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Commuting with kids

by Richard Masoner

Kids Tandem

When my children were smaller I sometimes had to transport them from work to home by bike. When they were both smaller, they both fit in the trailer. When their combined weight exceeded 100 pounds, though, we moved up to the “bike train” — my bike towing a trailer bike which towed the child trailer.

Eventually, though, my son became strong enough to ride the six miles from my office to home on his own bike. My route selection is a little more conservative when I ride with my kids than when I ride on my own, but bicycle commuting for most people means riding in traffic for at least part of the trip.

Children don’t have the street experience or judgment of adults when riding in traffic, so I always had my son ride in front of me where I could keep an eye on him; it’s also much easier to give vocal instructions to him from behind. The slower rider in front also paces the ride perfectly for the slower cyclist.

The Purple Pig blog on “Bicycle Commuting & Touring the Newby Way” discusses cycling with children quite a bit. The blog author, Chaty, reminds us that beginning cycling must concentrate first and foremost on fun. This is what I did with my children, making every cycling trip a fun trip for them by getting them a treat or otherwise rewarding them during and after the ride.

Chaty and I seem to share a common philosophy in training children to ride in the road.

There’s an article on riding safely with toddlers that can be helpful for the new parent who bikes.

I know some children are a little embarrassed being the child of “the weirdo who bikes everywhere,” while others think it’s kind of cool. If you have children, what do they think of your bike commute habit? Do they bike more because of it? How do you encourage your children to ride their bikes?

That photo, by the way, was taken by me this morning in Palo Alto, California during my bike commute. That’s a KidzTandem bicycle built by Brown Cycles of Grand Junction, Colorado. Sorry about the crookedness — this family was moving along and I had just enough time to whip my camera around and snap the picture.

 
BOB Trailer Sale

16 Responses to “Commuting with kids”

  1. Mindy says:

    HA! Love the photo.

    I’ve only been bike commuting for two months and my kids are 20 and 15 now. The 20 year old has no interest whatsoever but when my husband and I got bikes, we bought the 15 year old a mountain bike and he and I took a road safety class together. Now he rides to school and other nearby places.

    My daughter, the elder child, thinks the rest of us are dorks. She was mortified recently when she met us at a high school football game. She drove her car, my husband and I were on our bikes and I had my stadium seat bungeed to my rack.

    Mindy

  2. Nathan says:

    My kids are in to it. My son (6) seems to get the green aspect of biking everywhere and thinks we should use bikes for grocery shopping, etc. He has ridden 13 miles in one trip and is gaining confidence in his ability to go longer distances. He especially likes exploring urban areas by bike.
    My three-year old daughter likes going out in the trailer, but usually requires that we stop at the hardware store for bubble gum, which is in line with what others have said. My son still makes me nervous in high traffic areas, but I’m sure it’ll get better.
    So far, I think they have no idea how out of sync we might be with the norm…

  3. justfrank says:

    We have a bike train too, but we call is the minivan. If you’d like, check it out here: http://www.chicagobikeblog.com/2007/07/staff-bikes-sto.html . We ride our minivan in Chicago. Because we own a bike store, we (especially the dad) are the “weirdo’s” who ride when there is snow on the ground, just to set a good example, and show others that it’s possible. Our kids are real troopers abour riding the minivan everywhere. I think the worry abour being a wirdo is inversely proportional to the cool factor of the bike. My daughter especially finds it especially encouraging when we tell her how much her pedalling helps (it does).

  4. Fritz says:

    Thanks for the comments all and the notes on what your children think of your biking and the other options that are available out there.

  5. danielfryar says:

    I got a bike trailer this year and nearly every day I’ve ridden my 1st grade daughter to her school a mile away. She absolutely loves it.
    My son is really good on his bike w/o training wheels, but I’m not sure how we will get them up to school when he’s in kinder next year. He’s pretty reckless.
    It is really sad that there are so few bikes at the school when we get there. When I rode my bike in Elementary school, there were at least a dozen on most days.

  6. xcskimt (Robert) says:

    My daughter started pre-school this year. She loves riding in the Burley. One day, I was out running errands that required a car, and I stopped by the school to pick her up. She took one look at the car and cried. When I asked her what was wrong she said, “My friends think its really cool that we ride together on the bike and burley.” I told her to wait and promptly dropped the car off and grabbed the bike and picked her up the correct way. She was sooo happy. The days she does not go to pre-school she see me commute to work. I think parents have a responsibility to show our kids a better way to live. I think riding my bike with her has been so positive in the physical, mental, and social aspects of our lives. This site is a great place for a positive forum on all aspects of commuting. Not just to work and back to house.

