Back to school season is here and with it the morning rush out the door and off to school, however you and your kids choose to get there. If long drop-off lines or unreliable buses fill you with dread it might be time to make the switch to biking your kids to school. Maybe you started biking with your kids occasionally over the summer and want to expand your new two-wheeled lifestyle to include a daily commute. In either case, here are a few tips for ditching the minivan in favor of biking with children.
This is a guest post from Rachel, one of our brand ambassadors in San Francisco.
It goes without saying, but you either need to make modifications to your current bike or get something specifically designed for cargo to help with biking with children, especially young ones. Rear mounted seats like the Yepp Maxi or center-mounted options such as the ibert are great options for adding one toddler or preschooler to your bike. Trailers from Thule and Weehoo are better suited for rural or suburban streets. For a real kid-carrying machine, consider upgrading to a long tail or long john cargo bike such as those offered by Yuba.
You’re ready to go! Wait, you and your little one need helmets. Reviewing the local rules of the road for bikes will also help you stay safe and informed on your ride. A functional bike bag is also a must for biking with children. Where else would you put the snacks? Po Campo’s Bergen Pannier easily holds everything a parent needs for the road - wallet, phone, snacks, sunscreen, etc. The Kinga Handlebar bag is perfect for quick rides when all you need to go is get the kids out the door with a few essentials.
You have your bike, now where are you going? Are your kids begging to visit the playground or museum? Are you dragging them out the door for school? Regardless of your destination, researching the bicycle route is an essential step. You might even want to look into parking options before you set out as well. Google maps offers bicycle directions that are a useful reference for planning your trip. Pay attention to altitude gains and losses as well as landmarks for each turn and where you will or won’t be in a protected bike lane. You can even go over the route with your kids so they can help you keep an eye out.
Forming the Habit
It’s one thing to plan to go biking with children and quite another to make it to your destination and back, let alone make biking as a family part of your daily commute. Set realistic expectations for yourself and your passengers. If you’re planning to pick up and drop off the kids from school each day, consider biking for just one of these excursions at first and ramping up to both as you gain confidence. Do a few test runs to see how long it takes you to get to your destinations. You might be surprised to find that you shorten your commute by breezing past school drop-off traffic on your bike!
Photo credit: Bikabout
Above all, keep calm and bike on. The best thing about biking with your kids is the fun you’ll have getting around without the frustration of traffic or burden of a car. Being on a bike in a world full of cars can be scary but the reward is sweet. You’re outdoors getting exercise while ferrying family around town. You’re encouraging your kids to lead an active life and there is one less minivan on the road.
Rachel Magnusson is a mom, anthropologist, adventurer, and triathlete. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and two young sons. Her bicycle of choice is the Bullitt, which she loves to accessorize with just the right bike bags.