two on tuesdays: would you bike with your children?

Two on Tuesdays

Two On Tuesdays is a mini-series with the fabulous Miss Sarah of Girls and Bicycles and her adorable son Dexter. Miss Sarah will be checking in every Tuesday this summer with posts on cycling with Dexter and thoughts on retaining that mobile (cycling) lifestyle as a family. And we’re looking forward to hearing more tips and questions from you readers too! Take part in the conversation in the comments section or drop either one of us an email so we can share your own expertise and questions with everybody else in future posts.

Dexter cycling

This past spring we inherited a few kid toys from a student who had long outgrown them. Amongst these toys were two tricycles! When we first received these, Dexter’s legs were not long enough to reach the pedals.

The other day while we were hanging out on the sidewalk, he pushed the trike out from the garage, mounted it, and started paddling around on his tip-toes! Little guy is growing.

Dexter cycling

Recently I was one of the interviewed people quoted in the Globe’s lifestyle piece about biking with kids – go check it out!

The writer also interviewed other parents on both sides of the biking-with-kids spectrum. There are some that feel under no circumstances is it safe. And there are other parents like me that do a lot of research, and are responsible, experienced cyclists who ride bikes as transportation. Finding safe solutions to cycling with babies and children isn’t some stubborn maverick obsession. For some of us it’s one of our main modes of transportation, and it’s actually practical.

What if you’re a parent with no car? Either you walk or take public transit for every outing or you can’t get anywhere. That seems a little extreme. Drive, or don’t go out?

Even if you are a parent with a car or two in the garage, I would personally find it really limiting to only be able to go some place by car or not at all. It doesn’t encourage health or activity on the part of the parents and it’s time consuming, expensive, and actually really dangerous in its own way. I am not well-versed in the statistics of such things, but I’d like to bet that the instances of babies being hurt in cars or even at home, outnumber the number of babies being hurt while transported by bicycle.

I think one of the very important things to remember is that generally, all parents love their babies (of any age) more than anything else. Cycling parents included. I would never put Dexter in harm’s way just to prove a point about biking. My choice to cycle with Dexter isn’t merely recreational, it’s transportation. We ride residentially. I use pedestrian crosswalks and dismount to cross once the lights change. I ride quite slowly (the bucket is very heavy) and maneuver around pot holes. It’s really a lot of fun and good cardio at the same time!

Dexter cycling

Like anything related to parenting, I think there are many variables that need to be considered when making choices for one’s family. If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t feel as though it’s safe for a baby of any age to be transported by bike, then you’re probably not going to do it. And that’s okay. If you don’t have confidence and a positive attitude towards it, then you’re probably better off leaving it alone.

But that doesn’t mean it’s wrong for other parents to bike with children. Taking into account the baby’s posture and neck strength, the route, the experience of the rider, a safe seat, consultation with a doctor, etc, I don’t feel as though it’s unreasonable to bike with a child.

I do feel as though there is a culture of fear surrounding bike riding. And I think the culture of fear associated with parenting is worst by many magnitudes. The most important things to keep in mind are to to be informed about the decisions you are making, and to be reasonable with assessing the actual and perceived dangers of any given activity.

Play safe and have fun!

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{Bikes, a new baby, and the story of us.}
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7 Responses to two on tuesdays: would you bike with your children?

  1. Erin B says:

    I have biked with my daughter ever since she was big enough to support her head. It is a challenge to find the right biking with kids equipment solution. I will be really interested in hearing what S decides to go with for gear.

  2. Janna says:

    I live in Portland and we took our babies out on their first bike ride when they were 13 months old and have been biking them around (for transportation, fun and exercise) everywhere since then (they’re 3.5 now). We do have one car and we take that if it’s raining really hard or if we’re going farther than 7 miles roundtrip, but mostly we take them in the bike trailer behind my bike if my husband is at work and always behind his bike if he’s coming with (3 year olds are heavy ). It never even crossed my mind that it might be unsafe after they’re a year old. They wear helmets and we follow all the rules on the road and try to stick with slower streets. I’ve only received positive feedback about biking with my boys. Well, I did bike them to the store on New Year’s Eve in the snow and got called ‘crazy’ by a few friends… but mostly people think it’s great!

  3. Miss Sarah says:

    Erin – I concur with the difficulty of finding suitable solutions! We’re sort of left to our own devices to find affordable and safe ways to transport baby by bike without ridicule:( But, the more of us who do it, the more options we’ll hopefully have!

  4. cb says:

    what a great post and so relevant since more people are biking and starting families. wow the article about the baby sit in a trailer makes total sense! i would worry about riding with my kid but i worry about myself riding too. i am a safe rider and i watch out for cars, i am not one of those riders that feels that riders should look out for me, which they should but out there on the concrete you gotta look out for yourself. biking is my main transportation and i would love to enjoy it with my kid once we have one. we think about how much fun it would be to have a 3 sitter bike and roll around town. i want to promote happiness and healthiness as much as i can when i have a child, plus one less car on the road too :)

    xo,
    cb

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  6. Jennifer says:

    HI-
    I’m always excited to read about staying on two wheels with small people. I am a little confused as this kind of skirts if you are talking about riding with a baby or older young child. It’s not lost on any of us lately that people are writing about riding with babies at younger ages. Having ridden for ten years at almost every age with three small people I think as a community of riders we need to support parents making their own choices– to ride earlier or not really but I think we do the least harm to each other by calling things that are avoiding the realities of being a rider in the suburbs or city what they are.
    I think that this whole “a trailer is the same as a car” thing is naive on the face of it. A bike trailer is simply not equal is safety to a car. So what. Best to boldly face the reality of riding in North America with the infrastructure we have. It has risks very different from Northern Europe and it’s just the truth. When we used our trailer in Holland it was the only one we saw and often we got jeered by traffic and cyclists alike. I’m not saying don’t use one but why do these cycling meccas not use them?
    Creating a better place for our children to ride with us and on their own in here in Canada and America is a challenge we are all living in even as we have our babies, take care of each other and ride on.

  7. Karen says:

    I don’t have kids but see plenty of people in my community biking with their children. One of my girlfriends regularly bikes with her little daughter to school. She is teaching her child a valuable lesson about independence and sel-reliance. Not every trip has to be done by car. Getting to school or the dentist by car is not necessarily a guarantee of arriving safely. It seems to me that a mom or dad taking a child out and teaching them how to follow the rules of road will result in a child who is much less likely to get get hit by a car or run over a cyclist once that child is old enough to drive.

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