Orlando Kids Take Back the Streets — By Bike

"They want to ride to school. So they do."

That’s the message at the end of this terrific video about a student-initiated bike bus in Orlando, Florida — a city with some of the meanest streets in the nation. Shot by Robert Seidler and edited by CommuteOrlando Blog‘s Keri Caffrey, it comes to us courtesy of Streetsblog Network member 4onaQuarter.


Many of the kids in the video are members of a nascent bike club being formed by one of 4onaQuarter’s authors, who is a teacher at a local high school. But the bike bus isn’t something that was initiated by grown-ups; it was conceived and executed by the kids. It’s a powerful demonstration of the positive influence that young people can have on each other. Maybe they’ll influence some adults too.

4onaQuarter’s Angie told us more about it in an e-mail:

For the bike bus in the video, there were about 15 kids. It is a regular thing and new people are joining the club and bike bus every day. They have set it up that they plan on riding unless otherwise noted. The kids treat it like an actual bus. Several kids have seen the bus pass by day after day and then decide to join it. There is a set start point and other kids join in along the ride.

This club is definitely "the thing" to do at the school right now. The school is located in a district where a lot of people ride out of necessity, so I can’t say cycling was a cool thing before. I would say many people saw people riding and associated it with the poorest members of their community. The club is changing perceptions among the students for sure.  Additionally, these kids understand that they are changing perceptions about Orlando as a cycling city and they are all over it.

Note that both boys and girls are riding. And there’s a great mix of bike types, too — from BMX to road bikes.

As for the helmet issue, which we know will come up, Angie writes:

[It]was discussed at the following bike club meeting and it was as simple
as deciding that the club would design a team helmet. "The football
team wears helmets and nobody questions that," they reasoned. Seriously?? So just like that, helmets are part of the club.

More lights are being distributed to club members, too.

We humbly tip our helmets to these Orlando kids.

  • Clarence Eckerson Jr.

    Knowing what Orlando is like, thanks for this video. It gives me hope for the human race. I’d love to go down and ride with them.

  • glad the lights & helmet issues are being addressed; massively important.

    beyond that, good for those kids. i hope they get encouragement & support and not obstacles. perhaps local bike stores & clubs will help them with equipment, training & support. and perhaps this will help the bike cause in Orlando as well.

    thanks for sharing.

  • juli

    fantastic. inspiring. commendable. thank you so much for sharing this.

    ride on, champs!

  • Cool.

  • Steve Davis

    Tip of the helmet indeed. WIsh I would have had something similar way back in high school. Kudos.

  • lame

    I rode my bike to school decades ago and this is somehow news?

  • I tip my hat too.

    t.a. barnhart and others, regarding helmets: There is an active scientific debate, with no consensus, on whether helmets are useful for cyclists. See the Wikipedia entry on bicycle helmet for an introduction. Cyclehelmets.org has more details.

  • Andy

    Let me be honest: I always wear a helmet while cycling and I think it is best to do so. However, nothing it seems incredibly safe to take a full lane, and riding with a group, so wearing a helmet at those times is much less of a concern. My main concerns as a commuter are people trying to unsafely pass, and people not seeing me on a bike. With a group ride, those concerns go out the window. If they ride past dusk than at least a few taillights in the back of the group and a few headlights up front should make them easily visible.

  • Danny G

    Ride on!

  • Mighk

    These kids are fortunate to have a number of adults supporting their effort. I’m one of them (I’m the bike and pedestrian planner for the Orlando metro area).

    We’re working on getting them a deal on helmets and lights, and will continue to work with them to help spread the bike-bus idea to other schools.

    For years we have ignored high schoolers because we assumed (correctly at the time) that they were more concerned with getting cars. But today cars are getting increasingly out of reach for them.

    These kids are not just riding to school; a number of them rode about 20 miles round-trip to get to last month’s Critical Mass ride. They’re rediscovering the bicycle; this discovery, combined with their increasing autonomy as teens and with the communications technology they’ve grown up with, has the potential to create a revolution.

    Mighk Wilson
    Metroplan Orlando

  • Slight technical correction – the video was shot by Robert Seidler. I did the quick & dirty edit job in iMovie (as a draft for the kids). Robert will be producing a professional version.

