                       young to walk on her own
Source: The case study surveys

5.3     Negative aspects of the walking bus as perceived by parents and children

Children and parents were also asked about their ‘dislikes’ (for children) or the
disadvantages (for parents) of the walking bus. These more negative comments are
recorded in this section, apart from those about time losses which are treated
separately in Section 5.4. Table 31 provides a summary of these comments by
children and parents.

In looking at these comments two points should be considered. Firstly, many of those
interviewed – parents and children – could not think of any dislikes or disadvantages
of the walking bus. Secondly, reported disadvantages were often the downside of
reported advantages and were sometimes made by the same parents or children.

Both parents and children reported social aspects as a disadvantage of walking buses.
If walking with other children can be seen as an advantage, it can also become a
disadvantage. Sometimes the social experience of a walking bus is not a good one.
Some children mentioned being worried about other children on the walking bus,
being bullied or teased by these children, having to walk with a child they did not like
or not being able to walk with the one that they did like. Parents made similar
comments. It is fair to say that many of the children who mentioned social aspects as a
bad thing about walking buses were the same as those who mentioned it as a good

7
 These comments are illustrative. Whilst comments that were complete have been selected, editing has
been undertaken so they make sense to the reader. This editing occurs in brackets.


                                                46
thing. There are, however, a small number of children for whom being on the walking
bus was only perceived as a negative social experience.

Table 31         Summary table to show negative aspects as perceived by the
                 children and parents

Negative aspects              For children         For children        For parents
As perceived                   By parents          By children          By parents
Social aspects               10 (including 3     15 (including 4          -
                             who had left the    who had left the
                              walking bus)         walking bus)
Embarrassment                 7 (including 4    7 (including1 who         -
                             who had left the       had left the
                              walking bus)         walking bus)
Loss of contact between       7 (including 3      2 (including 1   5 (including 2
child and parent             who had left the    who had left the who had left the
                              walking bus)         walking bus)    walking bus)
Do not like walking                  -           10 (including 1          -
                                                 who had left the
                                                   walking bus)
Poor weather                  8 (including 1      8 (including 2          1
                             who had left the    who had left the
                              walking bus)         walking bus)
Lack of exercise                     -                   -                1
Commitment to be there        4 (including 1             -        22 (including 9
and on time or loss of       who had left the                     who had left the
flexibility                   walking bus)                         walking bus)
Formality of walking                 -                   7                -
bus
Carrying bags to school            2                     -                  -
Dog mess                           -                     1                  -
None or no comment          17 (including 1      47 (including 12    21 (including 1
                           who had left the      who had left the    who had left the
                             walking bus)         walking bus)        walking bus)
Source: The case study surveys

There are a number of disadvantages of walking buses that are closely allied to these
social aspects. First a number of children, often the older children on the walking bus,
reported that they did not like being on the walking bus because they were teased or
felt embarrassment. Loss of ‘credibility’, particularly amongst the older children was
often given as a reason why children left the walking bus and some still on it
complained that other children made fun of them for being on the walking bus.
Alongside the loss of ‘credibility’ were also comments about the jackets children have
to wear. Whilst jackets were also mentioned as a positive thing, for some children it is
a negative one. Parents often reaffirmed these comments and embarrassment was the
reason for a number of children stopping using the walking bus (although only one
such child reported this).

For both parents and children, participating on the walking bus also reduced
individual time spent by a child with their parent. Whilst many did not mention this as

                                          47
a disadvantage some children did not like walking to school without their parent and
resent the loss of contact. A number of parents felt the same way or appreciated that
their children did so. However, parents who reported ‘increased independence’ as an
advantage could also report ‘loss of parental time’ as a disadvantage.

There are also children who did not like being on the walking bus because they did
not like walking. Often this is reported as ‘being too tired’ to walk. Although this
group was not large it was apparent that some children found the walking bus rather a
trial. Often these children were used to being driven to school although this could
have been because they lived further away or were younger than some of the others.

Looking at the disadvantages parents see for themselves, it is apparent that loss of
flexibility it by far the most reported. Many parents reported that they found it
difficult or stressful to have to be ‘at the stop’ by a certain time (usually earlier) and
that this created difficulties for them. Others found having to walk every day (or even
on set days) meant that they had less flexibility to decide how to travel to school (or
what time to leave). This issue is revisited in the section below on time saving and
losses.

Table 32 illustrates some typical comments from children regarding what they
disliked about walking buses whilst Table 33 presents this information from a parental
perspective.

Table 32         Comments made by children about what they disliked about the
                 walking bus8

Social aspects         •
                       The boys are horrible and step on the back of your shoes.
                       •
                       (I) don’t like being oldest girl on the walking bus. No other
                       girls from (my) class - would be nicer if Mum was on the
                       walking bus or another girl from (my) class
Poor weather       • don't like it if it’s raining and snowing at the same time or
                       really pouring with rain as (we) get wet
                   • (I) don't like walking as my hands freeze
Do not like        • get bored walking
walking            • don’t like having to walk 4 days a week…would prefer to go
                       by car because its quite a long walk
                   • (I) don't like walking, would like to come in the car, walking
                       makes (my) legs ache
Embarrassment • (I’m) fed up with wearing jacket. People are staring at me.
                       They might be safe but (I) don’t like them
                   • (I) think everybody is looking at them-both adults and
                       children.
Formality of       • don’t like walking at the front or back of the walking bus
walking bus        • (It) sometimes goes too fast and (I) get a stitch.
                   • (I) don't like walking in twos and following the others.
                       Sometimes they are slow and you bump into them
Source: The case study surveys


8
 These comments are illustrative. Whilst comments that were complete have been selected, editing has
been undertaken so they make sense to the reader. This editing occurs in brackets.

                                                48
Table 33         Comments made by parents about the negative aspects of the
                 walking bus9

Social aspects         •   Some of (my) daughter’s friends don't go on walking bus.
                           (She) missed walking with her friends and seeing them in the
                           playground before the bell rings.
                       •   He didn't have a good friend on the walking bus who could be
                           his partner
Commitment to          •   Time factor. We have to be on time or else are letting other
be there and on            people down
time or loss of
flexibility
Embarrassment          •   (My) older child gets flack for jackets
                       •   (He) didn't enjoy it: not cool enough! Didn't like singing the
                           songs!
Poor weather       •       Getting wet on rainy days
                   •       Having to walk in the rain
Loss of contact •          Now I don't chat to him as he's with friends
between child •            (He) didn't like leaving me - liked me to take him to school.
and parent
Source: The case study surveys

It can be seen that many of the good and bad things about walking buses can be
extended to walking to school in general. Getting exercise, using energy and it being
better to walk than drive are not solely the benefits of walking buses. In a similar vein,
concerns about the weather, not liking walking or feeling too tired to walk are not the
preserve of the walking bus.

5.4       Time savings and losses

As stated above, one of the key areas for assessing the benefits of the walking bus is
time. It was more difficult to find out about time saving or loss than was expected. It
was often difficult for parents to make judgements about changes in the timing of the
journey to school, as it was often incorporated into a multi-purpose trip and could
vary from day to day. However, the evaluation has clarified the different ways in
which time may be seen to be gained or lost and these findings are reported here. The
information is based on the interviews with the 38 parents who were still using the
walking bus. Some of the parents who no longer used the walking bus, had used it for
such a short time that they were unable to say in detail how much longer the journey
had taken or whether they had saved time. However several of them gave the longer
time as a reason for leaving the walking bus.

There are three ways of looking at time changes:

      •   Time shifts, for example, taking children to school earlier;


9
 These comments are illustrative. Whilst comments that were complete have been selected, editing has
been undertaken so they make sense to the reader. This editing occurs in brackets.


                                                49
   •   Time savings, for example, the time spent taking the child to school was
       shorter;
   •   Time loss, for example, the time spent taking the child to school increased.

A distinction also needs to be made between the time it took the child to walk to
school on the walking bus compared with their previous mode of transport, and the
time the parent spent on the school journey with the walking bus in place. These are
not necessarily the same, and in fact, if benefits are to be maximised, it is important
that they are not. As reported by parents, children ‘lost’ time by using the walking bus
regardless of whether they walked or were driven prior to its use. The walking bus
generally took longer than the child and parent walking to school by themselves.
Therefore, parents of children who previously walked reported that their children took
longer getting to school on the walking bus.

