Walking Bubbles for Safe, Active Journeys to School

By Alison Holland

Published: July 27, 2020

Walking bubble.

2 minute read

What’s a Walking Bubble? This new scheme has just been  launched by DfT-backed Modeshift STARS to support safe, active travel to school with 5-minute walk zones  – and Brightkidz are delighted to be developing and offering official supporting resources.

Walking Bubbles and Supporting Resources

As more pupils prepare to return to education in September, a school in the north east of England has taken part in the launch of the scheme to encourage parents and children to get more active and improve the air quality and safety around schools.

The Federation of Mowden Schools, in Darlington, has been working with Modeshift STARS, a national schools awards scheme recognising excellence in supporting sustainable travel, to create a ‘walking bubble’ around the school for students. These are supported by a varied range of resources from Brightkidz including bannersbollard covers and pavement stickers.

Creating Walking Zone Maps

The bubbles are part of Modeshift STARS’ latest initiative, #StaySafeGetActive, which enables any registered school to create a walking zone map to support them with their re-opening whilst encouraging social distancing outside of the school gates. 

Nick Butler, Modeshift STARS accreditation manager, said: “We would like as many schools as possible to create a #StaySafeGetActive walking bubble around their school, ensuring that children and their families can enjoy a safer and more active journey to school. 

“Everyone where possible should walk, cycle or scoot to school. Where families must travel by car, we’d like them find a safe place to park at least five minutes away from the school gates and walk for the final few metres to create a car-free zone.”

National Roll Out by September

The initiative, which will be rolled out across most of England before the end of the school holidays, has been launched on the back of research that found that only 51 per cent of primary children walk to school, compared to 70 per cent a generation ago. The Modeshift STARS team also hope it will build on the positive effect of the recent lockdown on air quality; research has found that pollutants from vehicle emissions are linked to rising levels of heart disease, as well as increasing the severity of Covid-19 infections.

Nick added: “We feel that this is the ideal time to launch the walking bubbles as, during lockdown, more people than ever were taking a daily walk, scoot or bike ride. Furthermore, with the reduction in traffic on the roads, the air quality improved dramatically with some cities seeing nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels falling by up to 60 per cent.

“In addition to the recognised benefits of active travel, fewer cars around the school gates will mean that there is plenty of space for families to follow the Government’s social distancing guidelines.”

“Build Walking Into What We Do”

Peter King, Headteacher of the Federation of Mowden Schools, added: “We’re delighted to be working with the Modeshift STARS Team to establish the first ever walking bubble scheme in England.

“One of the positive consequences of the coronavirus was people respecting the environment and appreciating the local area more. During lockdown it’s been really fun having our daily walks so at our school, we want to build walking into what we do. Each of our families is responsible for securing a more sustainable future, ensuring that our environment is better for all of our community.”

Modeshift STARS work with educational establishments across the country to develop and implement School Travel Plans, which include a range of initiatives to encourage sustainable and active travel on the journey to school.

Backing from Dame Sarah Storey

Paralympian and Active Travel Commissioner for the Sheffield City Region Dame Sarah Storey has been working with schools in partnership with the STARS South Yorkshire team.

She said: “As more pupils return to the classroom we have an opportunity to transform the school run, and this fantastic new ‘walking bubble’ tool from Modeshift STARS will enable children to walk to school safely, or park and stride the last leg of their journey.

“I hope this scheme is taken up by schools across the country and I hope the children of the Federation of Mowden Schools enjoy their walks to school.”

Get Your Local Schools on Board

  • All schools in England (except in London which has TfL STARS scheme instead) can make use of the free (already funded by DfT) mapping tool by Modeshift to create their own 5-Minute walk zone map – the main element of a Walking Bubble scheme. For more information and a link on how to sign, visit www.modeshiftstars.org/staysafegetactive
  • For information on Walking Bubble additional resources and how to order see www.brightkidz.co.uk/ModeshiftSTARSshop
  • In England, these supporting resources can be funded by Emergency Active Travel tranche 1 or 2 funding.
  • The mapping tool is available for schools outside England for a small charge.
  • For schools in London please get in touch for information on how the mapping tool and resources can be combined with TfL STARS.
  • These items can also be used in any area to support active travel schemes in general – especially items such as the bunting which only features images.

Products You May Like

Walking Bubble Launch Pack – combo pack of Walking Bubble resources.

Banner – buy Walking Bubble resources individually too.

Reflector Shop Starter Pack – hold your own school reflector sale.


More from our Brightkidz and Brightwayz Blogs

Fun Walking Activities for Children During Lockdown – great as summer holiday activities.

Cycling for the Young at Heart – on a Trike – RIP Olivia de Havilland, Hollywood legend and cycling role model.

How Will You Get to School? – our guide for parents


Need help getting people engaged in your active travel campaigns? Get in touch with our friendly team for guidance or quotes.