Project Bike Bus
8 August 2023
Getting kids to cycle to school.....
Project Bike Bus
Since stepping back from coaching the ERC Junior u18 race team I have been putting my efforts into getting kids to cycle to school.
This has lead me to be active in Edinburgh’s bike bus community.
What is a bike bus?
A bike bus is a group of cyclists traveling as a single vehicle with the aim of getting kids to school safely. A bike bus typically consists of confident adult riders riding on the outside edges of the group providing protection for the less confident within the group. Bike buses travel at the speed of the slowest riders so no one gets left behind in what should be a relaxed enjoyable experience.
What is Happening in Edinburgh?
For the past ten years, a very small number of individual schools throughout the UK and Europe have been running bike buses, usually with the help of professional cycle ride leaders.
Typically these would be run monthly. The positive benefits of these bike buses inspired me to ask questions like; why not more schools and why only once a month?
I soon realised that it can be a faff setting up a bike bus from scratch. You need support from the parents and ideally from the school also. You also need to invest time in planning the route and perhaps engaging with local community police.
I though that if I could pick a school and use it as a proof of concept then we could use that as a template and inspiration for other schools to set up their own bike buses.
A Success Story : George Watson’s College bike buses.
I contacted the private school and arranged a meeting with parents and the head teacher. Before long, we ran a pilot bike bus with about five kids and invited the police to come along.
Following the success of the pilot we promoted the bike bus and gained a few extra kids. News quickly spread about this new fun way of getting to school and before too long we had were getting requests to set up additional routes to the school.
Having multiple routes to a school means that more adult marshals are required to guide the bike bus. This is where ERC’s Cycling Matters community and Twitter came in useful. I was able to muster up a pool of volunteers that could cover the three routes to the school.
If the three and soon to be four bike bus routes run on any given week, it results in 100 plus kms less of car journeys to and from the school.
To find out more about the George Watson's College bike bus, click this link: Watson's Bike Bus | News Article - George Watson's College (gwc.org.uk)
Every School in Edinburgh Should have a bike bus!
We used the knowledge and experience gained from the George Watson’s bike bus to set up a web site called the Bike Bus Hub to help other schools set their own bike bus up. The site contains how to guides and useful links to help them towards setting up their very own bike bus. There are currently eight school listed on the bike bus directory page of the hub with more to come in the autumn.
Edinburgh council have formally backed the bike bus project and have contacted all schools to encourage them to consider setting up a bike bus.
The simple act of getting kids to ditch the car and choose the bike as a means of getting school is resulting in cleaner air and less traffic congestion in our wonderful city.
Parents: What You can do to Help the Bike Bus Project?
If you are a parent, please ask your school’s parent council to encourage your school to set up a bike bus. Some bike buses are parent led with no support from the school, but having the school’s support is hugely beneficial.
Once there is an appetite for a bike bus then it is time to follow the steps on our How To Set up a Bike Bus . I’d suggest a meeting with myself, (Jarlathflynn@hotmail.com) to help you iron out any issues or concerns you may have.
Volunteers: What You can do to Help the Bike Bus Project?
The Bike Bus Hub also enables volunteer marshals to sign up to a school near them. Typically a bike bus needs at least three marshals to ensure a safe journey to school. No qualifications are needed to be an adult volunteer, you just need to be a confident cyclist. If all 80 schools in Edinburgh ran a bike bus on the same day, then we would need about 200 adult volunteers to help marshal the bike buses. Please consider volunteering and don’t assume someone else will. We had to cancel a large number of bike buses in 2023 due to lack of volunteers unfortunately.