Integrating the following basic principles into school reopening plans will help prevent the spread of COVID-19 during school journeys while also addressing the risks of road traffic injury and air pollution. Click here for full guidance and scroll to ‘Guidance for Safe and Healthy Journeys to School: During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond’ in your language. English, Arabic, Chinese, French, Spanish, and Russian available.
Develop and implement a communication plan.
Promote hygiene and safety throughout the journey.
Coordinate across stakeholders, including transport authorities, and hold regular meetings.
Engage students, identify their roles and responsibilities.
Determine a queuing system for students on arrival and a process for staff to greet/escort students only as necessary (very young students, etc.) and integrate hand washing and sanitizing points at entrances and exits.
Add distancing markers to walkways to ‘nudge’ physical distancing, for example, with paint or chalk.
Tell caregivers that to avoid the spread of infection during drop-off and pick-up, they are not to gather at school entrances.
Avoid general crowding and congestion during drop- off and pick-up, and limit contact between cohorts through staggered or alternating schedules.
Promote walking and cycling to reduce crowding on school buses and public transport, provide more space for those who must use these modes of transport.
Reclaim a part of the street near the school, for example, a sidewalk, parking lot, or a lane of traffic.
Close streets around schools 15-90 minutes before school opening and dismissal, taking into account the impact of commutes and local businesses.
Define and demarcate a school zone through means that are accessible to students of all abilities (e.g., low-cost signage, bollards, or planters).
Authorities, working with schools, should expand safe infrastructure, encourage safe behaviours, and enforce laws and policies to allow for increased levels of active transport among all students, with particular attention to vulnerable populations, both during and after the pandemic.
Reduce speeds to 30 km per hour or less.
Separate pedestrians and cyclists from vehicular traffic through sidewalks, medians, refuge islands and crosswalks.
Offer ‘walking and cycling school buses.’
Engage students through fun competitions, awards and surveys.
Allow students to design the streets they want around their school.
Dismiss students who cycle and scoot in shifts, and divide parking into several small areas to support physical distancing.
Post signs at racks to remind students to physically distance while riding (for example at traffic lights) and parking, to wear a helmet, and to wash or sanitize hands after cycling.
Encourage cycling, for example, through bicycle loans and rental opportunities, bicycle lessons, by providing free helmets, or by awarding bicycle licenses to students in partnership with other agencies as an incentive to increase safe ridership.
Limit private car use to those who need it, for example, because of a disability or significant distances from school.
Establish remote drop-off locations, prohibit idling and close streets around schools to reduce emissions.
Carpool with members of your bubble.
Consider the benefits and drawbacks of school bus schedules.
If classes will be conducted in cohorts to reduce exposure, revise the transportation schedule to ensure that cohorts do not mix.
Avoid overcrowding at bus stops by adding more stops, arrival locations, and buses if necessary.
Encourage bus drivers to self-screen for symptoms of COVID-19 before every shift, and to stay home and seek medical advice if he/she has any symptoms.
Limit exposure by using shorter routes, reducing capacity, assigning seats, providing sanitizer machines, maintaining boarding pattern and considering a physical barrier for the driver.
Require masks for students and staff, and supply the driver with fragrance-free hand sanitizer and extra masks in case a student does not have one.
Limit or prohibit drinking, eating and loud talking in vehicles.
Ventilate by opening windows.
Assign an aide to be responsible for enforcement of safety and hygiene protocols.
Request diverse ministries to share safe transport information and apply new protocols to several modes of transport.
Engage stakeholders to foster a supportive and protective environment for students trying to follow protocols.
Be creative about physical distancing.
Enforce helmet-wearing on motorcycles and lower speeds.
Enforce safety standards.
Travel during off-peak hours through staggered or alternative schedules to avoid crowding.
Give students tips to be safe and ask about challenges.
Early on, identify and engage with populations that will face the most challenges during their journey.
For wheelchair users and others with mobility challenges, remove obstacles and widen paths, and/ or create pedestrian lanes parallel to sidewalks.
For students with visual impairments or limited mobility, provide a safe, less-populated route, separated from traffic.