    The experience of riding with the kids was so profound Robert and I both had tears in our eyes. I can’t even describe it. Hope restored.

  • Really cool to see this but hmmm…

    Helmets get mentioned first before lights.

    I think its more important to prevent the accident first by being seen with proper lights then to mitigate the accident afterward with a helmet. This is were I think we get our bicycle safety message totally ass backwards in much of the US.

    Plus compulsory helmet use is only required for those under 16 in Florida (many look 16 and older) but I would think that lights are required by law in Florida in the light conditions pictured (most cars had them on) during the first 2/3rds of the video.

  • Sarah Goodyear

    Thanks, Keri, I added Robert’s name!

  • Lights required by law – mentioned second.

    Helmets NOT (likely) required by law – mentioned first.

    Go figure!

  • Clarence Eckerson Jr.

    Keri,

    I want to ride with those kids! Lucky you….

    🙂

  • Jason

    What High School is this? I remember riding my bike about a mile to Windermere Elementary (just outside of Orlando), but unfortunately for middle and high school is was too far to ride.

  • Kristy

    This is sooo awesome! Nice to see young adults making a change =)

  • da

    This looks a lot like a Critical Mass ride, except they get to do it twice each weekday, and they have a fixed route and destination.

    Wonder how the NYPD would respond to this?

  • Giffen

    Terrific video. I’m so inspired. The colorful medley of bikes — cruiser, Cervelo road bike, BMX bike, etc — really makes my heart whirl. 🙂

  • Giffen

    “Glad the lights & helmet issues are being addressed; massively important.”

    I respectfully disagree. Lights? Definitely. Helmets? There is no conclusive evidence they help in the case of an accident. Don’t believe me. Just skim the recent academic literature on the issue.

  • Mighk

    The helmet issue is important mostly from the political perspective. Without helmets this thing will likely get squashed by the school board. We’re certainly not helmet nannies. If uninformed people see this video most will notice the lack of helmets first. Our number one priority is keeping this thing alive and growing. The kids recognize this too and have helped figure out how to make helmets cool.

  • Giffen

    Mighk,

    Great point. This is probably not the best occasion to fight the conventional wisdom on helmets.

  • Point well taken Mighk but I actually find it disturbing that helmets are the first thing the politically correct nannies fixate on particularly when nearly every one of them was breaking the law by not riding with a proper complement of lights.

    I personally could care less if the kids wear helmets or not (I never did when I was their age). Still I do think its cool that they’re looking to get matching custom helmets.

  • Mighk

    Many of these kids are low-income. Instead of wringing our hands and kvetching about whether or not they have lights or helmets, we’re just working the problem and helping to get them legal and safe. Our goal is to do another video with them wearing helmets and with lights on their bikes, then we will make a big splash in the mainstream local media.

  • J. Mork

    Very moving video. I finally got around to watching it, and it brought tears to my eyes.

    Come mothers and fathers
    Throughout the land
    And don’t criticize
    What you can’t understand
    Your sons and your daughters
    Are beyond your command
    Your old road is
    Rapidly agin’.
    Please get out of the new one
    If you can’t lend your hand
    For the times they are a-changin’.

  • Kevin Maines

    This totally rocks.

  • @da,

    You beat me to it. If these juvenile delinquents tried to pull this “bike bus” stunt in NYC, they’d all be busted for parading without a permit. If they swapped their bikes for cars, however, well, that’d just be traffic.

    Orlando 1, NYC 0.

  • Rich Wilson

    I have to think those guys at the front know how to signal a stop, so the fist up (and different fist for each) was interesting. But I assume more visible to the rest of the ‘bus’.

  • Clarence, Come on down! We’ve got a convergence of cool stuff going on. (Especially considering what we have to work with)

  • Sorry Mighk.

    I should have been more clear in my last post that I was generalizing about general public perceptions regarding bicycle safety and that I was only using this blog post as an example.

    Please do keep up the good work with this project and keep those kids riding! Your obviously off the a great start!

  • Danny G

    Much love for 2:46 in the video.

