Organizers say the group bike rides have resulted in happier and healthier students
“Bike buses” — adult-led group bike rides to school — are taking over neighbourhoods. Many families are ditching cars for a sweatier morning ride with friends, biking miles in organized clusters led by grown-up volunteers. The effort is a call to combat climate change, encourage exercise and reduce school drop-off traffic.
And, parents and kids both say, it just makes the children happier.
Minneapolis dad Devin Olson organized a bike bus for his local school zone. The co-founder of Minneapolis Bike Parks, a grassroots organization that makes parks more bike-friendly, Olson says cycling “creates connectivity between all walks of life.”
Six years ago, Olson partnered with Minneapolis Public Schools to helm a 2-mile bike bus that dropped off students at two elementary schools.
So far, Olson has led 11 semi-annual bike buses that have grown from about 60 participants to nearly 150.
“We meet at 8 a.m. to play soccer and football and eat doughnuts,” Olson told their Parents. “Then we review safety measures and start our ride. It’s nothing but laughing, yelling and pure joy.”
The group makes about eight stops along the way to pick up children, many of whom are accompanied by parents or older siblings. Olson said one family who lives across the street from school bikes two miles — in the opposite direction — just so they can join the morning ride.
Bike buses are an, even more, fun way to reach school
“We want kids to celebrate going to school,” explained Olson, adding that the kids who participate enjoy opportunities to mingle with peers in different grades.
In San Francisco, Luke Bornheimer has co-run SF Bike Bus, which organizes city-wide school routes (with the goal of inspiring people around the country to start bike buses), since December 2021.
“Our first 3-mile ride included more than 100 kids, families and adults in one trip to school,” Bornheimer told Parents.
According to Bornheimer, a successful bike bus takes place on a “slow street” (a shared road for bicyclists and motorists), which his group is fortunate to be able to use in addition to a promenade in Golden Gate Park.
Now, a bike bus with about a dozen kids, some of whom ride scooters, has departed for school 10 times so far, sandwiched by adults who lead and bring up the rear.
“As a researcher of education policy, getting kids active and making the school accessible is important,” said Viczko, who purchased a 10-pack of winter gloves to distribute to young riders.
“The kids haven’t rushed out the door anymore and they’re happy when they arrive at school,” she noted. “It’s a movement.”
“Parents love seeing their kids connect and it’s become a social hour for parents who linger and talk after the ride,” Balto Parents.
He added, “I think we underestimate how much kids enjoy socializing and the freedom and independence that bikes provide.”