2012-02-06

Co.Exist

Dutch Kids Pedal Their Own Bus To School

In the Netherlands, bikes abound. And now, they even take kids to school. Behold, the bicycle school bus.

The Dutch are bicycle fanatics. Almost half of daily travel in the Netherlands is by bicycle, while the country’s bike fleet comfortably outnumbers its 16 million people. Devotees of the national obsession have taken the next logical step by launching what is likely the first bicycle school bus.

Built by Tolkamp Metaalspecials, and sold by the De Cafe Racer company, the bicycle school bus (BCO in Dutch) is powered entirely by children and the one adult driver (although there is an electric motor for tough hills). Its simple design has eight sets of pedals for the kids (ages 4 to 12), a driver seat for the adult, and three bench seats for freeloaders. The top speed is about 10 miles per hour, and features a sound system and canvas awning to ward off rainy days.

Co.Exist spoke with Thomas Tolkamp who built the BCO about its origins and how the idea is catching on around the world for the sets of 11 lucky kids who get to arrive in school pedaling their own school bus.

Co.Exist: What was the inspiration for the bus?

Tolkamp: I had already made other big bikes (like the Beerbikes) and a few years ago someone mailed me with the question if I could develop a bike especially for transporting kids. So for that other company (a child care) I made the first bicycle. Some other companies were also interested, so I began to produce more bicycles and have improved the bike.

How many of these have been sold? How many are in use?

We’ve sold around 25 bikes. They are still all in use, except for the very first one, which was a prototype.
 
Does it only come in yellow?

No, we’ve sold bicycles in green, blue, purple, grey, red, yellow, but all [standard] colors are available.
 
How much does it cost?

Around $15,000, so less than a taxi or normal bus.
 
Can the kids alone make it go?

It’s possible to ride the bike without the motor when most seats are in use, but it wouldn’t be safe to ride without an adult.
   
Do you have plans to export it?

We have already exported some bikes to Belgium and Germany, but not this kind of bike. We have gotten frequent requests for information about the bike from all around the world (North America, South America, Europe) but we’ve never sold a bike outside of Europe.
 
Do you think it will work well in other countries, or is it something special about the Dutch culture?

I don’t know really, but what I do know is that people from all around the world like the idea. We have gotten interest from the press all over the world and all people are positive.

I hope I can sell the bike in the near future to a foreign country and see how people at other countries react on the bike. I think it will work well in other countries, because as more and more people [are] becoming fat and "green living" becomes more important, ideas like this get more popular.
 
Hat tip: Yes! Magazine

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29 Comments

  • LVM

    Great
    idea, our kids would start the day with exercise, team work concept and
    sharing experiences, all in one go! Congrats to the inventor!
     

  • Mare

    PS - This would be great only if ALL CARS AND TRUCKS were peddled just like this.  We do not want to kill our citizens!

  • Mare

    This would never work on a NYC-Manhattan Street.  Between Taxi's and President's visits - the traffic is already insane.

  • TheRoepie

    I've been cycling around Holland for almost 30 years now, encountering many different things along the way...however never any tough hills...not even one =)

  • Janetgrossman

    Please be sensible. Heath and safety advocates... Stop it? Obesity is killiing our kids! These are driven during school hours!
    Just do it! I cry when I see the state of US and UK kids! Embarrassing? Btw no one is really big boned etc I used to be fat? Fat is fat

  • Environmentalanthropologist

    Unfortunately, there are also more then 10 million cars in NL - when people are not biking they are driving just like anybody else...

  • Maemuki

    Great idea....point taken about helmets, but please....this is about a broader concept. Don't get stuck on the trees and ignore the forest.

  • AnnaTF

    I think this is a great idea, but if this bus bicycle also has a motor and can go as fast as 10 miles per hour, I would suggest using helmets.  I think it's great that the Netherlands have a low fatality rate, but in the instance that accidents do happen, you want your children's heads to be protected.

  • Wood Dragon

     Oh for goodness sake! Why not just coat them in bubble wrap until they're 18? People are so over-protective of kids these days! The learning process involves skinned knees and bumps on the head, it's how we learn to balance and be aware of our surroundings!

  • ArnoS

    We shouldn't be too concerned about helmets.  Not riding a bike is way more dangerous than wearing a bike without a helmet.  British research shows that the reward to risk ratio of riding a bike is about 20:1.  This particular bike looks very stable and especially safe for children.

  • MikeC06405

    And another thing.  The driver is a lot better looking than any school bus driver I ever saw.  It must be all the good exercise.

  • Elwyn Chow

    It's a great idea. I think the design could be improved if the adult could be at the back to watch the children more easily rather than turn around.

  • olbiketech

    Fantastic idea. I can see many crossover applications in industry, theme parks, ect. Hats off to Europe for leading the way (again) in cycling.

  • Silverblitz

     Indeed! I know that many kids would more than look forward to school if they got to "ride" this school bus in the morning! Wow, something that's fun, healthy, and team-building all at the same time. Good, good job!

  • John Testling

     Carrie, I do agree with you concerning helmets in general, but, first this is not a bike (it has 4 wheels), and more importantly it is so long that it is very, very unlikely to have the typical bike accident where the rear wheel gets off the ground and the cyclist falls down head first. Safety belts would be more useful than helmets here - just like in a car. Would you replace the safety belts with helmets for your kids when they are in your car?

  • Carrie Anne Johnson

    Srnd Pt,

    I agree with Kaan. I witnessed a biker on a calm day biking home late at night, and with no warning, her front tire slipped out. I watched as her whole bike flipped at an angle, and she went flying and hit her head straight on. No cars involved, it wasn't raining, etc. Luckily, I'm an obsessed gardener who was outside a bit past midnight to see this happen. I ran out to help her thinking it would be just a matter of helping her shake it off, but she was not moving and bleeding profusely from her head. I flagged down help, went through the ABC First Aid basics (very glad she was breathing and had a heart beat still!), and concluded she had a concussion. Applied pressure while we waited for the ambulance, and was very thankful that we live within a mile or so of 3 major hospitals. I was wondering how I would find out what happened to her, but she showed up the next day on my front porch, not having a clue who I was, looking for her bike! I was so relieved to find out she was going to be fine, but she now is quite an advocate for bike helmets. I already was, but now I have even more reason to be.

  • Kaan

    Srnd Pt
    I don't how you come up with this? I saw two bycle accidents in front of me here in London. Both cyclist didn't have helmets and because of that they were bleeding from head and one of them was shaking because of the shock. A helmet provides an thick secure layer btw your skull and the object you hit.