In a world where eco-friendly alternatives are gaining traction, a pragmatic yet exciting trend is emerging – Bike Buses for kids. Forget the conventional 4-wheeled school bus; imagine instead a group of children pedalling their way to school as a practical and green method of transportation.
In this blog, we'll explore the concept of Bike Buses, where the main focus is on getting kids to school in a more sustainable way. It's not about reinventing the wheel, but about utilising two wheels to get children safely to school in an environmentally friendly way.
This method of shared transportation not only makes the school run more sustainable but also creates a community of young riders and is good fun!
What is a Bike Bus?
A bike bus, also known as a cycle train or bike train, is essentially a group of cyclists who ride together along a predetermined route and schedule. Like a traditional bus, it usually has designated stops where riders can join or leave the group.
Unlike recreational cycling groups, bike buses are primarily focused on practical everyday journeys, such as commuting to work or school.
The Bike Bus concept has existed since the 1990s but has risen to prominence recently in Barcelona and other European cities. Starting with one route in Barcelona in 2021, it has now grown to over 40 routes.
Overall, bike buses offer a sustainable, healthy, and fun way to get around. Whether you're a seasoned cyclist or a curious newcomer, there are many benefits to be gained from joining a bike bus.
What Journeys are Bike Buses Used For?
The two main journeys made by Bike Buses are:
- School Runs: Making the morning commute to school a fun and active adventure for kids, all while reducing traffic around school gates.
- Commuter Crews: Conquering rush hour with a pack of fellow cyclists, saving time and stress while getting some exercise.
What are the benefits of a bike bus?
Bike bus programs deliver a number of benefits:
- Promote active lifestyles: Cycling is a fantastic way to exercise and improve your overall health.
- Reduce traffic congestion and pollution: Cars are a major contributor to traffic jams and air pollution. By choosing to cycle instead, bike bus riders help to ease congestion and improve air quality.
- Build community: Riding together in a group creates a sense of camaraderie and belonging.
- Increase safety for cyclists: There's safety in numbers. Cycling in a group makes cyclists more visible to motorists and can help to deter aggressive driving.
- Advocate for better cycling infrastructure: The growing popularity of bike buses can put pressure on local authorities to invest in better cycling infrastructure, such as bike lanes and dedicated paths.
Some teachers also find that children who actively commute to school tend to be more relaxed, alert, and prepared for learning upon arrival than those driven by car.
How do I set up a Bike Bus?
Setting up a Bike Bus is a straightforward initiative that can be organised by community groups, schools, workplaces, or individuals, making it accessible to anyone passionate about promoting sustainable transportation.
The first step involves identifying a group of individuals interested in joining the Bike Bus; starting with a minimum of five people is recommended.
Sustrans have put together a ‘FRideDays Bike Bus toolkit’ to help those interested in setting one up.
When planning the route, it’s best to keep it as simple as possible. Avoiding winding routes and major roads.
Determine the frequency of your bike bus rides based on participants' needs and availability, aiming for regular outings to build momentum.
Once the logistics are in place, spreading the word becomes crucial. Whether recruiting riders or ride organisers, effective communication helps build a community.
Bike Buses in the UK
The Bike Bus idea has also taken off in the UK, in places including Glasgow, Worcester, Warwick, and London.
Glasgow’s Shawlands Bike Bus, started in 2021, runs every Friday with more than 50 riders. Glasgow City Council also got involved to help develop a high-tech piece of equipment that can stop certain traffic lights.
In the South West of London, Grove Park Bike Bus was formed in September 2022 and has grown to 85 participants.
Frequently Asked Questions about Bike Bus
How do Bike Buses ensure safety for children riding together?
Bike Buses prioritise safety by implementing measures such as adult supervision, using designated bike lanes whenever possible, and mandating safety equipment like helmets for all riders. Additionally, riders are encouraged to adhere to traffic rules and practice safe riding habits.
Can anyone start a Bike Bus, and how do you organize one?
Yes, anyone can start a Bike Bus! To organise one, gather a group of interested individuals, plan a simple route that prioritises safety, and spread the word to recruit more riders. It's a grassroots effort that can be initiated by schools, community groups, or motivated individuals.
What are the benefits of joining a Bike Bus for kids and parents?
Joining a Bike Bus offers numerous benefits, some quick ones being promoting physical activity, reducing carbon emissions, fostering a sense of community, saving on transportation costs, and teaching children valuable road safety skills.