Bike Life

Join the Joy Parade! Bike buses, group rides and more

Join the Joy Parade! Bike buses, group rides and more

The only thing that's more fun than a family bike ride - is a family bike ride with friends!

Riding in a group can help make a tricky route safer - and it's also a powerful way to demonstrate the need for better infrastructure. It's a great way to connect with other bike families too.

We've found that group rides tend to motivate and inspire kids who are ready to start biking independently some of the time.

No group ride near you... yet? Many Bunch Squad members are taking the lead on organizing these adventures in their own communities!

What's a bike bus?

A bike bus is a group of kids and parents - meeting up to bike to school together!

Biking to school is a great way to start the day with movement, energy, connection and joy - and no car dropoff line 😎

But in much of the US, our roadway design makes it difficult or dangerous for kids to ride their own bikes to school unsupervised. 

A bike bus helps close that gap. By riding in a group, we can bring together riders of all ages and abilities. We create a safe space for kids on their own bikes as well as those riding with a parent. 

Making it happen

Sam Balto, a passionate and charismatic PE teacher in Portland, has become the unofficial leader of the bike bus movement - helping to popularize the concept and share resources with organizers across the country.

He's been followed by parents, teachers and community members from throughout the Bunch fam and far beyond. 

A bike bus can start small - with just two or three families riding together once in a while. Or it can grow to hundreds, with multiple routes that run daily or weekly! 

A bike explosion

Andrew Francis in Atlanta writes, "Our bike bus started with an innocent question - Do you want to help organize something for Bike To School Day? Fewer than 5 kids were biking themselves to school on most days. Once we gave them a chance to show their parents and themselves that they could bike to school, that number has exploded - with up to 60 bikes parked at school on bike bus days in May. 

"The families that participate in our bike buses are way more connected to each other because we are able to chat all the way to school. We know the kids down the street from us because the kids are able to actually talk and play instead of being stuck in the backseat of a car."

How to start

If you're interested in organizing your own bike bus, this piece in Wired is a great place to start. We also recommend following Sam Balto on social media!

A Bunch Bike does make "driving" the bike bus a lot easier - it's super visible and can roll along slowly or make frequent stops without stress.

We also find that it's helpful to be able to offer an extra seat in the Bunch or carry a child's bike in case of an unexpected crash or meltdown!

We're so proud of Andrew and dozens of other Bunch Squad members who are taking the lead on transforming school transportation in their communities.

You can reach out to them through our Bunch Squad map to learn more from their experiences!

Kidical Mass rides

The history of these rides dates back to 1992 in San Francisco, when a group of cyclists began riding together in a large group  - a "Critical Mass" - with the intention of reclaiming space on the roadway from cars. The Kidical Mass movement followed soon after with a similar vision to reclaim street space for kids. 

That movement has blossomed into hundreds of groups, events and activations around the world - from simple bike playdates to Open Streets festivals to monthly meetups. 

Also known as slow rides, neighborhood rides, and family bike rides, these events bring together kids, parents, and community members for a relaxing group ride. The pace is kid-friendly, the route is typically short and low-stress and there is usually an afterparty! 

Join in - or start your own

If you live near lots of other families who bike, there may already be a regular family-oriented group ride you can join. Pensacola Slow Rides in Florida, Edmonton Family Biking in Canada, Arlington Slow Rides in Virginia, and Ward 5 Family Biking in DC are a couple of great examples - all led or supported by Bunch Squad members!

Try searching "family bike ride" + your area to find events near you. 

No family bike rides in your area - yet? We suggest starting small with a bike playdate or a slow group ride with friends. 

Quick tips for organizing

* Meet up at a park or playground. Bonus points if there's a bathroom!

* Spread the word on your local family listservs, facebook groups, and PTA mailing lists. You can also hand out invitations at the playground!

* If you would like to create a recurring event, make sure to gather email addresses so you can spread the word about next time. 

* A "Bike Parade" or "Bike Rodeo" stays within a protected area and is a great option for riders of all ages and abilities - even toddlers on scooters or balance bikes can join in at their own pace. 

* A "Slow Ride" or "Family Ride" is typically a 2-4 mile route appropriate for kids who can pedal independently or else are riding on a parent's bike. Toddlers may not be able to keep up independently. 

* End at a fun destination! Could be another playground, a splash park, an ice cream shop, or a neighborhood spot where folks can socialize for an afterparty.

* Plan your route carefully - choose calmer streets, simpler intersections, and fewer hills. Ride the route yourself ahead of time. 

* Groups of up to 20-25 bikes can get by with a policy of "Each parent is responsible for their own kids." Larger groups will need a leader, a sweep, and volunteer marshals to keep the group together. 

* Fun themes, bike decorations, stickers, costumes, music, bubbles, snacks or popsicles for an afterparty can add to the excitement. If you're in the Bunch Squad, we'll sponsor your event and help hook you up with a little funding for whatever you need to make it awesome! 

From two dozen to two hundred

Brooke Bernold in Washington, DC took the lead in organizing monthly Ward 5 Family Biking rides. Her goal is to help families and children feel more confident biking on city streets - and to make biking more accessible to kids of all ages and abilities from across one of the most diverse wards in DC. 

The rides bring together kids and preteens on their own bikes; younger riders in bike trailers, on bike seats, or in cargo bikes; parents on city share bikes, on borrowed "lending library" bikes and on their own bikes; and riders without kids who simply want to join the fun and build an intergenerational biking community.

Brooke has also invited local legislators, activists, community groups, the police department and even the DC Dept. of Transportation to join the monthly rides - helping to connect the community of folks who bike for transportation with those empowered to make biking safer. 

All together now

Riding together is a great way to build community and biking joy. Kids of all ages get inspired and encouraged to bike more - to try biking independently, or even to join in on organizing and supporting other riders. It's also a powerful way for adult bikers to build confidence and connect. 

Last but not least, group rides can be an important part of advocating for better infrastructure. We demonstrate that biking is for everybody - of all ages and all abilities - and we can work together to advocate for the changes that make biking safer for everybody, even when we're biking alone.

Ready to join the joy parade? 

* Join the Bunch Bikes Club on Facebook

* Chat with your nearest Bunch Squad member to find rides near you

* Check out more tips for planning community events and Bike To School Days!

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