If time shifts are considered first, then most parents reported that the walking bus has
resulted in a time shift. Generally, the walking buses departed from their start point
earlier than the parents would normally have left for school. For parents who usually
walked this time shift could be about 10 minutes, but for those used the car they could
be significantly greater than this. For example, one parent who walked, usually left
the house at 8:40 am in order to undertake a 15 minute walk to school. The walking
bus departed from its first stop, where her child joined it, at 8:30 am so there was a
time shift of 10 minutes. Another parent using the same walking bus but who
previously drove the car was used to leaving at about 8:50 am for a five minute
journey to the school. With the walking bus, she had to drop her child off at the first
stop at 8:30 am. This is a time shift of 20 minutes but the mother did not mind the
earlier start as she considered that she had now ‘gained’ 20 minutes.

These time shifts are important for understanding why some parents find the walking
bus so useful and others quite difficult. Some parents may gain little from being able
to drop their children off earlier and in fact often perceive this as making the mornings
more stressful. This is elaborated in Section 6 where reasons for leaving the walking
bus are discussed. Other parents though may find this ‘extra’ time useful, for example
in the example given above the parent was able to go to work earlier and so finish
earlier in time to pick her child up from school in the afternoon. On their own,
however, time shifts are neither savings nor losses and may be viewed either
negatively or positively depending on circumstances.

Time savings, that is over a period of a week they were spending less time taking their
child to school as a result of the walking bus, were reported by 12 of the 36 parents
for whom these data were available. Time losses were reported by 13 parents whilst
11 parents said that they neither gained nor saved time as a result of using the walking
bus. These time savings and losses have to be seen within the context of the parent’s
situation, including whether or not they acted as a volunteer for the walking bus. The
following table provides some summary information about the volunteer status of
parents and whether they gained, lost or found no time change.

The information summarised in Table 34 is not surprising. A number of volunteers do
so every day. Usually these volunteers walked prior to being on the walking bus, but
with the walking bus they both left the house earlier and took longer to walk to
school. If they did this every day they could not benefit. At best these parents reported
that the school journey was not taking them any longer.


                                           50
Table 34       Time savings and losses for 36 parents who were still using the
               walking bus

Volunteer            No change              Lose Time               Gain Time
Status
Volunteer                 5                     11                       0
every day
Have days off             6                      2                       3
volunteering
Not a                     0                      0                       9
volunteer
Total                    11                     13                       12
Source: The case study surveys

Volunteers that had days off had more chance of gaining time overall although on
balance a number of them felt that they were ‘even’. However, this was often viewed
positively, that is, they would prefer to spend longer on some days in order to have
other days free from the school journey. Two of the volunteers also reported the
benefit of having days off although they calculated that they actually spent longer on
average than previously. For some of the volunteers, this was a way of fitting other
commitments into the busy morning period. Their ‘volunteer days’ were programmed
to coincide with days they have no outside commitments whilst their free days might
allow them to fulfil other obligations, for example get to work on time or take another
child to a playgroup.


6      THE WALKING BUS LIFE CYCLE: CHANGES IN TAKE-UP AND
       PARTICIPATION

In Sections 4 and 5 the objectives, perceived outcomes and benefits of walking buses
were considered. An important part of the case study evaluation exercise was
examining the walking bus over a period of time. Most of the issues regarding the
lifecycle of a walking bus are raised in later sections of this report where process
issues are considered. However, this section presents an initial overview of some of
these data as it affects outcomes over time.

6.1    Changes in participation of children

With one exception, Lordship, which was the newest walking bus, the numbers of
children on a walking bus dropped off over a period of time. As shown in Table 35,
the four oldest walking buses all lost more children than they gained although the
overall change was not always significant. The two walking buses in Buntingford,
Layston and Millfield, lost many of the registered children over the period, with
Millfield closing down in December 2002, despite being the largest initially.




                                          51
Table 35           Children: recruitment and drop-off

Walking           Date    Number        Spring        Autumn          Spring        Autumn
bus                 of      at        term 2002      term 2002      term 2003      term 2003
                 launch   launch     change         change         change         change
Hillshott         May       15          -8     14      -6     9       -1     10      -5     8
                  2001                 +7              +1             +2             +3
Layston            Nov       26         -8     18      -4    14       +1     15     -12    5
                  2001                                                               +2
Lordship          June       16         n/a     -      -1     29      -6     27      -6    31
                  2002                                +14            +4             +10
Mandeville         Sept      15         -1     14      -6     12      -8     6       -1     5
                  2001                                +4             +2
Millfield          Nov       29        -14     15      -7     12     -12     0      n/a     -
                  2001                                +4
Total                        101               61             76             58            49
Source: The case study surveys

There are a number of reasons why children leave a walking bus. In the early stages
many children (and parents) leave the walking bus because they find it does not ‘fit’
with their schedule or expectations. The kinds of disadvantages seen in Section 5
explain much of the fall off during early periods and often it is the parent who makes
the decision to leave the walking bus rather than the child. However, in most cases,
where children left the walking bus in the early stages they reverted to their prior
mode of transport. For some children this would mean going back to being driven to
school.

The following provides an overview of the types of reasons mentioned by parents for
leaving the walking bus:

     •      Timing or routine, for example, the walking bus left too early, or arrived at the
            school too late
     •      Route, for example, the route was out of their way or made them walk further
     •      Weather, for example, they or their child did not like walking or waiting at the
            walking bus stop
     •      Child reasons, for example, their child did not like the walking bus
     •      Inflexibility, for example, they did not like being ‘tied’ to leaving at a certain
            time or having to walk on certain days

Table 36 provides some illustrations of these reasons.




                                               52
Table 36       Reasons why parents (and children) stopped using the walking bus

•  (It) took too long, too many prams, they sung silly songs, and we didn’t get to
   school early enough. He (her son) likes to play with his friends.
• If I went on the walking bus I had to leave home earlier than my son (at another
   school) and didn’t know if he had left or taken all his things with him.
• Timing. Stressful to have to be there on time. Walking anyway so no benefit to
   have to leave the house earlier.
• (Older child) did not want to go on it ...got teased about the yellow jacket.
• Had to go out of our way to get to the stop, missed the walking bus a couple of
   times, and gave up.
Source: The case study surveys

In the later stages of operation, the reasons for children leaving the walking bus
become more about changes in situation, primarily of parents. Job changes, house
moves and the transfer of the child to junior or middle school all feature as reasons
why some children left the walking bus. In these cases there is no generalisation to be
made as to the method of travel to school. Many children who walked to school on the
walking bus continued walking, either to this or another school, afterwards. However,
changes in situation, particularly involving parental work or family responsibilities,
often meant reverting to car use where it was a previous mode of transport.

An analysis of the children who have left the walking bus by previous and current
mode of transport showed that those children who had walked before using the
walking bus continued to walk (9 children), and those who were driven beforehand
reverted to this mode of transport (9 children). One child who used a mixture
continued to do so and another who had used the car stated that they used a mixture.

From the follow-up interviews with the co-ordinators it was apparent that children
begin to leave the walking bus because they outgrow it. This happens at different ages
in the different schools. At Mandeville, which had a high proportion of children in
year 5 at the start of the walking bus, these children started to walk to school by
themselves. As they were walking prior to the walking bus, this does not represent
any modal shift, but is a move to independence, which might have happened anyway.
At Hillshott where the children transfer to the local junior school, pupils have reverted
to the mode of transport used prior to the walking bus.

The questionnaire sent out in September 2003 to the 38 parents who had been
interviewed in the early stages of the walking bus evaluation exercise and were still
using the walking bus in September 2003 was intended to gather some views on the
long term use of walking bus including the following:

•   Why in the long term did people leave the walking bus?
•   What were their views of the walking bus after leaving?
•   Did they still use the walking bus as much?
•   Did parents still perceive the same benefits for their children and themselves?
•   Did they still perceive the same disadvantages for their children and themselves?
•   Why did some parents stay on the walking bus and others leave?

Questionnaires were sent to parents who had been on the walking bus at Millfield
School despite the fact that it was known that this walking bus was no longer

                                           53
operating. As shown in Table 37, 24 responses were received, giving a return rate of
63%. Of the questionnaires that were returned, 14 were no longer using the walking
bus and 10 were.

Table 37      Survey in September 2003 of parents who were also interviewed in
              the early stages of the evaluation exercise

Walking        Number of             Number            Number returned        Total
bus           questionnaires      returned with        with children who    returned
                 sent out          children still         had left the
                                     using the            walking bus
                                   walking bus
Hillshott            7                   3                     4           7 (100%)
Layston              9                   1                     3            4 (44%)
Lordship            12                   6                     3            9 (75%)
Mandeville           3                   0                     1            1 (33%)
Millfield            7                   0                     3            3 (43%)
Totals              38                  10                     14          24 (63%)
Source: The case study surveys

Of the ten respondents who still use the walking bus, they all had one child on a
walking bus, apart from one who had 4 children on it. The number of days these
families were using the walking bus is shown in Table 38.

