Twenty years ago, Gladstone Primary School recruited the first ever walking school bus school route in Auckland – named Zippy – supported by the then Auckland City Council.
Ces Pettit, a retired caretaker volunteered to take up the role and responsibility of walking the children to school with the aim of reducing the number of cars on the road, helping the environment and providing exercise.
A walking school bus is like any other bus, but on foot. Children walk along a designated route and are ‘picked up’ and ‘dropped off’ at specific 'bus stops' with adult volunteers – sometimes parents – supervising along the way.
Councillor Christine Fletcher, who launched the programme at Gladstone Primary School in 1999 as Mayor of Auckland City, is pleased that the initiative has since then stayed and flourished.
The issue of parent’s driving their children to school by car had long concerned her as congestion grew in Auckland in the 1990s.
“While I understood parent’s desire to ensure their children’s safety, I felt there had to be a better way. A solution was found with the walking school bus,” says Councillor Fletcher. “It’s lovely to see how the Walking School Bus has grown and now celebrates its 20th birthday.”
Auckland Transport hosted a special morning tea at Gladstone Primary School to celebrate this 20 year milestone with cake, mascots and a few speeches from a previous Zippy route co-coordinator, principal Dave Shadbolt and the children who currently walk on the Zippy walking school bus route.
Walking School Buses have been running in Auckland since 1999. There are currently 408 routes, 4,502 students and 1,605 parent volunteers across the region.
You can even start your own walking school bus. Find out how here.