The School Bike-Bus Movement Is Gaining Traction in NJ

Groups of kids are cycling to school together with adult chaperones in Montclair and other Jersey towns.

group of young bikers with adult leader in bright yellow jacket waving

The Montclair Bike Bus readies for go time. Photo: Andrew Hawkins

Nearly every Friday morning outside Watchung Booksellers in Montclair, a group of kids balances on bikes, waiting for their signal to start pedaling.

With the ding of a bell and a “let’s go,” the students and adult chaperones start their ride to school, pedaling as they chat with friends. Soon they’re halfway across town, connecting with more bikers who are excitedly waiting to join what’s known as the Montclair Bike Bus.

During the pandemic, Barcelona, Spain, launched a bike bus—an adult-led kids’ bike ride with a fixed timetable and route. It has since spread to the United States; in New Jersey, there are bike buses in Montclair as well as Jersey City, Fair Haven and Asbury Park. The herd of small bikers is called a bus because there is strength and safety in numbers; some refer to it as a “kidical mass.”

[RELATED: What a New, Protected Bike Lane Means for Hoboken and Jersey City]

Montclair’s Bike Bus was started in 2022 by a group of parents who wanted to make it safe for their kids to bike to school; there are now up to 300 riders daily to eight of Montclair’s eleven schools.

Drury Thorp, a STEM teacher in Montclair, is a cofounder of the Montclair Bike Bus. She grew up in town, riding her bike everywhere, but wasn’t comfortable giving her kids that same freedom. “With faster drivers, more and larger cars on the road, and less cyclists, I wasn’t feeling it was safe,” says Thorp.

According to a 2009 study from the Centers for Disease Control, in the late 1960s, nearly 50 percent of American school-age children walked or biked to school; today, it’s about 13 percent. Reasons include a decline in neighborhood schools and an increase in traffic.

On a bike bus, the adults have key roles: the captain leads the ride and keeps track of time, the caboose shepherds stragglers, and the corker ferries young riders through intersections.

The Montclair Bike Bus began with volunteers mapping routes, then biking them. Routes are available online, and participants communicate via group chats on What’sApp.

So far, the bike bus goes only one way. After school, some kids ride home with an adult; others get picked up. But that could change if the bike-bus movement jumpstarts a trend toward more bikes on the road, fewer cars, and safer streets for all.

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