Shawlands Bike Bus

Shawlands Bike Bus

Katherine Cory – 31st March 2022

Back in October, Gareth Johnson, from the Southside of Glasgow, saw a video on Twitter of a group of school children in Barcelona, cycling to school alongside their adults… on the road. Yes, you read that right – children cycling on the road. (Photo credit: Katherine Rose)

Gareth and his neighbour’s children had started Primary One in August and it quickly became clear that the roads of the Shawlands school run were busy, unsafe and polluted.

So, inspired by the Bicibus in Barcelona, which started out with only 5 families, the neighbours got together and started a bike bus in Glasgow. 

A bike bus is a group of people cycling, scooting or wheeling together along a set route. The families meet at a set ‘stop’ weekly on a Friday morning, gathering with their high-vis vests, bike bells and smiles. They take up space in their lane on the road, taking their time and waving to passers-by. There are often some tunes playing through a Bluetooth speaker too! 

There has been a lot to learn along the way for this new bike bus in Glasgow. The adults have developed set roles, making it as safe as possible. Children ride along on the left hand side and adults create a formation or ‘shield’ on the right side of the lane, protecting the children from cars. Other roles include a ‘leader’ for the children to follow, ‘junction helpers’ who zip up and down readying upcoming junctions and guiding the bus through them, and finally ‘sweepers’ at the back who can help if anyone falls off their bike or drops a school bag (or shoe, which happens more than you would think).

The initiative has gone from strength to strength and in six months has grown from five families to thirteen, with over 40 people at their last count. There have been special guests along the way, including local councillors Jon Molyneux and Anna Richardson, the Scottish Government Minister for Active Travel and Co-Leader of the Scottish Green Party, Patrick Harvie, and friendly community Police officers who responded quickly after the group experienced reckless driving, regularly arriving on their bikes to escort the group through a tricky junction. 

The Bike Bus has caught attention and gained support from the cycling community across Scotland and has stolen the hearts of many across the globe – just check their Twitter account with delightful weekly updates, photos and videos and you too will feel like you’re in this together with them. Shawlands have started to inspire others across Scotland and further afield to think about starting their own bike buses and share tips and help support each other to get started. 

The sights and sounds of the bike bus rolling along is a total joy. The chatter of the children, the bike bells dring-ing… most drivers can’t help but smile and wave. But more important is the message that this is giving to the wider public. Our roads are not safe enough to cycle on. The bike bus has been described as a human cycle lane and, pending concrete, this is the only way for these kids to safely cycle to school. Local councillors are sitting up and taking notice. 

Shawlands bike bus have shared their journey every step of the way and realised early-on the impact that they have had by doing this. They hope to see more bike buses springing up across Glasgow and the rest of the country. You can contact them at shawlandsbikebus@gmail.com.

Viva la bike bus!

This article starts a new series of inspirational community initiatives. We love to hear about what you’re doing in your community, so do get in touch.

1 thought on “Shawlands Bike Bus”

  1. Barbara Kinnear Sharp

    So delighted to read about, and see the pics of the Shawlands bike bus. Years ago I used to cycle with my son to Victoria Primary (sadly now gone) and he continued to cycle when he went to Shawlands Academy but on our own we were continually made to feel like we didn’t belong on the road. We had heard of bike buses and loved the idea but no one else interested at the time – so good on you and best wishes for continued success.

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