Trail Ramblings: Wanted- Bike Bus Drivers, 1 day per week.

Guest post by Joe Dauer.

Pay comes in kid smiles, goofball antics, parental camaraderie, and seeing proud kids safely delivered to school.

There is a growing movement to encourage and support kids doing what kids used to do all the time – walk and bike to school. You can help your kids, and others at our schools, to recapture the joy of arriving at school with friends and the pride of doing it yourself. Around the world, and around the US, parents are leading bike buses to get kids to school. From the Bici bus in Barcelona to the Montclair, NJ and Portland, OR bike buses that transport hundreds of students, to small ones popping up in towns, suburbs, and cities that transport just a few kids. You may not have heard of a bike bus, and, after searching for a few videos, may think that this would be hard to coordinate, a huge time commitment, or something only the school could organize. Instead, I hope you can follow my lead and start one at your child’s school with these simple steps.

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photo courtesy Joe Dauer

Maybe the most important aspect of starting a bike bus is to find your why. Sam Balto, a mini-celebrity in bike bus world, and bike bus driver of two “buses” in Portland, says defining why you want to start a bike bus is essential, especially when the weather turns and you have to deal with grumbling children. For me, I started a bike bus because I wanted my kids, a 3rd grader and a kindergarten student at Riley Elementary, to socialize before getting to school and to develop their independence. Your why may be different, and it is useful to put it into words. You can send your ‘whys’ to my email and join our community of Lincoln bike bus drivers.

photo courtesy Joe Dauer

When I asked my older son what he thought other kids would want to know about being in a bike bus he said, “parents should tell their kids that they get to know other kids in school and that riding the bike bus is the so much fun.” Other parents say their kids look forward to bike bus day because the kids are excited to get out the door and see familiar faces. Physical activity before school, growing a social network, and biking confidence all benefit student wellbeing and may contribute to your why.

After finding your why, you can build your team. Find parents who are close by or on the route to school. Or create a flyer to hand to parents or kids walking to school that you pass. I even put flyers on the bikes already on the racks at school. The route may not work for them, but they may pass it along to their folks who start a new route. Your school can help you identify parents, the parent-teacher groups, or school programming that could build the bus and pack the racks. I have found fantastic allies in the principal at Riley and the community builders at the community learning centers (CLCs) in LPS. Make connections, but know that you can start small and build this over time.

photo courtesy Joe Dauer

Lastly, construct your route. Do what works for you. You are the one taking the initiative and spending the time so it needs to be easy. You won’t be able to accommodate every child at the school, and there are parts of your school area that are not on your route or have unsafe streets, don’t let that deter you from constructing a route that works for you. I lead a small bike bus of four to eight kids on Thursday mornings. Lincoln has a lot of resources around biking. The ones I find most useful are the Lincoln Safe Routes to School website, the Lincoln Bike Plan website with downloadable documents (especially the map of Level of Traffic Stress), and the Lincoln and Lancaster county trails map that shows designated bike routes that help me feel comfortable with a kindergarten student on a bike.If you are like me, you worry about safety, and worry that no one will show up. Go back to why you are doing this. Do it for your kids. Most bike buses are just one day a week so you can have a huge return, with smiles all around, from a little time investment. Keep it fun: bring music, try donuts, sing songs, and most importantly, be safe and wear a big smile.

Joe Dauer
[email protected]

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