By Jenn Turner

April 19, 2024

Jump on the Bike Bus 🚲

A lot about the world has changed as I’ve gotten older, but one of the more strange occurrences has to be the way in which our everyday small talk about weather has changed so drastically. Where I live, near Kansas City, spring seemingly no longer exists; instead an extended, wetter, slightly warmer winter lasts forever only to one day become summer on an unexpected 80 degree (fahrenheit, 26 celsius) day. Or, worse, the unexpected hot days begin happening in winter.

The actions that need to be taken to avoid catastrophic and irreversible changes to our environment can seem so overwhelming and impossible to me, a person who tries her best to recycle what’s actually recyclable, compost what’s compostable, and make less purchases with an eye toward the long term impact of said purchase. What can people, as individuals, really do to help?

Community, and community building, is the answer! And at Glitch, we are lucky enough to be the host to a community of climate-action oriented enthusiasts: bicyclists. Only, these folks are not your average biking hobbyists – they are introducing an entire generation to the joy of biking in very creative way. Enter the Bike Bus.

Bike Buses are a type of “bus” but way more eco-friendly. Once a week a parent leads a group of elementary school aged kids to school, and more kids and parents join as the bus passes down their street.

“The same thing would happen again and again,” said Marc Hedlund, a Kidical Mass organizer in Berkeley, California. “[A] kid would join for their first ride, get to school, and then say, ‘WEEKLY!?!? I want to do this EVERY DAY!’“

“...if there isn’t one in yours, they’re easy to start. All you need is one other family and some kids who would love to ride.”

“Some of it was hanging out with their friends on bikes, some of it was just enjoying being outdoors. But it was super clear to me that being on a bike, with the benefit of safety-in-numbers that a Bike Bus provides, also showed them how much they didn’t enjoy going to school in a car. They would talk about how exhaust from cars was stinky and how they couldn’t talk to people on the street from inside a car. The Bike Bus sold the kids on reducing their own car dependency without me having to say a word. Bikes sell themselves!”

A screenshot from the Bergen Bike Bus Twitter account showing 2 photos and 1 video of parents and kids riding to school. The text from the post reads, 'Good morning from the Bergen #bikebus & happy Health, Wellness & Green Space #ClimateAction Day!!! We hope everyone has a great day! 🌎✨🚲 #BikeBusisClimateAction Video: @jsquared on IG (thank you!)'.

This phenomenon isn’t just stateside either, skim the #BikeBus hashtag or run a search of the term and you’ll see photo after photo of happy children and smiling parents riding to school together in countries around the globe. Videos shared on social media show kids singing along to Bruno Mars, OutKast, Coldplay and others as they chat with friends, ring their bike bells, and welcome new riders.

At this point you’re asking yourself, how does this relate to Glitch? Each Bike Bus has a route tracker that shows both the route and the schedule, similar to what you would see at a bus stop. And Glitch has been the home for many of these trackers. In fact, they’ve become so popular that the community chose ~bergenbikebus as the Most Inspiring App of 2023 and we agree. One of the major goals of Glitch is to help enable folks to make their lives better with easier access to app-building tools.

If this is the first time you’re hearing about Bike Buses, not to worry! Bike Buses also exist among coworkers trying to commute to work healthier, and cohorts of secondary school-aged riders. There’s even a Bike Bus group that rides to every home game for the Chicago White Sox. They’re also fairly easy to start in your own neighborhood.

“I ran a weekly bike bus for our kids’ school for a number of years,“ said Hedlund. “I now run a quarterly Kidical Mass ride in Berkeley, which is a low-key ride for kids, families, and supporters. The last ride had over 300 riders, and they keep getting bigger! Bike Buses and Kidical Mass rides exist in many cities—and if there isn’t one in yours, they’re easy to start. All you need is one other family and some kids who would love to ride.”