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Glasgow bike bus for schoolkids tests a button that allows pack leaders to control traffic lights

Bike buses are one of the pandemic's silver linings. As city streets emptied and caregivers had more time to bring their kids to school, packs of young children started making their way to class by bike everywhere from Barcelona to San Francisco.

Glasgow also got in on the fun. Now, to help make bike buses stick around beyond lockdowns, the city has created an Ultra Smart Cycle System. A lead rider's bike is mounted with a simple set of buttons and a powerful wireless transmitter. When approaching an intersection, the leader presses that button, which then instructs traffic lights to go green for 45 seconds. That's enough time to let all 50 to 60 young cyclists pass through at once, without the signal inadvertently changing midway.

The system, developed in partnership with Sm@rt Technology, is currently being tested by Shawlands Bike Bus, which escorts children along a prescribed route to Shawlands Primary School. Following that initiative's success, Glasgow is in talks with parents from six other schools to develop safe bicycle routes for their kids, too.

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People want to do the right thing, but they often need a bit of guidance and reassurance. In Glasgow's case, the environmentally responsible choice — cycling to school — doesn't just need to be convenient, it needs to be safe, too. Employing innovative tech solutions is one way to provide that security.

Technology can also help bridge the gap between existing and desired infrastructure in the transition to greener cities. As Gareth Johnson, one of the organizers of the Shawlands Bike Bus, said: "Ultimately we'd like safe, segregated cycle infrastructure so all children in Glasgow that want to can safely cycle to school, but in the interim, we are extremely grateful to the council for providing this new bit of technology."