Every Wednesday during the school year, Portland physical education teacher Sam Balto leads over 100 kids to ride a “bike bus” to school.
Balto’s TikTok videos of the weekly two-wheeled parade to Alameda Elementary have inspired other people to start bike buses in their communities.
But what exactly is a bike bus? Keep reading to learn more.
What is a bike bus?
A bike bus is a group of people, usually children and their parents, cycling together on a set route to a particular destination, like school. Like a regular school bus picks up schoolchildren along its route, kids join the bike bus as it passes by their house on the way to school.
This trend not only helps kids get physical activity, gives them the opportunity to socialize with others, and is a safer way for children to commute via bike, Balto told Momentum Magazine.
Plus, it's also an eco-friendly method of transportation, since biking doesn't producing any emissions, unlike riding to school via bus or car.
Bike buses aren’t a new concept. They have been happening for years in countries all over the world.
Balto's TikTok video of his bike bus is going viral.
Millions of people have viewed Balto’s TikTok video of a troop of kids riding the bike bus to school, which he posted in September 2023. In the video, Balto leads the group on his own bike, with a carrier in front holding a small child. Balto has a portable radio that blares Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train.” Some kids on the bike bus can be seen rocking out as they ride along.
“These kids are flying to the school on the bike bus,” text on the video stated. As they travel down the street, other kids on bikes join the group. Some people in the neighborhood stand on the side of the road and encourage the kids on as if they were running in a marathon or competing in the Tour de France.
Other kids walking to school can be seen running next to the bike bus group. Balto drops back and lets the kids take the lead, showing just how many kids are participating in the bike bus.
“This #BikeBus video has it all. The emotion, the excitement, the energy, the kids running, the joy that can only he created on bikes,” reads the caption of Balto’s video.
Balto told Momentum Magazine that he got inspired to start his bike bus in Portland after seeing a video of one in Barcelona and one that started closer to home in Hood River, Ore. According to People for Bikes, Balto also led a walking school bus when he was a teacher in Boston in 2015.
After moving to Portland, Balto held his first bike bus on Earth Day 2022 (April 22). That first ride started with about 75 people, both kids and parents. The bike bus has grown to include about 150 riders, reported Momentum Magazine.
Balto’s bike bus also prompted Oregon legislators to create a Bike Bus Bill, which would allow school districts in the state to have more flexibility on how they spend state transportation dollars and include walking and bike buses, per People for Bikes. The Bike Bus Bill was signed on July 31, 2023, and will take effect on Jan. 1, 2024.
Bike buses are good for the environment.
Besides the physical activity and socialization advantages bike buses have for the kids participating in them, bike buses are also much better for the environment than traditional school buses, which are usually powered by diesel fuel.
Diesel fuel emissions have been linked to asthma, respiratory illness, heart disease and lung disease, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). The ACEEE estimated that the inside of a school bus could have diesel exhaust emissions up to four times higher than outside.