Active transportation to school provides an important way for children to meet physical activity recommendations. The “walking school bus” (WSB) is a strategy whereby adults walk with a group of children to and from school along a fixed route. This study assessed whether school-organized WSB programs varied by school characteristics, district policies, and state laws.
School data were gathered by mail-back surveys in nationally representative samples of U.S. public elementary schools during the 2008−2009 and 2009−2010 school years (n = 632 and 666, respectively). Corresponding district policies and state laws were obtained.
Nationwide, 4.2% of schools organized a WSB program during 2008−2009, increasing to 6.2% by 2009−2010. Controlling for demographic covariates, schools were more likely to organize a WSB program where there was a strong district policy pertaining to safe active routes to school (OR = 2.14, P < .05), or a state law requiring crossing guards around schools (OR = 2.72, P < .05).
WSB programs are not common but district policies and state laws are associated with an increased likelihood of elementary schools organizing these programs. Policymaking efforts may encourage schools to promote active transportation.
Turner, Chriqui, and Chaloupka are with the Institute for Health Research and Policy, University of Illinois at Chicago.