With very little warning, Seattle Public Schools announced Friday that 142 school bus routes would be cancelled as of today (Monday). So many families in our city had to scramble to find a way to get their kids to school. Many parents are missing work because they just don’t have another option, yet another hardship on top of all the other challenges to parenting during the pandemic.
There has never been a better time to start a bike train or walking school bus at your kid’s school. As the late, great Clint Loper wrote on Seattle Bike Blog back in 2013, biking to school can be a way to help empower kids, and organizing a bike train can help more kids bike to school with trusted school parents even if their own parents can’t join.
Seeing parents out riding with their kids and leading by example in this way can be the initial impetus for other families to give it a try too.
But for a school-biking program to grow, sometimes it helps to create a bit more formal structure. In this way a larger group of children can ride along with a few parents or other adults. It’s even better if these adults can help the kids develop bike handling skills and road sense. The kids can learn basic riding skills even if their parents aren’t comfortable themselves on Seattle neighborhood streets, or if they can’t make the time commitment to ride to school.
The simplest idea to get started is the walking school bus. The idea is pretty simple: The group walks the same route at the same time every day, picking up more and more kids on the way to school just like a regular school bus. Kids get exercise and a chance to socialize before school, and not every parent needs to join the walk every morning. Parents and school officials interested in starting a walking school bus should check out the detailed guides from The National Center for Safe Routes to School and The Safe Routes Partnership.
A bike train is a very similar concept to a walking school bus, except with bikes. Bike trains can travel longer distances and cover more homes, but they do require a little more planning and preparation. Those interested should check out the guides from The National Center for Safe Routes to School (PDF) and The Safe Routes Partnership.
Who knows? Maybe a couple families biking to school will snowball into something very big: