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Denver parents encourage physical activity and fun with a project called: Bike Bus

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Decades ago, it was common for students to walk and bike to school. Now, these days, it's relatively rare. In Denver, though, some parents are trying to encourage physical activity, fresh air and fun. And they're trying to do that with a project called the bike bus. Here's Colorado Public Radio's Nathaniel Minor.

NATHANIEL MINOR: The sun is barely up, but the Martin brothers are ready. 10-year-old Zachary and 5-year-old Trevor are decked out in colorful helmets. I asked Trevor how he's feeling.

TREVOR MARTIN: Happy.

MINOR: Why?

TREVOR: Because I never, ever did this before.

MINOR: His brother Zachary jumps in.

ZACHARY MARTIN: He was about to last year, but then he decided he was too bad at biking. But now he's way better. Like, one day...

MINOR: Zachary and Trevor live about two miles away from their school. But on this day, Zachary and Trevor aren't biking from home. They're meeting up at a nearby park with about 75 other students and parents.

ALLEN COWGILL: Good morning, Brown Elementary. How are we doing this morning?

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Cheering).

MINOR: This ride was organized by Allen Cowgill, a local parent.

COWGILL: It's a pretty simple route. We're going straight down 25th Avenue straight...

MINOR: Cowgill says he grew up walking and biking to school in the 1980s. But the suburbanization of America's cities and the resulting wide, dangerous streets are big reasons why relatively few kids do it these days. Then, a few years ago, Cowgill saw videos on social media of kids and parents in other cities riding their bikes to school in a big pack. They call it a bike bus.

COWGILL: It's all that, you know, doing - them doing a bike bus in Portland looked like a lot of fun, and I thought it would be fun to do one here in Denver.

MINOR: He said he also hopes it can be an inspiration for families to walk and bike a bit more in their daily lives. The swarm slowly starts to move. Parents chat and kids giggle. Cowgill starts up a chant of bike bus.

COWGILL: (Chanting) Bike.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) Bus.

COWGILL: (Chanting) Bike.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) Bus.

MINOR: Perhaps to the disappointment of some kids, the whole ride takes less than 10 minutes. But there will be more rides soon. Cowgill is organizing them throughout the school year. He hopes parents at other schools will step up and convene their own bike buses, too.

For NPR News, I'm Nathaniel Minor in Denver. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Nathaniel Minor