Table 38      Change in usage of the walking bus by families using it over the
              whole evaluation period

Family Number of days Number of days                Number of days     Change in the
ID       on walking bus      on walking bus          as volunteer in    number of
               at first        in September         September 2003      days on the
             interview             2003                                 walking bus
126               5                  2                     2             Reduction
101               5                  3                     3             Reduction
005               5                  5                     0               Same
105               3                  3                     3               Same
129               1                  1                     1               Same
131               5                  5                     0               Same
134               5                  4                     0             Reduction
125               5                  3                     2             Reduction
109               2                  3                     1              Increase
133               5                  5                     0               Same
Source: The case study surveys

Although this is based on a very small number of responses, there does appear to be a
decrease in commitment to the walking bus. This means that even if they were
walking as volunteers each day they use the walking bus, they have days with no
commitment to the walking bus. It appears that those still using the walking bus every
day are often non-volunteers who are employed for whom the walking bus provides
an opportunity to get to work earlier. Obviously this is only based on a small sample
but from conversations with the walking bus co-ordinators it would seem that the


                                         54
walking bus is popular with these parents; however this may make the walking bus
unsustainable in the long term.

Four of the parents were using the walking bus less than when they first started. Only
one parent has increased the number of days her child goes on the walking bus and
this is probably related to a change in her employment status. At the first interview
she was not in paid employment, but she was at the time of the second interview and
the walking bus enabled her to drop her son earlier.

Of the five parents whose use of the walking bus has stayed the same, two of them
only used the walking bus a few days a week having chosen to retain some days
where they had flexibility. The other three parents who used the walking bus every
day, were in employment, were non volunteers and dropped their children off on the
way to work. They admitted that the use of the walking bus freed them up in the
morning.

Of the 14 respondents who no longer used the walking bus, only four families left
because the walking bus did not fit with their expectations and they did not enjoy the
commitment. Eight stopped using the walking bus because their children were either
no longer at that school, or they had moved as a family. For two, the walking bus
ceased to operate. Of the three parents at Millfield, one left in September 2002
because of the timing of the walking bus but the other two left when the walking bus
stopped in Spring 2003. Of the four parents at Hillshott, three left when their children
moved on to another school and one left before because of the loss of flexibility and
having to walk in bad weather. This parent only used the walking bus one day a week,
having already reduced from three days to one shortly after the walking bus started.
The three parents at Layston all left when their children moved on to another school.
The one parent at Mandeville left because her older children wanted to walk on their
own. One child moved to senior school, and the mother continued to walk her two
younger children to school by herself. She was the co-ordinator and felt that by
organising the walking bus she missed out on contact time with her children. Of the
three parents at Lordship, two had moved away and one had stopped using the
walking bus because of the lack of flexibility and the timing and her children did not
like the walking bus. Her children had only used the walking bus on one day a week.

All 14 respondents stated that they would recommend the walking bus to other
parents, including the four who left because it no longer suited them.

6.2    Changes in participation of volunteers

The reduction in the number of children using the walking bus is mirrored by a
decline in the number of volunteers as shown in Table 39. As children left the walking
bus so their parents, if they were volunteers, gave up this role. As the number of
children fell so there was less need for volunteers (assuming there was no growth).
Thus walking buses became stagnant unless new children with parental volunteers
joined.




                                          55
Table 39          Volunteers: recruitment and drop-off

Walking          Date    Number      Spring        Autumn        Spring       Autumn
bus                of      at      term 2002      term 2002    term 2003     term 2003
                launch   launch   change         change       change        change
Hillshott        May        9        -4     8       -4    6      0      6      -2    5
                 2001               +3              +2                        +1
Layston           Nov      15        -6     10      -5    5     +2     7       -4    4
                 2001               +1                                        +1
Lordship         June      10       n/a            0     10     0      10      -3    8
                 2002                                                         +1
Mandeville        Sept      6        0      6      +2    6      -4     2        0    2
                 2001                              -2
Millfield         Nov       4        0      4      -4    4      -4     0     n/a     n/a
                 2001                              +4
Total                      44              28            31            25            19
Source: The case study surveys

The reasons why volunteers leave the walking bus are similar to those discussed
above. For some parents who are volunteers the benefit to them, if there is one, is
marginal in comparison to the disadvantages. This may simply be because they are
spending longer on the school journey, or find the time shift difficult to accommodate
in their routine.

However, it would be inaccurate to say that all volunteers left because there was no
real benefit perceived. For some it was only because their child left the walking bus or
because their own situation changed. At the time of the evaluation very few parents
who were volunteers and had now left the walking bus were interviewed and it is thus
not possible to provide a full picture of the reasons why volunteers leave from the
parental perspective. Co-ordinators who were interviewed tended to report changes in
circumstances or that the volunteer’s child had left the walking bus. This may not
reflect the full reason for why a volunteer gave up the walking bus.

6.3         The closure of walking buses

The reasons behind the closure of the walking buses were covered in the postal
survey, as shown in Table 40. It should be noted that some co-ordinators gave more
than one reason for the closure. Five walking buses closed because of a shortage of
children, but the lack of volunteers was much more significant, with three-quarters of
them ceasing for this reason. Since the volunteers are parents, usually mothers, of the
children, there may well be cases where the child has dropped out, either through lack
of interest or by leaving the school, and so his or her mother ceased being a volunteer.
In three cases, the lack of a co-ordinator for that walking bus caused it to cease to
operate. This may be for the same reason as that suggested above for volunteers. Out
of the five walking buses which ceased because of a shortage of children, three also
had a shortage of volunteers, but two did not. In the latter cases, the walking buses
ceased simply because too few children were willing or able to use them. The other
reasons given were ‘Bad weather’ and ‘Lack of incentives’ but in each case there was
also a shortage of a co-ordinator and volunteers. The ‘Lack of incentives’ was added
under ‘Other reasons’ rather than an option offered on the questionnaire.




                                           56
Table 40         Reasons why walking buses have ceased operation – based on 12
                 walking buses in the postal survey

                                      Number                  %
Lack of volunteers                      9                     75
Too few children                        5                     42
Lack of a co-ordinator                  3                     25
Bad weather                             1                      8
Lack of incentives                      1                      8
Source: The postal survey
Note: This table is based on 12 responses from schools which set up walking buses
that have ceased to operate. Some respondents provided multiple answers.


7        IMPLEMENTATION AND PROCESS ISSUES

The previous sections of this report summarised the main findings from the
evaluation. The purpose of the next two sections of this report is to address the two
issues of modal shift and drop-off in numbers of volunteers and children. Although
these sections indicate possible problems within the implementation and organisation
of walking buses, this is untaken in order to identify areas of good practice or points
of intervention. The discussion is intended to offer a constructive look at walking
buses.

7.1      Modal shift: a problem of implementation?

The process of setting up a walking bus at each of the schools was considered as part
of the evaluation. The purpose of this was to determine whether the way in which the
walking bus was set up had any short or long term effects on its operation and
outcome. To this end, the following factors were looked at:

•     Who initiated the process at each of the schools and who was involved
•     How the routes were identified and planned
•     How demand for the walking bus was ascertained and encouraged
•     The process by which volunteers were recruited to the walking bus

In terms of understanding how the set up of walking buses is linked to their modal
shift potential, it is useful to look at the inter-relationship between these factors. Table
41 shows some of the stages that schools go through prior to setting up walking buses.
It should be noted that these stages do not necessarily occur in this order, and some
stages, for example local intelligence on travel to school, or a ‘one-day special’ do not
necessarily occur at all.

The main point of setting out these stages is to look at the problems and issues that
have to be resolved at each stage. Table 42 shows some of these as observed in the
five walking bus case studies and other school settings where the process of setting up
a walking bus was started but not completed.

It is clear that, in all the walking buses (and potential walking buses) included in this
evaluation exercise, the identification of volunteers and a co-ordinator to run the
walking bus is vital. This is the most important aspect of the implementation even if it

                                            57
compromises the original objectives of starting a walking bus. This may be made
more difficult by the perceived need, usually by all parties involved, to launch a
walking bus as quickly as possible.

Table 41          Stages in setting-up a walking bus

Stage                          Types of activities          Possible outcomes
Finding out about the          • School meetings with       • Decision to start up a
walking bus and outlining         Road Safety or SRS           walking bus
your objectives                • Information received       • Identification of school
                                  or requested                 champion of walking
                                                               buses
Local intelligence (and        •   Map plots                • Identification of
other factors)                 •   Travel to school            possible routes
                                   information              • Assessment of the need
                               •   Other local intelligence    and potential for
                                                               walking buses
                                                            • Identification of
                                                               ‘obstacles’ to different
                                                               routes
Assessing and encouraging •        Questionnaires to        • An idea of possible
demand                             parents                     interest in the initiative
                          •        Meetings with               to fit into ‘routes’
                                   interested parents       • Generation of interest
                          •        One-day specials            and ‘demand’
Assessing and encouraging •        Meetings with            • Appointment of a co-
support                            potential volunteers        ordinator
                          •        Identifying a co-        • Co-ordinator duties,
                                   ordinator to take over      for example, Rotas
                                   the initiative              etc., police checks
                                                            • Identification of initial
                                                               volunteers
Refining the route             •   Fitting the route to the • A finalised route
                                   volunteers               • Trained volunteers
                               •   Walking the route and
                                   other road safety
                                   training
                               •   Changing the route to
                                   ensure safety
Getting started                •   Setting a launch date    • A WALKING BUS
                               •   Sending letters to
                                   parents and registering
                                   children
                            •      Starting-up
Source: The case study surveys




                                           58
Table 42          Problems in implementing walking buses

Stage                      Some obstacles or problems        Possible outcomes
                           in implementation

Finding out about the      •   The school is not greatly     •   Implementation goes
walking bus and                committed to a walking            ahead but is not
outlining the                  bus                               prioritised
objectives                 •   There is no-one within the    •   The initiative is
                               school able to take an on-        postponed or shelved
                               going lead
                           •   RSU makes infrequent
                               contact and the initiative
                               falls off the map
Local intelligence (and •      This stage does not take      •   The walking bus is not
other factors)                 place                             targeted on modal shift
                        •      This stage takes place but
                               becomes disconnected
                               from other stages
Assessing and              •   Insufficient response to      •   The initiative begins to
encouraging demand             questionnaires                    revolve around a small
                           •   Insufficient interest in          group of interested
                               walking buses by parents          parents
                           •   Poor attendance at            •   If response is very poor
                               meetings                          the initiative may be
                                                                 abandoned
Assessing and              •   Few parents are willing to    •   The walking bus
encouraging support            be volunteers                     initiative collapses
                           •   No parents are willing to     •   The walking bus
                               take on the role of co-           initiative goes ahead
                               ordinator                         but is based around
                           •   There is a mismatch               availability of
                               between parents and               volunteers and where
                               possible routes                   they live

Refining the route         •   The route is designed         •   The route may only
                               around the volunteers             attract children who
                           •   The route is deemed unsafe        previously walked
                                                             •   The route is abandoned

Getting started            •   Administrative difficulties   •   A walking bus but
                           •   Volunteers and children           perhaps one that is not
                               don’t arrive                      targeted on modal shift

Source: The case study surveys

Even where the implementation of a walking bus goes well, the ability of the school
to use any local intelligence, such as where children live and how they get to the
school, to maximise the impact of the walking bus on modal shift may be limited. In a
number of cases where this was attempted, it was abandoned at the stage where


                                            59
volunteers were recruited. If a potential co-ordinator is identified prior to this stage,
the walking bus may be implemented without reference to its target population.

It is, of course, necessary to have volunteers in order for a walking bus to be launched.
However, the identification of potential volunteers has tended to result in parents who
already walk to school. The core of a walking bus can well be made up of families,
many of whom know each other, changing from walking together informally to
launching themselves as a walking bus. The success of the walking bus, in terms of
modal shift, then becomes their ability to attract and retain other families (who do not
walk regularly) into this initiative.

Tapping into existing walkers willing to act as volunteers for a walking bus may be
the only way to launch a walking bus at all. Certainly, at all schools, the difficulty of
getting parents to act as volunteers is probably the major obstacle to running a
walking bus. It may be unrealistic to place an additional burden on the
implementation phase by suggesting that the route and target population of the
walking bus should take equal priority to that of attracting volunteers. However,
without this more strategic orientation, walking buses that produce a significant modal
shift will exist primarily by luck rather than good planning.

In summary, the net effect of these constraints can result in a walking bus that
matches the volunteer profile rather than the objectives of the school. The reasons for
this are apparent in that it would not be possible to run a walking bus without
volunteers even if the route identified was more strategic. However, first walking
buses are also seen as ‘trail blazers’ and schools and parents are encouraged to start up
walking buses quickly and easily in order to maintain and generate new interest. As
the first of a number of walking buses this would seem to be an appropriate strategy.
Unfortunately very few schools seem to get past the first walking bus and even where
they do, a second walking bus may well be implemented along similar lines.

7.2    The walking bus life cycle: recruitment and retention issues

Another issue is the difficulty in maintaining a walking bus. As seen earlier, most of
the case study walking buses lost volunteers and children shortly after the launch of
the walking bus: only one walking bus reversed this process. Even where there was
additional recruitment of children and volunteers, it rarely kept pace with the loss of
both. The net effect was that walking buses became smaller and less capable of
expanding without additional adults.

The purpose of this section is to look at factors which may influence the life span of a
walking bus. The first part considers the importance of support at the setting-up stage
of the walking bus, in particular whether there is any difference between schools
which are given a great deal of support from external sources, and those which are
not. The second aspect of this discussion is to look at the stages that walking buses
seem to go through and point out some of the problems that were encountered.

One area considered in the evaluation exercise was the importance of initial support
and also source of the idea for the initiative. In terms of the former, an issue of interest
was whether walking buses which had benefited from a lot of initial support and
assistance, for example those operating within SRS, were more resilient as a result.



                                            60
Conversely did walking buses which were set up outside SRS, with assistance and
support from Road Safety Officers (RSO), show signs of weakness earlier?

With only five walking buses being considered, it is difficult to ascertain whether the
findings of the evaluation exercise in this respect can be generalised. However, as far
as these five walking buses go, there was no evidence to support either of the
arguments above. The SRS walking buses demonstrated differences between each
other in terms of the kind of start they made, their organisational arrangements, and
the support they received. The walking buses set up outside SRS were little different
from these in terms of how they started up and the numbers of children and parents at
the launch and some time later.

However there are a number of points that can be made, that may be relevant to future
walking buses. First, a school’s motivation for setting up a walking bus, and where
this motivation came from, are both important aspects of implementation. Some of the
walking buses were set up because they were part of SRS, as a means of
demonstrating commitment to travel-to-school initiatives, either prior to inclusion in
SRS, or as part of the programme. Although there may also be perceived benefits and
outcomes, for example relieving congestion, there may be subtle differences between
these and other schools. By comparison, in some schools there were clearly
individuals, for example, parents, governors or the head teacher, who saw walking
buses as an initiative worth supporting. This support was seen as being important at
the start of the walking bus. It may however, be even more crucial in ensuring the
long-term survival of the walking bus. An ‘internal champion’ may be a way of
helping walking buses retain links with, and therefore support from, the school. As
argued elsewhere, one of the benefits that schools see with walking buses is that they
are ‘self-running’. This however, is seen as a demotivating factor by co-ordinators
who may see themselves as burdened and ‘forgotten about’.

The second point is that walking buses set up under SRS may or may not have been
initiated by this process. Often schools already had on-going contacts with RSOs that
were continued under the SRS initiative. Other schools in the SRS programme had
operating walking buses prior to the launch of the initiative in their school. SRS
cannot, therefore, be used as a factor when looking at outcomes and lifespan without
taking account of these possible nuances.

Walking buses seem to go through a number of life stages after their launch. These
stages may be over different time periods for different walking buses and it may or
may not result in the disbandment or temporary stoppage of the walking bus. The
following four stages have been identified:

   •   Initial enthusiasm
   •   Stability
   •   Stagnation and slippage
   •   Resignation

At the first stage, all the walking buses were launched with some enthusiasm. The
schools provided support and publicity, RSOs had been working with the school, and
the co-ordinator and parent volunteers were keen. At this stage, some of the walking
buses had large numbers of children on them and a good potential source of
volunteers. The co-ordinator was usually committed to the objectives of the walking


                                          61
bus and the idea that it could help more children to walk to school. The profile of the
registered children suggested that this might happen.

