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Bus riders account for more than 20 percent of people using Lake Shore Drive every day while taking up a fraction of the space that cars do.

An alternative to long bus rides for kids

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Across the U.S., many students who live in rural areas are subjected to hours of bus riding before and after school every day. 

Historically, American students attended the school that served their neighborhood. But in rural areas, school consolidation took hold. 

Rural, sparsely populated areas weren’t effectively serving the small number of students in the area, so schools began moving to large, centrally-located school campuses that serve lots of kids from the surrounding county. 

While this helps school districts, it means long days for students, who often spend an hour or more on a bus for a one-way trip. Offering bus service was intended to make the school consolidation process easier for parents, but the reality is that it’s cutting into kids’ lives in detrimental ways. 

Kids who face long bus rides miss out on opportunities for after-school activities. Students who spend hours a day on buses report lower grades, fewer social activities and poor study habits. 

Bus trips also cut into family time in the evening and the chance to play outside before dark.

Many rural school districts have used remote student drop off points as a solution to these long bus trips. These drop off points can help in a few different ways. 

First, they allow parents to drop their kids at a bus stop that is on their way to work. By creating drop off spaces, kids spend less time confined on a bus as it slowly crawls through individual neighborhoods and more time in groups with their peers. 

Secondly, the drop off point can work as a final stop for the bus. Instead of dropping them at school in the morning, buses drop them at a meeting point where teachers or parent volunteers are waiting for them. 

The kids and teachers then walk the rest of the way to school together, giving students an extra chance to move before they have to go to class.  

While Safe Routes to School programs that encourage biking and walking can feel more natural in urban and suburban areas, rural families and their schools need more support to increase walking and biking opportunities as well.

What can you do to help? Take action now by sharing your story about biking and walking in your neighborhood. And share your thoughts on social media using #SafeRoutesIL.

Support our Safe Routes to School campaign. 

 

This blog post was written by Lauren Dean, a former advocacy intern for Active Trans. 

Photo courtesy of pedbikeimages.org.