The One Mile Solution: A Lesson Plan for Walk to School Month

October is International Walk & Bike to School Month and--just by coincidence--Kansas City's LEARN Science & Math program invited me out October 23rd to do an activity with the group.

Below is the project plan we have cooked up--feel free to use, adapt, or modify it as you like.

The students will work on the project between now and October 23rd and then when I visit them October 23rd we will discuss the results and their experiences.


This project is based on The One Mile Solution by Andy Cline.

In this project you will find out whether you can safely bicycle and walk to destinations in your neighborhood.

You will:
  • Make a map of destinations in your neighborhood and bicycling and walking routes from your home to the destinations
  • Try out the routes on foot and by bicycle
  • Summarize your results and what you learned

By Bicycle or On Foot--or Both?
Students can do this project entirely by bicycling, entirely by walking, or both. Trying both options is preferred as students will discover that bicycling & walking are quite different experiences and present different difficulties in reaching destinations. But some students might not have a bicycle or know how to ride it, so the walking option will work for them. Also some students might live in places where it is quite easy to get around on foot by not by bicycle.

1. Student prints out a map showing his/her own home and the area approximately 1 mile around it.
  • Mark home on the map with an X.
  • Draw a circle around the X showing a 1-mile radius

2. Student works with parent to locate 5-10 destinations on the map that the student would most like to travel to in daily life: homes of friends, schools, parks, shopping, church, library, places to visit or play, entertainment, etc.
  • Choose the destinations on the basis of where you want or need to go, NOT on the basis of whether you can easily get there by foot or by bicycle. Part of the point of this exercise is to see **whether or not** all your most common destinations can be reached (safely) on foot or by bicycle. Some destinations may be difficult or impossible for students of this age to walk or bicycle to, other destinations may be quite easy. But for now, choose destinations you want or need to go to, not simply the easiest to walk or bicycle to.
  • Try to choose a variety of distances, some close to home and some closer to a mile away or (especially for older students) even a little more--up to two or three miles is considered easy bicycling distance for older teenagers.
  • Mark each destination on the map with a black dot.

3. The student works with the parents to figure out a safe route to walk and/or bicycle to each destination.
  • Start with the easiest destinations first
  • You may find some destinations that are just impossible for the student to safely walk or bicycle to
  • You may need to use a combination of plotting possible courses on the map and checking out possible routes in person
  • You can use the bikeability and walkability checklists to help figure out what to look for in possible good or bad routes
  • Keep in mind the route you use to drive to a destination may not be the best route to walk or bicycle--look for and explore all the alternatives

4. Between now and October 23rd (the date of the in-class session), try to walk and bicycle to each destination for which you have found a safe route.
  • Depending on the destination and the difficulty of the route students may need to walk or bicycle with a friend, older sibling or older friend, or parent or other adult
  • On the map, mark each destination you were able to safely walk to with a W
  • Mark each destination you were able to safely bicycle to with a B

5. For each destination, mark the route between your home and destination on the map this way:
  • Green for portions of routes or streets that are very easy/safe for bicycling or walking
  • Orange for portions of routes or streets that are somewhat easy and safe, but also have some difficulties or problems for bicycling or walking
  • Red for portions of routes or streets that are very difficult or unsafe for you to walk or bicycle--places so difficult you really don't feel safe going there
  • Mark any difficult points (intersections, street crossings) with a large orange or red dot as appropriate
Can you use the same map for both bicycling and walking or are the difficulties different for bicycling compared to walking? You may want to create two separate route maps, one for your bicycling routes and one for your walking routes.

6. Tally up your results:
  • Number of total destinations
  • How many you were able to (safely!) reach by walking; how many not
  • How many your were able to (safely!) reach by bicycling; how many not
7. List in order of importance the five characteristics of the street, traffic, or environment you felt made the most difference in making the streets or places in your neighborhood safe and comfortable (or unsafe and uncomfortable) **for bicycling**.
  • You can read the bikability checklist for ideas on what to look for and think about--but things like: the amount of traffic, speed of traffic, width of the road, whether or not there was a bicycle lane, whether there were difficult intersections, whether destinations were close or very distant, whether there was a place to safely and securely lock or store your bicycle when you arrived, etc.

8. List in order of importance the 5 characteristics of the street, traffic, or environment you felt made the most difference in making the streets or places in your neighborhood safe and comfortable (or unsafe and uncomfortable) **for walking**.
  • You can read the walkability checklist for ideas on what to look for and think about: amount or speed of traffic, street design, presence of sidewalks and crosswalks, etc.

9. What are the top three reasons you would like to bicycle or walk to these destinations instead of driving? What are the top three reasons you would like to drive to these destinations instead of walking or bicycling?

Some things to think about:
  • Was it easy or hard to find a lot of places you want to go within one mile of your home? Could you have found 15, 20, or 30 interesting destinations within a mile of your home? Would that number change depending on where you live within the city? How about if you lived in a small town or miles outside of any town or city?

  • How do bicycling and walking compare? Is one faster or easier than the other--and is that one *always* faster and easier or does it depend on where you are going? Did the same things that made a street safe for walking also make it safe for bicycling?

  • How does your age and experience factor in to the places you can safely walk and bicycle? Could a four year old safely walk or bicycle to any of your destinations? How about someone three years younger than you or three years older? How about a 25 year old or an 85 year old?

  • Could you always walk or bicycle to all these destinations from now on? What would be the advantages of doing that? If you can't always walk or bicycle to these destinations, why not? What are the problems or situations that would keep you from doing so?

  • If there are problems or situations that keep you from walking or bicycling to these destinations on every trip from now on, can you find solutions that would allow you to walk or bicycle there more often? (For instance, if you need to carry heavy or bulky items, are there ways to carry heavy and bulky items when your are walking or bicycling? If you don't like to walk or bicycle in rain, snow, cold or dark, are there ways to keep dry, safe, warm, and well lit when bicycling or walking in rain, snow, cold, or dark? If streets or intersections are busy, is there a way to make them safer for walking and bicycling, or ways to find or create alternative routes? Are there ways to design or redesign cities and towns to put more destinations within safe bicycling and walking distance? Are there other difficulties you observed in your trips, and possible solutions you can imagine?)


The best bicycle safety info for parents & children that I know of:

Teaching a child to ride a bicycle (if they don't know how at all):

Brent Hugh
Executive Director
Missouri Bicycle & Pedestrian Federation
director [at]

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