Global survey highlights growing popularity of the ‘bike bus’

The Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona has dug deep into the phenomena of the bike bus, a relatively recent innovation which now transports 32,000 children to school each week.

Sustrans describe a bike bus as: ‘an organised group cycle on a set route with timetabled stops along the way. You can hop on the bike bus as it passes your stop and leave wherever you need to get to.’

Dame Sarah Storey, British Paralympian and Active Travel Commissioner for Greater Manchester adds: ‘ Bike buses are great fun – children get the opportunity to ride together in a formal way whilst also having fun. It teaches them some life skills, and it also helps to get them out in the fresh air and sets them up for some learning.’

Although the practice is thought to have started began in Belgium in 1998 it was only 2021 when an initiative in Barcelona went viral and drew attention to the idea.

The new Barcelona report has been compiled following interviews with promoters of 93 Bike Bus routes across eight countries, collecting their characteristics, diversity, motivations, impacts and sustainability over time. The findings make interesting reading:

  • 94% of participants see Bike Bus as a form of activism, highlighting its role in promoting systemic changes in transport and demanding a more bike-friendly city for children.
  • 92% of respondents feeling unsafe to cycle to school without the protection of the group. The lack of adequate infrastructure and heavy traffic in their cities are some of the reasons.
  • 67% of the participants are young children, with an average age of 8 years.
  • The groups consist of about 17 people (on average 10 children and 7 adults).
  • On average, the routes are organised once a week and cover a distance of 1km to 2km on the road, which takes 20 minutes.
  • 47% of the children’s participants are girls.
  • 37% of Bike Bus participants are parents accompanying their children.
  • More than half of respondents felt that bicycle parking was an obstacle to participating in this initiative.

The report emphasises that to ensure the future of bike busses, consideration formalising them into a funded mobility service to ‘enhance their resilience over time and allow for increasing and diversifying participation.;

Jordi Honey-Rosés, researcher at ICTA-UAB and head of the study said: ‘What began as a means to shelter children from traffic has evolved into a celebration of cycling and a way of demanding more child-friendly cities. They have proved to be an effective way of increasing the visibility of cyclists on the streets and fostering a sense of community.

‘The Bike Bus is more than a means of transport; it is a statement of principle about the importance of sustainable mobility and the safety of our children, and we hope that this study will serve as a call to action for communities and governments worldwide to support and expand this transformative initiative.’


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