All aboard the bike trains

Another one of those “it existed before, but the pandemic accelerated it” stories (not that there’s anything wrong with that). The concept of “bike buses” has been around for years, but the slower or even closed streets that various cities implemented in the last couple of years provided new opportunities.

Call it a bike bus, a bike train, or a cycle bus. With safety, health and camaraderie in mind, people from Barcelona to Duluth, Georgia, have been gathering in large groups and riding to and from schools, creating a more protected route to school for some kids — and sometimes, a hard-to-miss, joyous spectacle that brings attention to the challenges and promise of biking to school.

The article kids board bike trains, from Barcelona to San Francisco at Bloomberg gives a very good overview of the benefits and of some of these new projects, like near Barcelona.

In Vic, a small Catalan city in the province of Barcelona, a bike bus project was started by two teachers, Helena Vilardell and Marga Pou, who were in search of a safer way for their students to bike to school. The route from their students’ homes to their school went down one of the busiest streets in the city, so for safety’s sake, the two teachers decided to accompany nine of the students on their trek.”

Or in San Francisco, where Peter Belden, the lead organizer of the San Francisco bike bus, used the opportunity provided by the city’s Slow Street program when two such corridors were setup along his kids’ route to school.

The San Francisco bike bus has nearly doubled in size since its inception in December. Some adults have started joining the rides even though they don’t have any kids to drop off at school. Teachers have told Belden that students report feeling more energized after bike bus rides.

As with other stories of changes accelerated by the pandemic, people like Eduard Folch hope that they can be permanent changes to how things are done.

“Bike buses are a temporary solution for us,” said Folch. “We hope that one day Barcelona has safe bike lanes and cycling infrastructure that makes it so kids can autonomously ride to school.”

Image: Bryan Banducci/Bloomberg.  A pack of students and parents commute to school on bicycles in San Francisco on Jan. 14 as part of a “bike bus.”