‘Cycle trains’ gaining young fans in Portugal’s cities

Image: CicloExpresso.pt

Strength in numbers appears to be the key to an increasingly popular programme which sees youngsters in Portuguese cities cycling to school in organised groups.

A CicloExpresso – literally a ‘bike train’ – is a band of youngsters who travel together to school by bike, under adult supervision and, like a regular train, has a dedicated route and time.

The key aims combine the promoting of sustainable mobility to school through a fun and safe travel alternative to motor vehicles, while benefiting a child’s health and helping instil a sense of independence.

CicloExpresso is gaining more and more supporters in cities including the capital, Lisbon, as well as Braga, with the local government in both cities picking up the costs of the programme, so that families can sign up for free, making it accessible to all.

‘Accessible to all’

The routes pass by individual homes, ensuring that parents and carers can have peace of mind that their child will be accompanied from literally outside their own front door all the way to school. Organisers say that routes are always based on assessments of the safety and comfort of available road and bike networks.

The Lisbon municipality says that its own particular scheme came about in 2015, and was based on a project created by a father of a five-year-old boy. Keen to help secure a safe passage to school for his son and other children, he decided to create a bicycle train for his son’s school – the CicloExpresso do Oriente.

The first train departed on May 25, 2015, taking some 12 children on that first day alone.. Parents, volunteers and members of the Parque das Nações Parish Council ensured that every subsequent Friday – almost without uninterruption – the CicloExpresso do Oriente would continue to take children to the Parque das Nações School.

Another CicloExpresso appeared – that of Barrocas, in Aveiro. This one led by parents was also successful and continues to take children to Escola Básica das Barrocas.

‘A pioneering project’

“CicloExpresso was a pioneering project in the creation of bicycle trains in Portugal and achieved significant visibility, having had multiple references in the media,” says the Lisbon municipality.

“It was also recognized as the Portuguese success story by the World Health Organization, in the field of promoting physical activity in schools. The Lisbon City Council, inspired by this successful initiative, within the scope of the development of a School Mobility Programme, which promotes active and sustainable mobility when traveling to school, started a pilot project Bicycle Trains and, subsequently, a Municipal program that started in the 2020/2021 school year, with 11 schools and 18 routes.”

Click here for more information on the CicloExpresso concept.

Author: Simon Weedy

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