At the second stage, the original number of volunteers and children may have fallen.
In one sense this does not diminish the enthusiasm or commitment of the co-ordinator
or volunteers and may even make the walking bus more manageable. However, if a
high proportion of children who have left the walking bus, have reverted to being
driven to school this can act as a demotivating factor. After 4-5 months some of the
co-ordinators, although still keen, were concerned that the walking bus attracted only
a few children who did not already walk.

By this stage some of the walking buses might have made some changes to either the
route or the number of stops made. This could have led them to have further input
from RSO. However, generally the external input has diminished and walking buses
are seen as being ‘self running’ or sustainable. This is an important point because it
may well be that this is the stage where walking buses need additional input from
external sources such as the school and RSO to maintain momentum, motivation and
recruitment.

The third stage for some walking buses does not have to be wholly negative. One of
the co-ordinators, whilst admitting that there had been no recruitment of children or
volunteers, also reported that this was not necessarily a bad thing from her
perspective. Small walking buses with fewer volunteers are easily to run and manage.
However, once recruitment slows down or even stops the walking bus is likely to
collapse in the future. It could well be that small established walking buses comprised
of groups of families stop being community resources and start becoming personal
ones. At this point they are unlikely to attract ‘outsiders’.

Another reason for why recruitment is halted around this stage concerns the lack of
responsibility taken by schools. Although the school may assist in sending out letters
to parents, by this time the ‘ownership’ of the walking bus lies elsewhere with the
parents. However, it is neither easy, nor particularly in the interests of these parents,
to maintain the walking bus beyond their own need for it.

Four of the co-ordinators who had been interviewed for a second time were at a stage
where they questioned the benefit of the walking bus. Only one of them still believed
that the walking bus was beneficial and advantageous to children and parents. For
three of the co-ordinators the walking bus had become an obligation. At this point,
one of the walking buses reduced its days whilst cancelling the walking bus became
more frequent. If few (or none) of the children using the walking bus had switched
from driving this further eroded the sense of worth – all of the co-ordinators were
motivated from knowing that they helped other children to walk to school.

The final stage, resignation, is not, of course, inevitable. It should be possible to
rejuvenate a walking bus, to recruit more volunteers and children and perhaps change
the co-ordinator in an effort to share the burden of running the walking bus. However,
in many instances this does not happen. As argued earlier, this may well be because
the responsibility for maintaining the walking bus has not been taken by the school.
Parents are not best placed (and after a year or so maybe not even motivated) to
recruit new volunteers and children to the walking bus.



                                           62
Table 43 provides an overview of the life cycle of a disbanded walking bus. This is
based around one of the case study walking buses but has added in examples taken
from other walking buses to produce a ‘composite’. It provides a good example of the
stages outlined above, coupled with a number of factors which combined to make
walking buses difficult to sustain. It should be pointed out that the commitment of the
school and the parents in this example is no less than at other schools and there is no
intention of attributing blame to either party. The problems and stages encountered by
this walking bus are unlikely to be unique.

Table 43       Diary of a walking bus (now disbanded)

Initial enthusiasm     •  Walking bus operates 5 days a week
                       •  Car park stop picks up ‘car’ children
                       •  Four volunteers plus additional ‘informal’ volunteers each
                          day
                       • School makes input and walking bus is recognised in
                          assemblies etc.
                       • Regular contact with SRS/RSU
Stability              • Walking bus operates 5 days a week
                       • Car park stop dropped due to lack of demand
                       • Informal volunteers drop out – together with their children
                       • School’s role reduced
                       • Regular contact with RSU continues through SRS
Stagnation and         • Walking bus cancelled occasionally because of lack of
slippage                  volunteers or other factors but continues as 5 days a week
                       • First stop axed due to problems with crossing main road
                       • Volunteers question whether to continue with the walking
                          bus – most regular children walk anyway and belong to the
                          volunteers
                       • Contact with RSU because of difficulties and some school
                          involvement in resolving problems but no on-going
                          recruitment or liaison with parents and children
Resignation            • Walking bus has to reduce to 3 days a week because of
                          reduction in volunteers
                       • New children recruited on the walking bus but they all
                          walked already
                       • Co-ordinator leaves, a second gives up after two weeks
                          and a third is reluctant to continue for long
                       • Walking bus under threat of collapse – volunteers would
                          be happy with this!
                       • No contact with RSO or SRS because the new co-ordinator
                          has no link
                       • School tries to help with letters but there is little response
                       • Walking bus is disbanded
Source: The case study surveys

As outlined above there are some key problems that faced this walking bus:

   •   The involvement of the school was limited soon after the launch of a walking
       bus. The initial support given to the walking bus was not maintained as the

                                          63
        walking bus became seen as ‘self-running’. Although the school did support
        the walking bus through administrative services (letters to parents etc.), it
        could not take responsibility for the maintenance of the walking bus. Later on,
        a letter produced little response from other parents.
    •   Contact with RSO reduced as the walking bus became ‘established’. There
        was no on-going link between the RSO and the school/walking bus co-
        ordinator. The change in co-ordinator compounded this and the new co-
        ordinator had no established link to external support and was not motivated to
        make the first contact.
    •   As those children who used to be driven to school left the walking bus, the
        volunteers become disillusioned and question whether there is any reason to
        continue. The new children already walked and did not motivate the
        volunteers to continue.
    •   The route itself was seen as an obstacle. It was changed to start after a difficult
        crossing but in doing so it failed to attract potential children who then had to
        walk half way to school before reaching the start of the walking bus. There
        was nowhere for cars to stop at this point either, although by now there were
        few car drivers using the walking bus.

There are many factors that inter-relate in the above example to produce a walking
bus that is not seen as useful or sustainable by the volunteers running it. It gives them
no benefits and because most of the children walked anyway, it is not seen as giving
the children or the school any benefit either. As is argued below, walking buses have
to be seen to be beneficial by volunteer parents or else they will decline.


8       OPERATION AND ORGANISATION

The evaluation exercise was concerned with whether there appeared to be ‘good’
ways of organising walking buses, that is, did some practices appear to offer more
benefits to participants, or ensure the effectiveness and longevity of the walking bus.
In fact, there are many ways to organise a walking bus and it is likely that in looking
in detail at only five cases it is not possible to identify all these ways. However, given
this, the characteristics of each of the five walking buses, the way they were organised
and the school-walking bus responsibilities, did seem to make a difference. Those
elements of the organisation and operation of a walking bus that offered any insight in
this respect are considered in this section. It should be noted, however, that this does
not cover every aspect of operating a walking bus.

The evaluation looked at a number of factors in terms of the operation and
organisation of the walking bus. Those issues which seemed to make some difference
to the running and longevity of the walking bus are discussed below. They include:

    •   The organisation of volunteers
    •   The role of the co-ordinator
    •   Formal versus informal walking buses
    •   The school and external sources of support.




                                            64
8.1       The organisation of volunteers

As was seen earlier, parents and volunteer parents get differential benefits from the
participation of their child on the walking bus. At one extreme, a parent who does not
participate in the walking bus but whose child does can receive benefits in terms of
additional time for other activities. A number of parents reported that they could now
go to work earlier, or did not have to make multiple journeys to different schools,
nurseries or playgroups. At the other end of the spectrum, parents acting as volunteers
every day of the week reported no benefits at all. It is not difficult to see that unless
parents feel that there are some advantages for them, they are unlikely to remain
committed for long.

This is a particular problem for volunteers. The walking buses, which appeared to be
the ‘healthiest’ from a volunteer viewpoint, shared a number of characteristics:

      •   Parents were given at least one day off from volunteering, while their child
          still used the walking bus. Most of these volunteers gained more time than
          they lost.
      •   Rotas changed on a monthly or termly basis in order to account for changes in
          routine or situation.
      •   The process of changing rotas may occur formally as set out below, or more
          informally.
      •   Meetings were held (usually to coincide with the above) in order to resolve
          difficulties. They could also act as a social event forming an additional benefit
          to volunteers.
      •   Volunteers feel they are able to swap and cover for each other as necessary as
          they are not all walking every day.

The first of these points is by far the most crucial. If a walking bus is set up and gives
no benefits (usually in the form of time off) to volunteers, it will be vulnerable from
the start. Despite this rather obvious observation, some walking buses start off with
volunteers who are committed for every, or nearly every, day. In time, however, this
selflessness is not usually sustainable. Walking buses run by volunteers who received
no benefits and who were ‘tied’ to the walking bus on a daily basis were more likely
to result in volunteers becoming despondent and leaving.

It may sound straightforward to argue that walking buses should have sufficient
volunteers to make it worth their while. However, two of the walking buses could not
recruit enough volunteers to make this possible, and a third had lost so many
volunteers that those remaining were having to put in extra days. Even the walking
buses that started out with plenty of volunteers struggled to maintain this level and
could only ensure volunteers did not have to walk additional days by not recruiting
any more children.

