It's September, and that means it's Back to School season. If you live within a few miles of your kids' school, you might be pondering the idea of biking with your kids to school. Most American schools these days have long, crowded lines of cars at the drop off and pick up lanes every day, which certainly makes biking even more tempting. We thought we'd share our experiences in biking our daughter to school for the past 4 years, and offer some tips.
All photos from Bikabout.
We got started when our daughter was 3, when we would put her in a rear-mounted bike seat that could mount to two different bikes, so that we could leave the bike seat in amongst the "parking lot" of car seats and strollers at preschool. When she had become speedy and proficient on her Skuut balance bike, she was now able to ride alongside us on the sidewalks and bike paths between home and school - Dad biking, or Mom running alongside to get more exercise.
Next, she moved up to pedal bikes, began carrying her own backpack, and got her own pink Abus bike lock. Each morning one of us bikes in with her, teaching her how to navigate and manage other kinds of traffic, and then she locks her bike up outside school. Every afternoon, the other parent goes to get her and ride home with her.
Biking to school each morning means that she has confidence to do things for herself, that she is totally awake and alert, that's she's hungry enough to eat pretty much whatever we cook for her, and that she knows her way around her own neighborhood in a way that car-only kids often don't. Here are our tips and inspiration for biking to school:
"Start Them Young"
Start them on your bike, move to a balance bike, and then graduate up to having them bike alongside you on a pedal bike. Bonus points if it has a basket and/or panniers to hold their backpack.
“Physical activity before, during and after school promotes scholastic performance in children and youth”
...according to the British Journal of Sports Medicine in June of 2016. (source)
“There is no bad weather, only bad clothing”
“Some of it is good clothing, the rest is good attitude”
“Redefine the Minivan and School Drop off”
Biking to school is a great way to meet other parents, and to compare rigs.
“A good bike is key.”
Kids should be comfortable on their bike, feel confident, and have everything in good working order. Check the brakes and tire pressure often.
“Kids can do more than you think they can”
If you’re laughing about it, they’ll probably laugh about it too. If you’re stressed, they’ll stress. Give them credit, and go tackle each new challenge.
“You can always get off and walk”
Tricky intersections, someone who didn’t shovel their sidewalk snow, a steep hill, whatever. No shame in getting frustrated and hopping off and walking a block or two. Do what feels right, and give them time to melt down once in a while if they need to. That goes for you too, if needed.
“Get creative about your route”
There might be a quieter, greener, prettier way to go, even if it’s a little longer. Seek it out.
“Bike To School Day!”
There’s probably one in your town. It’s a great excuse to explore routes to school, meet other parents who bike, and just feel normal biking your kid to school.
Biking to and from school is also a great excuse to tack on some errands. Car-free errands have become known as “quaxing” ever since an ill-advised New Zealand councilor named Dick Quax infamously tweeted that no one in the western world ever does so. Proving him wrong has become something of a sport. Po Campo bike bags make it easy to carry more stuff on and off your bike.
“Get involved in advocacy”
It’s easy to complain that things could be better in your city, but if you don’t get involved, your complaints will go effectively unheard. Get active! Volunteer! Show up at city hearings.
“Engage your city councilor”
…Even the vehicular cyclist city councilors, or especially those who only drive cars. Reach out to them, ask them to ride or walk with you to school one morning, as we did. They can’t help but see things more clearly afterward.
"You'll brighten other peoples' day"
In one single day last year, we had two great reminders that biking kids make people smile. In the morning, someone rolled down their car window as we crossed on the crosswalk and said "that's the cutest thing I've ever seen" to us. That same afternoon, at the small local grocery store, the clerk asked if we had biked to school that morning. She said her husband had called from his car, just to tell her that he'd just seen the cutest kid biking to school, wearing a little green helmet like the one our daughter had on in the store. "Yep, that was us."
Watch: "Kids Bike to School with Police Escort"
All photos from Bikabout.
About the Author
Megan is the founder and Chief Traveler of Bikabout.com, recently relocated to the windsurfing capital of the world, Hood River in America's #1 bike tourism state of Oregon. She's excited about adding electric and cyclocross bikes to her ever growing fleet of cargo, folding, city and touring bikes and can't wait to take her young daughter mountain biking for the first time.