Bike Commuting with Kids
On this blog we like to celebrate all kinds of cycling—mountain biking, road biking, recreational rides—but bike commuting is without a doubt the most environmentally-friendly, responsible use of a bicycle. Lots of folks use a bicycle to get to work or to the grocery store, but throw a child into the mix and things get more complicated. Here are some of our tips on using a bicycle for transport with kids in tow.
Add extra time to your commute.
If it would normally take you 30 minutes to bike somewhere, budget for 45 minutes when doing it with kids. Guaranteed someone is going to need a snack, a potty break, or a clothing adjustment. A time buffer also allows you to take a safer, potentially less-direct route than you would normally take.
Consider a cargo or long-tail bike.
If you’re just biking to the park or around town, a bike seat or trailer works great. But if you are using a bicycle as one of your primary modes of transportation, consider investing in a cargo bike or long-tail bike. These bikes allow you to haul kids as well as school gear, work clothes, groceries, and more. Some of the best options for commuting with kids are:
- Madsen. This fashionable bucket bike is what all the cool kids are riding.
- Xtracycle. The Yepp child seat easily installs on the xtracycle, allowing you to tow not only gear but kiddos too.
- Surly Big Dummy. This steel bike is built to perform and will last for years of commuting.
If a new bike isn’t in the cards, you can still totally get around with a bike seat, trailer, or trailer-bike. Check out a comparison of the different options here.
Make sure you’re visible.
When mapping out a Sunday afternoon ride, it’s easy to pick a bike path or rail trail to bike with minimal traffic. When bike commuting, however, you have a definite Point A and Point B which makes finding traffic-free routes challenging or impossible. You should always choose the safest route possible, but when faced with less than desirable conditions, it becomes especially important to make sure you’re visible.
Add reflective tape to your bike and whatever carrier you are using for your child. Consider adding reflective tape to your helmets as well. When riding in low-light conditions, make sure to use both front and rear lights. If riding with your child in a trailer, make sure to add a safety flag and lights to the trailer as well. For other ideas, read our safety tips for biking with kids.
Wear a helmet.
This goes for you and the kids. Not only does it drastically improve your chances of surviving a fall or collision, it might be the law in your area. If you need help picking out a good helmet for your child, read my post on the best bike helmets for young children.
Benefits of Bike Commuting with Kids
Yes, it does take a little effort to bike commute with children, but most good things in life do. After talking with other families who do the majority of their transportation by bike, here are the major benefits that were listed time and time again:
There’s no doubt that biking is a more sustainable option than driving. Young children are particularly impressionable, and by learning to bike and a young age they are more likely to view it as the norm for the rest of their lives.
Quality family time.
One of my favorite parts of biking with my son is chatting with him. We can talk about our day just like we do in the car, but we also tend to talk about what we see. Compared to driving, biking is much more interactive with the world around us. We might talk about the weather, about people and animals we see, and the sounds all around us.
Mom and dad can often forgo the gym just by biking the kids to school and themselves to work. Hauling kids and gear is great exercise, and makes for a healthy lifestyle. Once kids are old enough to pedal themselves, its also good exercise for them.
Bike commuting is a bit of work, but totally worth it. What tips do you have for bike commuting with kids?