For students with hearing, cognitive, or mental disabilities, provide accessible orientation and wayfinding systems along the journey that include visual, audible and tactile cues.
Collaborate with transport providers and do a test run.
Replicate and scale-up what works.
Identify gaps. Identify diverse stakeholders to help fill gaps.
Use speed and air quality data to communicate long-term benefits and catalyse policy change.
Aim for long-term leadership commitment and funding.
Checklists to support safe and healthy journeys to school are available for:
Education authorities and policy makers;
Teachers and staff;
Parents/caregivers and the community; and
We would like to thank all those who contributed to this website. Special thanks Joanne Vincenten and Raoul Bermejo of UNICEF for their close collaboration.
We are particularly grateful to the organizations who participated in our initial online discussion about this resource:
The United Nation’s child rights organisation has established a global road safety partnership with the FIA Foundation, building global and national advocacy on the rights of children in regard to road traffic injuries and safe mobility. Read the UNICEF/FIA Foundation reports Safe to Learn: A Safe Journey to School is a Child’s Right, and Rights of Way.
The WHO’s primary role is to direct and coordinate international health within the United Nations system including, in relation to the scope of the Child Health Initiative, road traffic injuries, air pollution and non-communicable diseases. The WHO have recently released The Power of Cities: Tackling Noncommunicable Diseases and Road Traffic Injuries
The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) works for cleaner, more efficient vehicles and safe walking and cycling around the world. UNEP’s ‘Share the Road’ Initiative supported by the FIA Foundation promotes and technical solutions for active mobility, including policy frameworks to enable the provision of pedestrian and cyclist infrastructure, including ‘safe to school’ components. The Partnership for Clean Fuels & Vehicles is working with authorities to improve fuel quality, vehicle standards to improve local air quality, which the Global Fuel Economy Initiative works to promote more efficient vehicles and standards, as well as the transition to electric vehicles.
The leading international NGO for child rights and welfare is advocating globally for safe mobility rights for children as part of its strategy to support delivery of the SDG agenda. This includes building on Save the Children’s ‘7% Project’ road safety advocacy and research initiative in Thailand, co-funded by Save the Children, FIA Foundation and corporate partners including Allianz.
Access Exchange International (AEI) is a non-profit agency promoting accessible public transport for persons with disabilities and seniors in low-income regions around the world. This includes a focus on the neglected need for transportation to and from school for children and youth with disabilities.
AIP Foundation leads child injury prevention programmes in low- and middle-income countries by providing safety interventions to road users. The organization has extensive experience in South East Asia and China working on pedestrian safety and motorcycle helmet wearing.
Amend works in Sub-Saharan Africa to deliver and evaluate safe routes to school initiatives, including provision of local street design changes, pedestrian facilities and traffic calming, as well as work in rural areas and with motorcyclists to promote safety. Amend’s SARSAI programme won the 2019 WRI Ross Prize for ciies, for its proven impacts in reducing child injuries around schools.
Bernard van Leer Foundation is an independent foundation working worldwide to inspire and inform large scale action to improve the health and well-being of babies, toddlers and the people who care for them. The Foundation provides financial support and expertise to partners in government, civil society and business to help test and scale effective services for young children and families. Its work includes Urban95, which encourages people to consider the city from 95cm - the height of a 3-year old.
C40 is a network of the world’s megacities committed to addressing climate change. C40 supports cities to collaborate effectively, share knowledge and drive meaningful, measurable and sustainable action on climate change.
Clean Air Asia is an international NGO that leads the global mission for better air quality and healthier, more livable cities in Asia.
Working in Eastern Europe and former CIS countries, EASST supports national NGO partners to help save lives and prevent injuries by making road transport safer, greener and more sustainable for future generations, including improving road safety for children.
The UK-based international charity hosts and coordinates the Child Health Initiative. In addition to providing funding support to each of the other partners, the Foundation also supports the following global and regional partners delivering applied research, legislative campaigns and advocacy focused on child health and mobility.