8.2       The role of the co-ordinator

The role of the co-ordinator is extremely important in maintaining the volunteers.
Usually the co-ordinator is a parent volunteer who agrees to take initial responsibility
for the setting up of a volunteer rota and maintaining a register. Some agree to do it
because they support the idea of the walking bus and no-one else comes forward. The



                                             65
co-ordinators are often parents who are already involved with the school either
through the PTA (parent-teacher association) or as a parent helper.

The co-ordinators have not necessarily thought about what the role may involve in the
long term and do not necessarily see it as part of their role to maintain the numbers of
volunteers and children or to recruit new members. There is little emphasis on this
aspect of walking buses in the enthusiasm to launch one at the school. However this
role is given to them unconsciously, once the walking bus has been set up, with
neither the school nor RSU involved in the day-to-day running of the walking bus.
Only the co-ordinator is left with a clear overview of how the walking bus is
operating.

If the co-ordinator then leaves, the walking bus is left in a vulnerable position unless a
new one can be recruited.

8.3    Formal and informal walking buses

Walking buses are organised in various ways. Although rather simplistic, one way of
looking at these differences is to differentiate between ‘formal’ and ‘informal’
walking buses. At one end of the continuum the walking bus is a highly formal
arrangement consisting of a number of volunteers, usually organised on a rota basis,
with children who regularly walk on set days of the week. Volunteers know that they
must walk on ‘their’ days or else the walking bus will not have the correct adult: child
ratio. Although this is a constraint, they also know that they will not be required to
walk on other days.

At the other end of the continuum a number of parents walk together in a group with
their children to school. They may or may not turn up – it does not matter because
they know that the other parents will be walking. This gives them the freedom to join
the walking bus if they wish, or walk alone or drive to school. The walking bus does
not really constrain them but neither does it provide many benefits.

Although these may be rather extreme examples, the degree of formality or
organisation would seem to make a difference to the outcomes and perhaps longevity
of a walking bus. The more formal walking buses, whilst being a commitment also
offer more benefits. The less formal walking buses lose their purpose more quickly
and seem to offer no real benefits to parents. Both parents and co-ordinators on less
formal walking buses question the point after a while, even though at the beginning
their justification for beginning a walking bus may well have been along the lines of
‘well we all walked anyway so we thought we might as well’.

Table 44 shows some characteristics of the formal and informal walking buses. There
are of course positive characteristics of informal walking buses and negative
characteristics of formal ones. Informal walking buses are often easy to set up, require
little organisation and volunteers feel (for a time) mutually dependent. Social benefits
may be high, especially for parents but also for children. For a while the walking bus
functions in a positive way. Conversely, a more formal structure may not be as easy to
set up, may require more organisation to keep lists and rotas up to date, and can be
strange for both parents and children. Some parent volunteers may not respond well
to having to make commitments and may opt out. Some children may not like walking
with children they do not know and may not want to stay on the walking bus.


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It may also be that not all the characteristics are present, or that some walking buses
have aspects of all of them. For example, one of the characteristics is strong
involvement from the school. However, none of the case study schools really stayed
actively involved with the walking buses after their immediate launch. However,
some schools had better systems in place for acknowledging the work of volunteers
and the participation of the children.

A particular problem for recruitment of informal walking buses is that they resemble
friendship networks. In so doing, they become ‘closed’ to outsiders, even where this is
not intended. If parents do not see the walking bus as a school resource then they are
unlikely to use it. Unfortunately, those walking buses that start out as small informal
walking buses comprised of parents who already walk and know each other, may
become seen as a clique by others. This is likely to deter parents from volunteering for
the walking bus. Even established and formal structures have problems in bringing in
new parents when the walking bus is socially stable but this difficulty is greater in
informal ‘friendship’ groups.




                                          67
Table 44       Characteristics of formal and informal walking buses

Formal        •  Formal rota of volunteers,        •   Volunteers perceive they have
walking          negotiated regularly and with         benefits and a clear role
buses            clear roles designated to         •   Walking bus seen as ‘open’ to
                 parties                               outsiders by parents
             • Volunteers are a mixture of         •   Walking bus seen as ‘open’ to
                 friends and parents who may           outsiders by children
                 not know each other               •   Recruitment, retention, reward
             • Children are drawn from                 issues dealt with externally
                 different age ranges and do       •   Volunteers      do     not   feel
                 not form clear friendship             overburdened, taken for granted
                 groups                                and ‘forgotten’
             • Designated ‘school’ based
                 person with responsibility for
                 walking buses maintaining
                 link between walking buses
                 and school
             • School and volunteers take
                 responsibility              for
                 maintenance of the walking
                 bus, recruitment etc.
Informal     • Informal or static rota             •   Volunteers perceive they have
walking      • Volunteers are based around             no flexibility and no clear role
buses            a friendship group                •   Walking bus seen as a clique or
             • Children       based      around        ‘shut’ to outsiders by parents
                 parental or child friendship      •   Walking bus seen as a clique or
                 group                                 ‘shut’ to outsiders by children
             • No designated responsibility        •   Little input into retention,
                 within the school, the                recruitment and reward issues,
                 walking      bus      becomes         can lead to tail off of walking
                 ‘detached’ from the school            bus use, or demoralisation
             • No-one takes responsibility         •   Walking bus volunteers feel
                 for maintenance of the                overburdened, taken for granted
                 walking bus, recruitment etc.         and forgotten.
Source: The case study surveys

8.3    The school and external sources of support

This report has already shown the importance of external and school support in terms
of setting up the walking bus. It has also been argued that walking buses that have
someone, for example a school governor, who takes an active role and responsibility
for the walking bus, may be better placed to survive than those who do not. A number
of walking bus co-ordinators did not feel that they had sufficient support from either
the school or the RSO/SRS team and there was a feeling of being ‘left to get on with
it’. After the initial enthusiasm, the responsibility and commitment necessary to
maintain a walking bus was felt by some to be a burden.

The question for the evaluation exercise was whether there were any points in the
lifecycle of the walking bus when support from the school or RSU would have been
beneficial, or made a difference. Co-ordinators were asked to comment on ways in

                                          68
which they could have been helped either by schools or co-ordinators. Table 45
summarises the main points made and additionally brings in some comments
discussed previously. Changes were implemented within HCC, including the
appointment of a countywide walking bus co-ordinator and the production of a guide
on how to set up a walking bus (Hertfordshire County Council, 2004), that addressed
some of these issues. This is not reflected in the evaluation exercise (and consequently
the table) owing to the time differences between the evaluation exercise and these
changes.

Table 45       Ways to support walking bus co-ordinators after launch

By the School                                  By the local authority
• Walking buses should not be seen as          • Slow down the launch to ensure that
   ‘self-running’. All walking buses need         local intelligence is taken into
   school input and support.                      account. If the walking bus is
• Ask for and use local intelligence to try       launched as a trailblazer, work with
   to target parents who usually drive to         the school to find a more suitable
   school. Try to get feedback from               second route shortly after the launch
   parents about what would help them             of the first.
   take part or use a walking bus.             • Review the route after operation,
• Reward volunteers by acknowledging              not just for safety but also as an
   their support in newsletters etc.              effective intervention. If it is not
• Reward children who use the walking             seen as effective suggest looking at
   bus in appropriate ways (assemblies            the route again.
   might not suit all children).               • Set up contact information between
• Try to encourage older children onto            the co-ordinator and the RSO to
   the walking bus by emphasising their           pass on information, news etc. but
   importance as ‘role models’.                   also exchange other information, for
• Hold regular recruitment drives to help         example, a change of co-ordinator.
   co-ordinators maintain sufficient           • Visit or contact new co-ordinators to
   numbers of volunteers and children.            re-establish links and sort out
• Get a member of staff to act as                 problems
   ‘walking bus school link’.                  • Make regular visits to the walking
• Try to launch more than one walking             bus
   bus – they may add to the profile of the
   walking bus at the school, and provide
   some informal mutual support.
Source: The case study surveys


9      THE INITIATIVE FOR SETTING UP WALKING BUSES

In the postal survey it was found that there was a high level of awareness of walking
buses at the schools which did not have them, as shown in Table 46. It can be seen
that the head teachers of 95% of the schools without walking buses knew about them.