  • I think there were tears in my eyes at this. I did notice that they were not wearing helmets and yes its truly inconclusive at their age as to benefits but none the less the general public is again more likely to knee jerk react and shut them down if they don’t, any freaking excuse. these kids are good! hey if I had a custom helmet that would make me stand out, I would be all for it!

    note to Mighk, did they plan the route themselves? did they have help from gis based data? eg demographic, street volume, road width? or just pick the easiest root and go for it? only reason is I am in the planning phase of a senior project doing a total safe routes to school initiative for my entire city’s school districts including walking and biking busses as part of this using GIS information to provide best and safest routs… just wondering 🙂

    thanks!

  • @ John in NH

    They did pick the route themselves. There aren’t many choices out there. barely anything connects except the traffic sewers. They sent me the route so Robert and I could ride out to meet them at their start point. I studied the google maps (out of curiosity) to see what the options were out there. I think they chose the best possible route. The cool thing is, they ride past a bunch of bus stops.

    Before forming the bike bus, a couple of the kids tried using a different route and had difficulty with busy 2-lane roads. They discovered the 4 lane road turned out to be much easier and safer.

    That’s one of the most counter-intuitive things about route-planning. Sometimes 2-lane roads don’t work well (especially for groups) because they are very narrow and motorists can’t pass. (They can’t pass a school bus either, but we all know that perspective doesn’t penetrate the reptile brain.) We have no such thing as a low volume thru-route in sprawlando. If it connects, it has cut-thru traffic on it. I’ve been studying the maps for years trying to connect pleasant (or just tolerable) bike routes.

  • Sidney

    Why aren’t they riding single file. In Oklahoma bicyclists are to follow the same rules as cars when on the road. Riding single file is one of those rules.

  • Wow. I needed that. Hope is restored.

  • Sidney,

    The law is “no more than 2-abreast.” They’re allowed to ride double:

    The rule to ride single file only applies to roads on which a single rider can operate side-by-side with a motor vehicle (i.e. a lane 14 ft or wider, or a road with a bike lane). A single cyclist (or single line of cyclists) is entitled to the full use of a lane less than 14 ft wide, therefore it makes no difference in the flow of traffic for riders to be 2-abreast. In many cases it actually facilitates overtaking by reducing in half the distance needed to pass.

    Additionally, 2-abreast riders do not impede traffic if: (the below applies to any width lane with or without the presence of a bike lane)

    * on a multi-lane road – motorists can pass in the next lane over
    * on a road with a center two-way left turn lane in which motorists can pass
    * there is sparse oncoming traffic and motorists can safely use the oncoming lane to pass
    * the cyclists are traveling at or near the speed limit
    * the cyclists are traveling at or near the speed of traffic

  • Kimberly

    The short of it: “Where can I get my bus pass, too?!?!” Positive influence begins with one.

  • Parent

    As the parent of one of the students in the video, I can certainly attest to the positive impact this has had on my son. This club was started this year by the kids and has the support and leadership of two teachers from their high school. They meet during lunch on Wednesdays. Kudos to them.

    It is so nice to see recognition to a school that does not have to do with sports or academics. This is something different that involves anyone who wants to ride. The type of bike does not matter.

    It does not show up well in the video because of the car lights, but almost everyone does have some type of light or reflector on their bike. If they do not, they ride in the middle of the pack. Helmets and shirts and/or jackets with reflective lettering or tape has been discussed and is in the works.

  • Eric

    It’s great to see so many people here are now questioning helmets. I don’t think I’d have seen that many helmet skeptical comments here just 1 year ago.

  • massive respect & thanks.

  • Robert

    Nice to see all the comments. I also did interviews
    with the HS kids and was astounded by their comments. They have a different sense to this experience and it is global, green and practical. One kid said ” I love going to school now, and being there” so much was said and learned by us that day. As the inactivity epidemic continues and talks of healthcare and not health dominate we have a special secret weapon with our HS kids that could reinvent health, mobility and make the streets Humanways for people first. Yea I am optimistic because I know the power of economic forces and the power of freedom and health too.
    Change the world of a child and you change the world. Go colonial kids.

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