The FIA is the governing body for world motor sport and the federation of the world’s leading motoring organisations. Founded in 1904, with headquarters in Paris, the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) is a non-profit making association. It brings together 243 international motoring and sporting organisations from 146 countries on five continents. Its member clubs represent millions of motorists and their families. The FIA is dedicated to improving the safety of every day road users throughout the world through its Action for Road Safety campaign, and also has a focus on environmental sustainability.
The Fundación Gonzalo Rodríguez is a non-profit, non-governmental organization that aims to eliminate road traffic deaths and injuries in Latin America. The Foundation provides practical training on child restraint systems, promoting legislation on seat belts for school buses and advocating for child safety across Latin America.
The George Institute for Global Health is a health and medical research institute whose mission is to improve the health of millions of people worldwide. The George Institute is collaborating with the Child Health Initiative to design and validate child-focused interventions.
The Greater London Authority is responsible for implementing the vision and plans of the elected Mayor of London. This includes areas such as environment, health, transport and young people, in partnership with local Councils and other stakeholders. The Mayor’s transport strategy focuses around healthy streets, promoting active travel and improved safety and air quality.
The Global Alliance of NGOs for Road Safety (the Alliance) is a collection of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that implement programs and lobby for road safety initiatives around the world. The Alliance was established in 2011 by NGO members of the United Nations Road Safety Collaboration (UNRSC) and currently represents more than 250 member NGOs working in road safety from more than 90 countries around the world.
iRAP (the International Road Assessment Programme) is the umbrella programme for Road Assessment Programmes (RAPs) worldwide that are working to save lives. Working in more than seventy countries to inspect highway and street safety and promote and facilitate road safety infrastructure design improvements for all road users. The Star Rating for Schools tool allows low-cost assessment of road infrastructure, and guides decision-makers in prioritizing improvements.
The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy works around the world to design and implement high quality transport systems and policy solutions that make cities more livable, equitable, and sustainable, including safe streets. ITDP has offices in Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, and the United States.
Jens Aerts is a senior urban planner with 20 years of experience, working with international development agencies, city governments, developers and non-for-profit organizations on the intersection of urban practice, policy and research. Most recently he has been working for UN-Habitat, UNICEF and the World Bank. He authored UNICEF’s recent publication ‘Shaping urbanization for children’ and supported the agency in program implementation of its Global Urban Strategy. He is an associate partner at BUUR - Bureau for Urbanism, specialized on sustainable urban development programs and policies.
NACTO (National Association of City Transportation Officials) is an association of 81 major North American cities and transit agencies formed to exchange transportation ideas, insights, and practices and cooperatively approach national transportation issues. NACTO’s Global Designing Cities Initiative provides design tools and advice to transform urban streets into safe and healthy streets around the world. The Child Health Initiative worked with NACTO to develop a GDCI ‘Streets for Kids’ design guide, with funding from Fondation Botnar, Bernard Van Leer Foundation, FIA Foundation and Bloomberg Philanthropies.
The National Center for Safe Routes to School is part of the Highway Safety Research Center at the University of North Carolina. The Centre is the coordinating organization for Walk to School Day in the US held every October and Bike to School Day held each May, as well as launching the Vision Zero for Youth initiative.
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is an international public health agency working to improve health and living standards of the people of the Americas. It is part of the United Nations system, serving as the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization and as the health organization of the Inter-American System. It is known in Latin America as the OPS or OPAS.
Plan International is an independent development and humanitarian organisation that advances children’s rights and equality for girls. It has a particular focus on girls’ education and safety in public spaces.
Safe Kids Worldwide is a nonprofit organization working to help families and communities keep kids safe from injuries. Safe Kids works with an extensive network of more than 400 coalitions in the United States and with partners in more than 30 countries to reduce traffic injuries, drownings, falls, burns, poisonings and more.
The Victoria Institute of Strategic Economic Studies, University of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia is engaged in research studying adolescent growth and social development and risks.
Walk21 is the international charity dedicated to ensuring the right to walk and opportunity to enjoy it is supported and encouraged for everyone across the world.
The World Resources Institute works with cities across the world to implement safe system street design principles, with many child safety benefits. WRI is the leading global advocate for safe and sustainable, low carbon, urban mobility.