Schoolchildren in walking bus program 370.
(photo credit: Orit Yoav)
Every Tuesday and Friday – barring inclement weather – groups of children mill
their way through the streets of Binyamina together, with a parent acting as
their “driver” for their “walking bus” to school.
“It’s like a big
caterpillar, a lot of legs and a lot of kids,” Orit Yoav, one of the parents
leading the project at Amirim elementary school in Binyamina, said on
The Amirim program is part of a larger effort initiated by
Transportation Today and Tomorrow, a nongovernmental organization handling the
environmental, social justice and economic issues associated with
transportation. There are five schools involved in the walking bus project thus
far – pilot programs in Binyamina, Zichron Ya’acov, Haifa, Netanya and Rana’ana,
explained Tamar Keinan, head of the NGO. With a goal of reducing the number of
cars on the road for unnecessarily short distances, the program also provides
the children with an opportunity for morning exercise if they live within 1.5
kilometers of school, she said.
“The driver is one of the parents and
there are stops that can get into the bus,” Keinan said.
receive the map and they can join at a certain time and can continue.”
each school, a parent volunteers and with staff from Transportation Today and
Tomorrow, build a program with routes suitable for walking to the specific
school. Once in a while, the kids will also get a special visitor along their
route, like the city mayor, or they can attend related lecture programs at
school about health and exercise, Keinan said.
The aim is “to make this
school bus the cool issue for the kids,” she added.
Although third grade
is the target age for the bus, a younger child can also join if his or her older
sibling is one of the passengers.
Although each of the programs are
tailored to the individual school’s needs, Transportation Today and Tomorrow is
involved every step of the way. In Binyamina, for example, the organization
helped the parents convince the municipality to build a new, NIS 1.5 million
roundabout that would shorten one of the walking routes by 80 percent, Keinan
The Amirim program in Binyamina began in June 2012, and thus
far about 170 out of the 500 children in the school have signed up, according to
Yoav, who leads the local project with parent Nomi Gershoni. Alternating parent
volunteers lead the children on three different route options to school, with
each parent signing up for about once or twice a month.
Every child gets
a kartisya, a multi-ride ticket similar to those distributed on public buses,
where they get a hole-punch for each ride. When they fill up their cards, the
children are then able to receive a prize – a Frisbee or a water bottle made of
recycled materials among other things, Yoav explained.
“It’s pretty easy
walking about 1-1.3 km. for each route, so it takes like half an hour and it’s
early in the morning so when it’s hot, it’s not too hot,” she said.
whether the kids walk in a straight line, two-by-two, Yoav chuckled and
responded that “they’re not British,” but she assured The Jerusalem Post that
they do walk together and socialize well. Meanwhile, the older children in the
fifth and sixth grade can volunteer as “junior escorts” to help out the parents
with the walks, she said.
Yoav and Gershoni are starting to work on the
next school year already, and have been in touch with other Binyamina schools to
expand the program there.
Nationally, Keinan said that Transportation
Today and Tomorrow is in the process of bringing the project to other
municipalities all over Israel.
Meanwhile, the organization is writing a
guidebook for walking buses that all interested parents will be able to
“Our target is to have a series of guidebooks that help every
stakeholder in this field that want to improve public and sustainable
transportation in their city,” Keinan said.