Back to School with Walking Bubbles

By Alison Holland

Published: August 23, 2023

Walking bubble.

What’s a Walking Bubble?  Simply put, it’s a five minute safe zone around a school for walking, wheeling, cycling or scooting… it’s a way of encouraging those parents who drive to park well away from the school gates for the safety of all.

The zone can be marked out with pavement stickers or lamp post stickers. It’s highlighted with banners or bollard covers by the school gates and is promoted to parents and pupils through the school by providing them with a digital map showing the zone.

A Modeshift Scheme

The idea for Walking Bubbles came from and was developed by Modeshift, the UK organisation supporting sustainable travel professionals. They are also the organisation behind the popular Modeshift STARS (Sustainable Travel Accredited and Recognised) award scheme.  The Walking Bubble is one of many active travel to school initiatives they promote and encompass as an initiative option within the STARS scheme for schools. It’s all about making it easier and safer for more children to travel to school in active ways.

Alternative to ‘School Streets’

You may have heard of School Streets which are increasing in popularity across the UK. These are when there are legal traffic restrictions in place during school start and end times to make the area outside the school safer. In areas where School Streets are not yet implemented or are not possible a Walking Bubble is an alternative to help reduce school gate traffic even although only on a voluntary basis.

5 minute walking. Walking bubble poster. Stay Safe Get Active Pavement Sticker on the pavement.

Launch or Re-Boot Your Walking Bubble

The autumn term is a great time to put plans in place to either launch or re-boot a walking bubble at your school or for schools you work with in your area. Good travel habits made at the start of the school year when the weather is still mild are much more likely to stick than once pupils and parents are ingrained in their routine.

How Much Does it Cost?

If you are setting up a Walking Bubble for your school the cost to you is either zero or minimal for the basic resource - the digital map.

Schools in England outside London are already funded to sign up for the Modeshift STARS scheme.  Once signed up you can access the digital map and online resources to enable you to create a walking bubble. Schools in London can pay a small fee of £10 per school for their own version of the digital map (with TfL branding). Schools in other parts of the UK eg Scotland can pay £30 per school for their own digital walking bubble map.

Walking Bubble Resources to Boost Your Scheme

Here at Brightwayz we have been working with Modeshift for several years supplying supporting resources for walking bubble schemes. The wide choice of these optional extras means there should be something to help boost any scheme. What’s more, 10% of the sale price of these resources goes back to Modeshift to help support the great work they do promoting and enabling active travel.

Which Resources Are Best?

The best resources for your school depend on your situation and personal preference. However the three most popular choices are the banners for your school gate or fence (nice and visible), the stickers (something for every child to take home) and the Walking Bubble Launch Pack (good selection of a range of resources to get you started).

Back to School

If you are a local authority supporting schools in your area and are interested in starting Walking Bubble schemes with your local schools, please get in touch and we can help you with products and direct you to Modeshift for support with setting up. If you represent a school wishing to register on the scheme, either get in touch with Modeshift or ask your local authority sustainable travel team. 

A colourful border of pencils with back to school in the middle

Photo Credit: Modeshift