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Table 46      Awareness of walking buses at schools which have not set them up

                       Number          %
Aware                     199           95
Not aware                  11            5
No response                 3            1
Total                     213          100
Source: The postal survey

The main source of head teachers’ information that had led to the setting up of
walking buses was Hertfordshire County Council, as shown in Table 47. Some of the
walking buses had been set up as part of ‘Safe Routes to Schools’ schemes whilst
others were based on initiatives from within the school. Even at schools without
walking buses, the County Council was the main source of initial awareness about
walking buses. General publicity, through the press and newsletters comes next in
each case, followed by information from another school. This is much more important
in the case of schools without walking buses.

Table 47 Initial sources of information about walking buses

                                   Schools which       Schools which           Total
                                    have set up        have not set up
                                   walking buses       walking buses
                                 Number       %        Number       %     Number        %
Hertfordshire County Council       15         65          77        41       92         43
General publicity                   4         17          53        28       57         27
Another school                      1          4          35        19       36         17
Internal to school                  3         13           7         4       10          5
Another county council              0          0           4         2        4          2
Other                               0          0          13         7      13          6
Total                              23        100         189       100      212        100
No response                         3                     24                 28
Source: The postal survey

A slightly different picture emerges when the suggestion to set up a walking bus is
considered, as shown in Table 48. Of the schools which did not have a walking bus,
only those which have considered setting one up are shown as responding. Generally,
the initiative came from within the school, with the County Council the second most
important source, particularly in schools which had set them up.




                                        70
Table 48 Origin of the suggestion to set up a walking bus

                                     Schools which         Schools which             Total
                                      have set up          have not set up
                                     walking buses         walking buses
                                   Number       %          Number       %       Number        %
Hertfordshire County Council          9         39            25        24         34         27
General publicity                     0          0             3         3          3          2
Internal to school                   13         56            59        56         72         56
Another school                        0          0             2         2          2          2
Another county council                0          0             2         2          2          2
Other                                 1          4            14        13        15         12
Total                                23        100           105       100        128        100
No response                           3                      108                  111
Source: The postal survey


10     THE BARRIERS TO WALKING BUSES

Given that the majority of schools that do not have walking buses are aware of the
concept, this raises the question as to why they do not have them. About one quarter
of these schools had tried to set them up but had not succeeded, as shown in Table 49.

Table 49 Potential for walking buses at schools which do not have them

                      Attempted to set up a walking          Plans to set up a walking bus in
                             bus previously?                            the future?
                          Number              %                 Number                %
Yes                         50                25                   60                 32
No                         153                75                  125                 68
Total                      203               100                  185                100
No response                 10                                     28
Source: The postal survey

Table 50 shows the reasons why they did not succeed. The dominating factor is the
lack of parental interest or support, which was cited in well over half the schools. The
next two most important reasons were concern about traffic danger and the lack of the
head teacher’s time to set it up (or other priorities). Lower in terms of numbers are the
nature of the area (usually in rural areas) and parental concerns.




                                           71
Table 50       Factors preventing the setting up of walking buses previously at
               schools without them

                                                         Number        %
Lack of parental interest or support                       47           65
Traffic danger                                              8           11
Lack of time to organise it or other priorities             7           10
Nature of catchment area                                    4            6
Parental concerns                                           2            3
No crossing patrol                                          1            1
Other                                                      3            4
Total                                                      72          100
Source: The postal survey
Note: This table is based on 67 responses from schools which have not set up walking
buses. Some respondents provided multiple answers.

Turning to the future, 60 of the schools which have not set up walking buses have
plans to do so in future, as Table 49 shows. In order to do so, they will have to
overcome some barriers. Table 51 shows the perceived barriers to setting up walking
buses, separated into schools that stated that they plan to set them up and those that
did not. For the schools that plan to set them up, the dominant barrier is lack of
parental support, followed, a long way behind, by the lack of time to organise it. The
nature of the catchment area is the third factor. This is the most popular reason in the
schools that did not plan to set up walking buses, followed closely by the lack of
parental support. ‘Nature of the catchment area’ means that the pupils are scattered
widely either because the school is in a rural area or because the school draws its
pupils from particular segments of the community, such as members of a religious
group. A walking bus needs one or more clusters of pupils’ homes within walking
distance of the school. If this is not the case, there is little point in trying to set up a
walking bus. This is likely to be the case in rural areas and for schools which draw
pupils from a large area.




                                            72
Table 51       Perceived barriers to setting up a walking bus in the future

                      Schools which stated      Schools which did not             Total
                      that they plan to set     state that they plan to
                        up a walking bus         set up a walking bus
                      Number         %          Number          %          Number            %
Lack of parental         36         60             47           32           83              40
support
Nature of the            6         10          48           33     54         26
catchment area
Traffic danger          4          7          16           11      20         10
Lack of time to          8         13          12            8     20         10
organise
Too close                                      4            3       4          2
Parental concerns        2          3           2            1      4          2
Volunteer: pupil                                2            1      2          1
ratios
Lack of                                         1            1      1          0
information
Most children                                   1            1      1          0
already walk
Other                    4          7          14           10     18          9
Total number of         60        100         147          100    207        100
obstacles
Source: The postal survey
Note: This table is based on 172 responses from schools which have not set up
walking buses. Some respondents provided multiple answers.


11     THE FUTURE POTENTIAL FOR WALKING BUSES

As Table 49 shows, 60 schools without walking buses had plans to set them up.
However, over twice as many did not, even though a lot of potential benefits were
seen, as shown in Table 12. This raises the interesting question of whether the schools
saw travel to and from school as a policy issue with which they need to be concerned.
As Table 52 shows there is a large difference between the schools which have set up
walking buses and those which have not. Of those that have set up walking buses,
84% regard travel to and from school as a policy issue they need to be concerned
with. In contrast, nearly half the schools (45%) that have not set up walking buses do
not regard it as an issue for them. It can be seen that four schools have walking buses
even though they do not regard children’s travel to and from school as a policy issue
for the school. These schools set up the walking buses in an attempt to reduce
congestion around the school entrance and for the health benefits for the children,
which is similar to the other schools, as was shown in Table 11.

Given that the majority of schools do regard travel to and from school as a policy
issue for the school, it is interesting to see what initiatives they have taken or plan to
take, as shown in Table 53. These were unstructured answers which have been coded.
The top answer was ‘Discourage car use to school’ which included educating the
children as part of personal, social and health education (PSHE), competitions, walk
to school weeks and messages to parents through newsletters. The second most

                                           73
popular choice was ‘Involvement with an outside organisation or campaign’ which
usually meant working with Hertfordshire County Council. The next most popular
answer was ‘Set up a walking bus’. This is high because this is precisely what 21 of
the schools have done. (In fact, none of them mentioned it explicitly, but it would
have been perverse not to have included it in the figures). The next most popular
answer was ‘Set up a travel plan’, followed by ‘Address traffic and parking issues’
which included shutting the school car park to parents at one school, and opening a
new car park adjacent to the school entrance at another. Other initiatives include
consultations with parents and governors, education and training of the children
(pedestrian skills training and road safety education), physical measures such as new
road layouts and pelican crossings.

Table 52      Is children’s travel to and from school regarded as a policy issue
              for the school?

                       Schools which have set up          Schools which have not set up
                             walking buses                        walking buses
                       Number               %               Number               %
Yes                       21                84               108                 55
No                         4                16                87                 45
Total responses           25               100               195                100
No response                1                                  18
Source: The postal survey

Table 53      Ways in which schools have or intend to address travel to school
              policy issues

                                      Schools which     Schools which           Total
                                       have set up      have not set up
                                      walking buses     walking buses
                                       No       %        No        %     No       %
Discourage car use to school            8       14        34       20     42      19
Involvement with an outside             6       11        33       20     39      17
organisation or campaign
Set up a walking bus                  21        37      12        7       33      15
Set up a travel plan                   7        12      22        13      29      13
Address traffic and parking issues     4         7      19        11      23      10
Consult parents and governors          0         0      19        11      19       8
Education and training                 6        11       9         5      15       7
Physical measures                      5         9       7         4      12       5
Run a coach, minibus or car share      0         0      12        7       12       5
scheme
No specific plans                      0         0       2         1       2       1
Total                                 57       100     169       100     226     100
Source: The postal survey
Note: This table is based on 21 responses from schools which have set up walking
buses and 92 which have not. Some respondents provided multiple answers.

If ‘Set up a walking bus’ is excluded from the table, the policies being pursued are
fairly similar at both the schools which have set up walking buses and those which
have not, with greater emphasis on travel plans, education and training, and physical

                                         74
measures in the former, and on consulting parents and governors, and running a
coach, minibus or car share scheme, in the latter. Consulting parents and governors’
implies that these schools have not gone as far as the walking bus schools in their
thinking since those schools would have had to do so as part of the setting up process.
‘Run a coach, minibus or car share scheme’ reflects the dispersed nature of the school
catchment area in some cases.

