Portuguese children on their way to school as part of a comboio de bicicleta, Source: Ciclo Expresso

Portuguese cities are adopting “cycling trains to school” idea

Portuguese cities are adopting “cycling trains to school” idea

The initiative has already taken root in Aveiro, Braga and Lisbon, and soon in Matosinhos

Ciclo Expresso is the name of an initiative, which combines the various comboios de bicicleta, or cycling trains in Portugal. These “trains” do not run on railways and are instead composed of groups of children riding their bikes, led by an adult, on their way to school.

The train part in the term comes from the association that just like the public transit vehicles, these cycling trains have a predetermined route and a destination, as well as scheduled stops where children can join. If it sounds familiar that might be so because the concept has also been introduced in the city of Barcelona, however, there it is known as a cycling bus (bicibús).

In Portugal, the concept originated in 2015 when a father in Lisbon decided to take his 5-year-old son to school by riding bikes together. He, however, also had the wish to see more children participating in that activity and sought institutional support from his local Parish Council and a parents’ association to make it a reality.

The mission of the initiative is to promote sustainable urban mobility among the youngest generation through a safe and sociable experience. Riding a bike to school also contributes to developing a child’s autonomy and healthy habits.

Today, cycling trains to school are available in Lisbon, Aveiro, Braga, where they also enjoy support from the local city councils. Lisbon alone has 17 participating schools in the initiative and 28 defined routes.

How it works

Participation in the cycling trains is free of charge for children and parents. All that is needed is a personal bicycle and a helmet.

The route is designed in order to pass close to each child’s residence, defining stopping places where passengers can “enter” the train. Thus, the route may not be the most direct between home and school, but it will allow children to start the day with a fun, healthy and group trip. 

The project team also assesses the level of safety and comfort of the available road and cycling network, optimizing the defined routes based on this information.



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