Have you tried crossing a street lately? Pedestrian safety is becoming a greater concern for everyone, especially parents, in neighborhoods all over the United States. Roads are getting wider, the number of vehicles traveling them is growing exponentially, and all the crosswalk signs and yellow flashing school zone lights just don’t seem like enough warning for some drivers. As a result, pedestrians — often kids on their way to and from school — are being put in danger by reckless drivers. Enter one coach-slash-dad’s clever solution: the bike bus.
With Coach Balto leading the way, parents are taking kids’ and students’ safety into their own hands by getting organized for the school commute. Dozens of local kiddos ride their bikes to school safely (yes, kids still ride bikes!), picking up more kids from the end of driveways along the way. The music is loud and the clutch of kids on bikes is giant, making them too big to be missed by even the most unobservant driver.
Coach Balto’s Bike Bus is getting kids to school in a fun, safe, environmentally clean way, and his efforts are spreading.
What’s a “bike bus”?
Coach Balto’s initial Bike Bus TikTok gives the perfect visual explanation. A bike bus is, in essence, a bunch of people on bikes riding a route together, picking up more “passengers” as they go along and eventually reaching a mutually agreed upon destination.
In this case, it’s for school pickups and drop-offs. They decide the route before the school year and give “riders” an estimated time the bike bus will pass their homes. Unlike an actual bus, bike buses don’t stop but, instead, rely on people to join at the back (or sides).
Why a bike bus?
In Ohio alone, where I live, an estimated 7,485 pedestrians were hit and killed in 2020. While that certainly says something about our infrastructure and the people on the road, the issue that’s easiest to point at is visibility. Bikes are significantly smaller than cars. But a group of bikes? A bike bus? It’s almost impossible not to notice dozens of bikes rolling across your street or in the lane beside you. A bike bus puts the “safety in numbers” adage into practice.
Plus, you know, it’s better for the environment.
How do you start a bike bus in your neighborhood?
If you’re trying to find a safe way to get neighborhood kids to their local school, a bike bus might be the answer. It requires a bit of planning, though. You’ll want to determine the best route and take a few test rides to get the timing down. The shortest ride from your house to school may be one block over from the street with the most kids, so it might be worth planning a “scenic” route so you can include them.
You’ll also want to “advertise” your intentions. It’s cheaper (free, in fact) than taking out a page in the paper! As Coach Balto demonstrates, he brought flyers to the school’s open house. You could also consider distributing flyers along your route or posting about the bike bus on your school’s Facebook page or in your neighborhood’s Facebook group(s). You could even ask that someone share about the bike bus during morning announcements.
Finally, be loud! That first week, your bike bus might look like a bike minivan. But if you keep up your route and make yourself known, you might soon find neighbors joining in. Never underestimate the power of a solid playlist. It not only alerts neighbors of your bike bus but also makes you more noticeable to people in vehicles.