They weighed up the options… Driving their children to school, walking them or let them cycle? In March 2021, Barcelona’s bike bus – or ‘bici bus’ – as the idea is known locally, was born.
What is a bike bus?
Bike buses allows groups of school children and their chaperones – often parents volunteering, to cycle in convoys on their school commute. In the same way that a bus has set routes and timetables, collecting people along its route, so too does the bike bus.
It ticks so many boxes. It’s environmentally friendly, fun, and great mental preparation for the school day, getting the students to spend a bit of time in the fresh air.
How safe is it?
Safer than the alternative! Safety on these routes is managed in a variety of ways. The children’s parents volunteer their time and in some instances, they have even received a police escort.
The Shawlands bike bus in Glasgow has taken advantage of modern technology, creating the Ultra-Smart Cycle System. This is a 3D-printed device using military-grade encryption which, at certain times, can hold the traffic for 45 seconds, allowing all the riders to get through at once.
Where are these bike buses?
Since its inception, the Bike Bus concept has grown from strength to strength. It has been replicated across the world, in places such as Glasgow, Scotland and Portland, USA. Barcelona and Glasgow aren’t the only European cities, either. These bike buses are being recognised as an overwhelmingly positive contribution to the school run and are being replicated across the continent.
The Netherlands have taken the idea quite literally and have produced a singular vehicle which is powered by cycling children. This is something which looks like an open bus but is powered by pedalling. It is a fun activity for the children to take part in and makes the school run an exciting start to their day.
Top tips from existing bike buses
Thinking about setting up your own bike bus? Here’s some tips from existing bike buses:
- Aim for once a week to start with, so that excitement can be built around the bike bus and both children and parents can prepare for the event.
- Have the youngest rider at the front so they can set the pace.
- Have people at the front who will be able to stop at road crossings to ensure traffic doesn’t try to pass. These can wait until all the riders have moved through and either move back to the front or get replaced by new ‘blockers’.
- Pick your route wisely. Keep it short and simple where possible, trying to avoid junctions and roundabouts.
- Make it fun! If there is an event or a birthday, you could hand out party hats to go over their helmets. Shawlands Bike Bus even had a bike speaker one week. It might make drivers a little more sympathetic to see you all having such a great time.
- The end goal is to ensure a safe school commute for children. Hopefully over time, children learn the value of their own pedal power and may build a life-long love for their bike! Let’s improve the school run one bike bus at a time.