Parenting Green: 6 Reasons to Bike Ride with Your Family
Biking with Your Family
It just feels good to get out on a bike. It’s liberation, it’s exhilaration, it’s exercise, it’s transportation, and it’s free*! The little trips add up and if you can run your smaller errands by bike you’ll likely feel better, live longer, and save money. Now that you have a family, don’t let transporting children be the burden that puts you in the car. Taking them biking is fun and you can plan what type of biking system to use based on the length of the trip, the time constraints, or the weather. So really, it’s just about integrating it into your life and creating a new habit (or reviving an old one!).
We used to live in the Hilltowns and taking biking trips around where we lived was challenging, I won’t lie. The driveway was gravel (which is a hard surface for kids to get moving on) and we were surrounded by a lot of hills. These can be deterring factors. Finding a large paved lot or getting to a place that has less inclines can make it easier for everyone. If you’re schlepping from the Hilltowns into the Valley to do your grocery shopping you might as well bring your bikes to get around town and enjoy the paved paradise…I challenge you to watch how cars get stuck in traffic while your crew keeps in forward motion!
For us, we are a one car family so getting around by bike is just a part of what we do. There’s always a rack on the car to move bikes around if we need to leave them in town for one another or to gather us all back up as we meet in various places to move towards home at the end of the day.
Living in a town where bike lanes are commonplace and many bikers are on the road can be helpful in terms of creating bike culture, but not everyone is expecting to share the road with bikers. It’s important to know some of the rules of the road and model good habits while biking with your children. Talk to your kids about developing good cycling habits, leading by example. I found a really cool resource from the San Francisco Biking Coalition providing practical advice about biking with kids (and even biking while pregnant…at every stage!) which would be a great place to start if you have a lot of questions or want more comparisons on family biking systems.
This time of year you’ll want to be watching out for debris, and extra gravel/sand from the winter plowing, potholes, etc. Keep in mind most motorists are assuming you are going to keep to the right side of the lane and might not know or see the hazards of the pavement that a bicyclist needs to avoid. Use caution, exercise patience, and when you are in the car be respectful of bikers on the road. They are doing a beneficial thing by taking one more car off the road. Bikes are a vehicle and have equal rights to the road but not every motorist agrees so safety is really first priority.
Be sure to have bright colored flags for the trailers, and don’t be shy to wear reflective gear. Consider using an Xtracycle, bike seat, or trailer for moving along with kids 5 and under if you want more control over the speed of the trip, the length of the ride, or if you feel that many bikes are less accommodated. If you are going to let young kids ride their own bikes along with you, just be sure to talk about expectations and ground rules (like how far they are allowed to go ahead of you) before starting your journey. You should have a general idea about their level of stamina and be realistic with your expectations for distance before going out to keep everyone happy.
Like any trip with kids hunger can strike at any moment (or at every moment!). Be sure to pack water, snacks, bandaids, extra socks and keep layers handy. Oh, and bring some money along too! You’ll likely end up somewhere in town where you will need it. Still not convinced that you and your family can get out and bike a couple times a week? The folks over at MassBike have 6 wonderful reasons for why they bike that could turn the tides for you. I have to agree, they’re pretty convincing:
- 50% of trips Americans make are less than 3 miles
- 1lb of CO2 cut for every mile biked
- 3 hours of riding per week reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke by 50%
- About 50% of Americans would like to see more bike lanes, trails, and bridges in their community
- $8000 on average is spent per year on owning & operating a car
- $10 saved each day by commuting 10 miles round trip by bike instead of by car
Hope to see you on your bike, and likely I’ll be able to holler out and say ‘hello’….yet another perk of pedaling!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Angie Gregory settled in the Western MA 6 years ago after many years of traveling the country. She lives in Northampton, MA with her husband and three kids and is an avid gardener and studies herbal medicine. She has worked in the community fostering projects like Grow Food Northampton and started Mother Herb Diaper Service out of her home after the birth of her second child. Her business is now a cooperative venture and has relocated to Holyoke, MA under the name of Simple Diaper & Linen.