Vancouver parent Maya Goldstein bikes with her son to school everyday. But Maya noticed that there weren't that many other parents and kids doing the same - so she did some research, applied for a City of Vancouver active transportation mini-grant, and started a bike bus at her kids' elementary school!
She started small; one route, a couple of kids and their parents, once a month. Interest rapidly grew. Now they have two routes - 1.5 kms and .75 kms - and bike every Friday with a regular set of kids. Here are some of her tips on how to get started.
1. Pick a day, time, and route - and be consistent. Maya started with once a month, but interest built and now they run the bike bus every Friday. Keeping to a set route makes the riding easier over time.
2. Keep it inclusive. You'll have riders of all abilities, so plan extra time at the start.
3. Keep it fun. Play music, make signs, and boost the fun factor. Making the bus more visible will also encourage more people to join
4. Be prepared. Think about alternative routes in case of construction, weather, etc.
5. Spread the word - often. Maya got the word out through the newsletter, flyers, the PAC, and had teachers talk to their classes. But, she says, one of the most effective ways was talking to parents as often as possible.
6. Partner up. National or provincial bike-to-school weeks are a great chance to ramp up enthusiasm. Maya says that during bike-to-school week they ran the bus everyday, and had record numbers of participants. She also had alot of support from her PAC and the school. And don't spread yourself too thin. Try to get a roster of parents that are willing to help lead the bus. Some schools even employ 'bus-bike drivers'. Partnering with a local cycling hub/shop is also an idea.
7. Funding. A bike bus doesn't need to cost anything, but funding is available, and can help cover the cost of printing flyers, making signs, etc. Or, you could get funding for more bike racks at the school, or to promote bike-to-school events.
Want to learn more about bike to school initiatives? Here are some useful resources (and thank you Maya for many of these!). You can also read more about Maya's story in this article at BikeHub