What are bike buses and why do kids “jump out of bed” to join them?

It’s fun, it’s eco-friendly, and it’s becoming more popular every day.

Barcelona’s bike bus, or “bicibus” as the program is known locally, allows hundreds of children to safely cycle to school in a convoy, taking up entire streets in Spain’s second-largest city .

The citizen project, supported by the Barcelona City Council, began in March 2021 with a route in the Sarria neighborhood.

It now has 15 routes and has inspired similar schemes in the Scottish city of Glasgow and in Portland in the United States.

How do the bicycle buses work?

Lena Xirinacs, eight years old, joins the Eixemple route every Friday with her father, who is one of the volunteers who ensures the safety of children on the road.

“He wakes up with joy. I could use it as an excuse every day to get him out of bed,” said Pablo Xirinacs.

The Eixample route starts at 8:30 a.m. and covers 2.5 kilometers (1.55 miles) in 25 minutes, dropping children off at three schools along the way from Monday to Friday. Not all routes operate daily.

Road safety is guaranteed by a Barcelona police vehicle escort and vigilant parents like Xirinacs, one of 80 parent volunteers in the city, join the convoy.

Teaching more sustainable transport habits

The organizers estimate that more than 700 people joined the different routes during the 2020-21 academic year, which translates into some 15,000 trips to different schools in Barcelona during that time.

The bike bus project also aims to encourage more long-term sustainable transport user habits, says Jordi Honey-Roses, urban planner and senior researcher at the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.

“We anticipate that children who participate in ‘bicibus’ will be more likely to travel in a bikethey have better cycling habits, more sustainable transportation habits, and we think their family’s travel patterns will change as well,” Honey-Roses said.

Where else are there bike buses to school?

Spain is not the only European country where children cycle to school together in droves.

the Netherlands – way ahead of the pack when it comes to all things two-wheeled – it not only has the infrastructure to support convoys, but also singular vehicles powered by children on bikes.

The northern French city of Rouen also launched a pedal-powered school bus in 2016.

In Glasgow, the council has developed measures to stop traffic technology to ensure the safe passage of the Shawlands Cycle Bus.

The Ultra-Smart Cycle System, mounted on the lead cyclist’s bike, uses a military-grade encrypted signal that, when pressed when approaching the junction, activates a specially timed traffic light cycle to stop traffic for 45 seconds. Enough time to pass all the cyclists.

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