It is interesting to see whether the schools that have set up walking buses intend to set
up more. Table 54 shows that of the twenty schools that supplied complete
information on this topic, six plan to set up more and fourteen do not. Of the six, five
had one or more walking buses at the time of the survey and only one did not. This
suggests that schools that have had walking buses which have ceased to operate, do
not tend to want to try again. This may well reflect difficulty in obtaining parental
support. Even amongst the schools which had one or more walking buses in operation
at the time of the survey, the majority (seven out of twelve) do not plan to set up any
more.

Table 54       Plans for new walking buses at schools which have previously set
               up walking buses

                                Plan to set up      Do not plan to        Total          No
                                more walking         set up more        responses     response
                                    buses           walking buses
Schools with a walking bus            5                   7                 12              2
at the time of the survey
Schools without a walking              1                    7                8              1
bus at the time of the survey
Total responses                        6                   14               20              3
No response                            0                    2                2              1
Source: The postal survey


12     CONCLUSIONS

Walking buses have become increasingly popular in recent years as way of promoting
safe walking to school as an alternative to the car. Although there have been some
evaluations of walking buses, there is still a lack of clarity as to what they are
expected to achieve and how to measure the outcomes and benefits. The purpose of
this evaluation was therefore two-fold: firstly to develop a methodology that could be
used to evaluate travel to school initiatives such as the walking bus, and secondly, to
use this methodology to assess the outcomes and benefits of walking buses in
Hertfordshire.

In terms of the former, the evaluation has clarified a number of issues relating to costs
and benefits that can be used to refine future research instruments. In particular, the
evaluation has identified a number of issues around the measurement of modal shift
and time savings or losses that need to be addressed in any further work.

Whilst the evaluation has raised a number of methodological issues it has also
provided valuable information on the outcomes and operation of walking buses.
These findings are summarised in the remainder of this concluding section.


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In Hertfordshire, the number of walking buses grew rapidly from one in early 1998.
Four years later, there were 68 in 41 schools registered in the county. One year after
that, there were 26 at 22 schools registered. This suggests that the number may have
peaked. The walking buses had an average of 14 children registered to use them, with
a range from 3 to 41. On average, 10 children used each walking bus, escorted by
three or four volunteers. The children ranged in age from Nursery (age 3-4) up to
Year 6 (age 10-11) but there was a clear peak in Year 2 (age 6-7), with a tailing off
amongst older children.

Of the 26 walking buses for which detailed information was supplied in the postal
survey, twelve had ceased to operate by the time of the survey. In nine cases this was
because of a lack of volunteers to escort the walking bus. For three of them, nobody
was available to co-ordinate that walking bus. Five walking buses closed because
there were too few children. Three of these also had a shortage of volunteers. In only
one case was the closure of the walking bus not associated with a shortage of one or
more out of children, volunteers and a co-ordinator. Walking buses have not been
closed because they did not achieve the objectives for which they were set up.

For head teachers, the main objectives of setting up walking buses were to relieve
traffic congestion around the school, and to increase walking, particularly to give the
children more exercise. The walking buses were seen as fairly successful in achieving
these objectives. When the views of the head teachers of schools that had set up
walking buses were compared with those of schools that had not, it was found that the
former had greater recognition of the social aspects of walking buses whereas the
latter have greater expectations in terms of reducing congestion, and improving the
children’s road safety skills and mental alertness.

About 62% of the children using walking buses had previously travelled to school by
car. Some children used the walking bus fewer than five days a week. Overall, the
reduction in the number of children travelling by car seems to be about 50% of the
number of children on a walking bus. On average, each child who previously travelled
by car who switched to walking, walked for 22 minutes on the walking bus each time
it was used. For a child that uses the walking bus every day, this is nearly two hours
of extra physical activity a week. Putting these two concepts together, suggests that
walking buses can make a significant contribution to children’s volumes of physical
activity.

Given that only a small proportion of the children at a school use a walking bus, it
would not be expected that there would be an observable reduction in traffic, except,
perhaps, in very specific locations, such as at the school gate. This lack of reduction in
traffic is compounded by the fact that many of the cars would continue to be used by a
parent travelling to work or elsewhere at the time of the school trip.

Walking buses are perceived by all those involved, to have benefits for the children,
the parents and the school, particularly the social benefits to the children and the more
indirect benefits in terms of sending out a visual message as to the importance of
walking.

Some negative outcomes or disadvantages of walking buses were reported by smaller
numbers of respondents. They centred on the perceived lack of benefits, time losses
and negative social outcomes.


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Benefits or disadvantages to parents in terms of time saving or losses were seen to be
important in maintaining participation on the walking bus. This becomes even more
critical for those parents acting as volunteers.

Implementation processes were seen as being important in explaining why walking
buses do not attract more car drivers. The availability and location of volunteers often
determines the route of the walking bus such that it loses its strategic capability.
‘Trailblazers’ do not necessarily create pathways for subsequent, more targeted,
walking buses.

Responsibility for maintaining walking buses rests neither with the school, nor with
the walking bus co-ordinator. It could well be that walking buses need a ‘champion’
within the school if they are to be a long-term initiative. This, however, sits uneasily
with their selling point as necessitating little school input.

The contribution of the co-ordinator to the success of the walking bus should not be
overlooked. The personality and organisational ability of the co-ordinator will have an
impact on the operation and long-term future of the walking bus. The loss of an
effective co-ordinator may well have an impact on the continuation of the walking
bus.

There are a number of characteristics of walking buses, which may be useful for
explaining effectiveness and longevity. Formal or informal structures and benefits to
volunteers are amongst some that have been identified by this evaluation exercise.

In the schools in Hertfordshire, the key source of information about walking buses
was Hertfordshire County Council, but the initiative to set up a walking bus often
came from within the school.

The vast majority of head teachers of schools without walking buses were aware of
the concept. The main reason that walking buses have not been set up at these schools
is the lack of parental interest or support. For some schools the nature of the
catchment area would make it difficult to recruit enough children to form a walking
bus. Otherwise the main problems are concerns about traffic danger and the lack of
the head teacher’s time to start the process.

Most of the schools which responded to the postal questionnaire regard children’s
travel to and from school as a policy issue for the school. Of course, one reason that
some schools did not respond to the survey may be because they do not regard travel
to and from school as a relevant issue for them. The schools have taken or intend to
take a wide variety of actions to address travel to school issues, including education
and training of the children, setting up travel plans, and working with the County
Council.

It has been shown that, in Hertfordshire, the number of walking buses grew rapidly
but now seems to be in decline. The key issue underlying this trend is the lack of
volunteers, often associated with a shortage of children because usually the volunteers
are mothers of some of the participants. If the children cease to use it, either because
they leave the school or they no longer wish to take part, then their mothers also do
so. Because the maximum number of children on the walking bus is dictated by the


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number of volunteers, one child dropping out may mean that several others cannot use
it. There needs to be a regular process of renewal of a walking bus, with new pupils
being encouraged to join, with at least some of their mothers becoming volunteers.
This may not happen if the organisation of the walking bus is left to those who
currently use it because they have no incentive to ensure its continuation after it
ceases to meet their individual needs. There is a need for a higher level of supervision
of walking buses, to ensure their continuation.

This report has illustrated the role and behaviour of walking buses in Hertfordshire.
Given that Hertfordshire is an area where walking buses evolved earlier than many
other parts of Great Britain, there may be useful lessons for interested parties
elsewhere. In particular, it may help to stem the potential decline after the first cohort
of children and their mothers have left the walking bus.

There are a number of good reasons to encourage children to walk rather than go by
car, in terms of their health and the environment, both in the short and long term.
Walking buses can help to break down the barriers to walking perceived by parents
and children, in terms of concerns about the children’s safety, competence and
knowledge. Therefore, walking buses should be encouraged. It is hoped that this
report will help in the process.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

This paper has been written as part of a project entitled ‘Reducing children’s car use: the
health and potential car dependency impacts’ funded by the UK Engineering and
Physical Sciences Research Council under grant GR/N33638 at the Centre for Transport
Studies at University College London. The co-operation of the children who took part in
this exercise, and their parents and teachers, is greatly appreciated. The Environment
Department of Hertfordshire County Council was a non-academic partner in the project
and facilitated much of the fieldwork, which is appreciated.


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