  7. Ryan says:

    I drop my 3 and 4 year old off at daycare every morning by way of Burley. They love wearing their helmets into their classes and being the cool kids who bike in. I’m getting close to that 100lb range and am looking at other options. I look forward to the day I can drop them off at school or ride with them to class on bikes. Nice bike train photo.

  8. Rachel says:

    I remember the “bugger” when I was a kid. My mother attached the kiddie trailer to my Dad’s bike to slow him down on century rides. When I was six, I had a blast riding my red Schwinn with my Mom to church. I learned the rules of the road from my Dad while he would change out a flat tire when I was a teen.

    The great thing is both my parents have hooked me into getting around on the coolest mode of transit in the world. :)

  9. Julaine says:

    Hey, all right! That’s my husband and kids on the bike! We are having fun with our kidztandem and now have it rigged up with a rack and a basket on the front. We are able to get the kids (and their backpacks) to and from school pretty much everyday on the bike. It’s great.

    We had been using an alley cat on the back for our 6-year-old and a Bobike child seat on the front for our 3-year-old but she’s now too big for that seat. Plus, my mtn. bike wouldn’t accomodate a front seat so I could only use the bike trailer to get around with the two kids. And the boy is really too big for the trailer.

    Though it’s important that my 6-year-old have opportunities to ride his own bike, he’s not road ready for the busy commute in the AM. There’s lots of traffic at that hour, so good bike riding skills are a must. He’s not quite there, but he will get there. We talk a lot while we’re riding about when to coast, brake, accelerate, etc. With him right in front of me, we can hear each other well and converse easily. I also enjoy being able to put the younger child’s seat in the front rider’s position. When I’m going places just with her, she rides up front!

    Anyways, I really enjoyed seeing this photo and reading the other posts! Happy bike commuting to you!

  10. colin says:

    It is good to see families moving under their own power.

    I would prefer to see the father not listening to his music and to have the front child with a properly fitted helmet.

    What a cool bike, I would have loved to be the kid at the front when I was younger :-)

    cheers

    Colin

  11. Mike says:

    Well, no kids here but I take my dog to work every day. To commute I needed a pet trailer. 7 miles each way with my new gary fisher simple city and the burley pet rover for Friday, my dog. He’s not thrilled but tolerates it. It’s better than staying at home and he’s got no choice! It’s 30 minutes of relaxing riding each way. A little sweaty these days but I dry fast once I get in the ac. I’m able to wear shorts and dri fit clothes for the ride then I change at work.

  12. [...] An overview on Commuting with Kids from the Commute by Bike Blog. [...]

  13. It’s taken me over a decade to begin commuting with my children again, and it’s been so much easier than I ever imagined. (I had ONE toddler then, FOUR school-aged children now.) It took us a week, but now everyone but the “baby” can make our 6.5-mile commute (each way) easily.

  14. Stefan says:

    Hey, that’s me and me kids on that there KidzTandem!

    By now, my son has graduated to his own bike (I follow him to school) though he still does fit on the front, and my daughter has moved on up to the stoker position (leaving the kid seat for more backpack carrying capacity).

    Colins comments above are noted.

    Dad (me) isn’t listening to music (just a handsfree BlueTooth in case I get a call while riding).

    The ill-fitting helmet has by now been replaced (and better adjusted, thanks)!

  15. amber and austin says:

    Yay! My son and I started commuting this past summer and LOVED it! He was only four then and still on training wheels (too broke for a fancy tandem bike) so our two mile ride to his preschool took a good 25 minutes or so. Then I’d zoom the last mile to work as fast as I could just for giggles. Now he’s FIVE and OFF THE TRAINING WHEELS !! so we can zip to school faster than we could ever drive there. We’re in Northern Nevada (Brrrrrr!!!) so he rocks his “ninja mask” (a balaclava) under his helmet and he is the star of the show when he walks into his preschool, all of the kids oohing and ahhhing at how cool he is. He loves to tell people that he’s saving the planet, which makes me smile. His teachers all think I’m crazy and some of the other parents look at me like I’m from another planet, but my son and I are best buds when we get to roll leisurely side by side to and from our busy days. We live in a very conservative little town that freaks out over anything out of the ordinary, and a parent-child bicycle commuting team is just that– for now. I can’t wait to see another bicycle parked next to his at school one of these days!!

    :)

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