This morning on the radio, a father from Kiryat Ono was interviewed about a project in his school called Ha-Otobus Hamehalech, or the walking bus. Instead of having each parent walk, or more likely drive, their children to school each day, parents formed a cooperative to walk large groups of children together.
The organizers divided up the school’s population into four routes. Parents take turns accompanying the first to third graders, with a ratio of one adult for every ten children.
Gimmicks make the “ride” more attractive. Children get a bus card that is punched (the father noted that these kids don’t know what a bus card is—mine certainly do). And each day the children of the accompanying parents carry a school flag that makes the group more visible to drivers and motivates kids to pressure their parents to volunteer.
Aside from safety, health, environmental, and traffic concerns, the organizers found an unexpected benefit: The parents got to spend time with their neighbors. The father interviewed said that before this project he only met his neighbors on Yom Kippur, when families who do not attend synagogue (and many who do) take their kids out riding on the traffic-free streets. “I would say, these people are really nice, how come we don’t get together at other times during the year?”
I didn’t catch any mention of the ride home, more problematic because the parents are often not around at that hour and the pickup is done by babysitters, grandparents, and organized afterschool programs.
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