START CYCLING 2 SCHOOL

In this guide we share easy steps to support parents and kids who would like to start cycling to school – from tips on gear, route planning and safe cycling, to how plan and organise a group ride (Bike Bus) to your school.

The school journey is a great opportunity for kids to learn about their local area, expand their social networks, gain independence and build confidence. Not only does cycling to school help reduce car congestion near schools, it also helps boost children’s mental and physical health!

CREATE A BIKE BUS

A bike bus (also known as a bike train or cycle train) is an organized group of kids and adults who ride their bikes to and from school along an established route collecting “passengers” along the way. Invite other kids and parents in your neighborhood who are interested in cycling to school to join. It’s like a carpool—without the car! Cycling to school in a group is fun and much safer than cycling alone. The more people who ride together, the higher the visibility the bike bus has – think of it as safety in numbers!

  1. PICK A TIME & PLACE – Decide how often the group will cycle together and establish meeting points to pick up kids along the route. ­
  2. SELECT RIDE LEADERS & MARSHALS. Have at least one parent riding in the front (“bus driver”), one at the back (sweeper), and one or more in the middle (rangers). There should be roughly 1 adult for every 3-5 kids.
  3. SET AN AGE LIMIT FOR KIDS RIDING SOLO – We suggest that only children in the upper elementary grades cycle on their own bikes. Until the age of 10, most kids can’t accurately judge speed, distance, or the sound of traffic. Younger kids can be carried on their parents bicycles.
  4. SHARE YOUR ROUTE – Inspire others to join your bike bus or start their own.

PLAN & TEST THE ROUTE

Whether you are cycling in a bike bus group to school or just riding with your kids. Choose streets with minimal car traffic and cycle paths ­whenever possible. Distances shouldn’t be too far and the route should be relatively flat. Plan your collection points and create a map of the route. When cycling a new route on the road, it is best to practice the journey on the weekend when the roads are likely to be quieter.

→ Find safer routes, consult local cycling clubs and groups or browse our commuter routes resources for maps and route advice.

LIGHTEN THE LOAD

Carrying heavy books and equipment is often seen as a barrier to cycling to school. While a small backpack can be sufficient, the best solution is to fit panniers to a rack on the bike. Ask if your child’s school provides lockers, that way kids can store some of their gear at school too.

→ For more advice check out our CycleKiDS guide to kids bikes and gear.

ENCOURAGE SAFE CYCLING

Adults and kids should ride in single file and stay at least one bike length apart in case of sudden stops. Riders should use hand signals for stopping and turning and follow all traffic signs and rules. If possible, everyone should wear brightly colored clothing to increase visibility. Kids must wear helmets. Always make sure your child bike fits and is in working order.

→ Find out more about safe cycling in our CycleKiDS Cycle Safety and Skills Guide.

Illustrations by Unclipped Adventure

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Director & Founder of BICYCLE SOUTH
Cape Town based designer & bicycle activist, Leonie is passionate about sustainability and green living. When she is not busy advocating for bicycle cities or blogging on Cape Town’s bicycle culture, you’ll find her adventuring beyond the city limits on her steel frame touring bike.
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Director & Founder of BICYCLE SOUTH
Cape Town based designer & bicycle activist, Leonie is passionate about sustainability and green living. When she is not busy advocating for bicycle cities or blogging on Cape Town’s bicycle culture, you’ll find her adventuring beyond the city limits on her steel frame touring bike.

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