The Ultimate Guide to Bike Commuting with Kids

Author: Kristen Bonkoski


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.

Bike Commuting with Kids
Image by Mark Stosberg

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.

Get the right gear.

There is no one setup to make the bike commuting thing work.  If you’re just getting into the game, a bike seat, trailer, or trailer-cycle are excellent and affordable options. 

Both front and rear mounted bike seats work well for kids.  Trailers have the benefit of not only hauling kids but gear as well–I love using my Chariot for hauling groceries and library books. 

Finally, for older kids who are able to pedal but maybe can’t ride the long distances you need to commute, a trailer-cycle allows them to pedal along but get a boost.  As opposed to having them on their own bike, it also lets you keep them close by which is nice for riding in traffic.

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.

kids in madsen cargo bike

In any case, you might want to consider panniers for loading your work gear and kids daycare bags.  It’s not as popular, but I also like riding with a good old backpack.  If you live in a rainy or snowy area, consider a dry bag like this one.

Here are my top picks for child carriers and family cargo bikes:

Kids on an Xtracycle
Photo from Science Kiddo

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.

Dress appropriately.

There is nothing worse than a cold or wet, whiny toddler.  When bike commuting, clothing choice is infinitely more important than in an air conditioned, heat-controlled minivan. 

Make sure to invest in high-quality rain gear and cold weather gear for your child.  For particularly cold weather riding, check out our guide to Winter Biking with Kids.

winter biking with the bern bandito

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.

Bring snacks and water.

Yes, you just fed your children a nutritious and filling breakfast.  Nonetheless, if they are like mine, your kiddos will start begging for food and/or water about half-way thru your commute. 

Stash some snacks in a pannier for when the going gets rough.  Nothing keeps a child entertained for a long bike ride like a snack.

Play a game.

Making bike commuting fun is key to having cooperative kids.  When I’m with my son, we like to sing songs or play a game of “I spy.”  A good old cheap bike bell can provide lots of entertainment too.

Choose the right route.

The single most important thing when bike commuting with your children is feeling safe.  If you don’t feel safe, you probably wont keep at it for long. 

If you’re not already familiar with the bike routes in your community, spend some time getting familiar with them before taking on any long commutes.  Google a bike map for your city. 

Do a test run sans kids looking for low-traffic backroads.  And if you find that there really aren’t any great roads, become an advocate for safer cycling in your community.

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.

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About Us

The Rascals are a family of three. Kristen (mom), Blair (dad), and Parker (kiddo). We started Rascal Rides when Parker was born and we didn’t want to give up our passion for biking. As we learned, we shared. Over the years, we’ve tested hundreds of kids bikes, helmets, bike trailers, and more.

Kristen is a USA Cycling certified coach and loves to share her passion for biking with other families. Blair is a bike geek, mechanic, and mountain bike junkie. Parker is our resident tester and inspiration.

If you see us out on the trail, make sure to say hi!

5 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide to Bike Commuting with Kids”

  1. i live in NYC and have been a bike commuter in for over twenty years. i’d like to share a few of the things i’ve learned over the years. when i first got a bicycle child seat for my daughter i was concerned about how differently the bike would handle. before i ever put her in the seat, i filled three 1 gallon water jugs 3/4 of the way and put them in a duffle bag, i then strapped the duffle bag into the child seat. the water sloshing around in the jugs simulated having a kid moving around and helped me get used to riding with a constantly shifting weight on the bike. i strongly recommend trying this before you ever ride a bike with a child as your bike will behave very differently. i would also suggest getting a bike bell for your little passenger, { i had to used plastic zip ties to attach one to my daughter’s seat}. kids love ringing the bell and it helps alert others to your presence . loading a child on to and unloading your them from the seat can be pretty tricky. i always lean the bike on something sturdy while keeping my toe pressed against the bottom of the rear wheel to keep it from rolling. use flashing lights front and rear even in the daytime. i try to avoid riding after dark,{ the streets of Brooklyn are just too crazy and congested}, but if i do, i wear reflective clothing and i stick reflective tape on my bike and helmets. reflective safety vests similar to the one worn by night road crews are very good for visibility as well. i basically look like a rolling Christmas tree when i ride at night . my daughter has since out grown out of the bike seat, which presented a whole new set of problems. she is too young to ride on her own, and the trail -a- bike we have is too much to lug around once i get to work. my solution was a midtail bike , the kona minute. it is big but not gigantic like the yuba mundo i initially considered. yuba also makes a nice midtail, the boda boda to turn my minute into a kid carrier, i made spoke guards out of poster board, foot pegs with 4 inch bolts that screwed right into the frame, attached a stoker stem and handlebars to my seat post and a seat pad for her to sit comfortably on the extra long built in rear rack. my daughter, prefers riding the to taking the train or even the car. one last note about the must have bell. we use it to communicate with each other i ask her questions and she answers with the bell- three rings for “yes” and two for “no”or i’ll give her a simple math problem and she answer with the correct number of rings she really get a kick out of doing this. the minute is so sturdy that we have a new family tradition on election and primary days i carry my wife and daughter on the bike to our polling location. the bike is know for having somewhat inadequate brakes. this has not been an issue for me, mostly because i don’t go very fast. so if your kid out grows their child seat look around, there are options out there! ride safe- john.s

    • John,
      Thanks so much for the fantastic tips. I 100% agree on the bell. We have one on every set-up we use with our son, and it provides lots of fun and entertainment. He’s just starting to do some simple math, so we will have to try that as well. Cheers.

  2. I think being seen by drivers is probably the #1 most important thing for safety on a bike. We love our special artsy bike flag we got from a kite shop in Oregon called sound winds. It’s beautiful, my kid loves it, and since it is a bit different from the standard orange triangle (and much bigger), I would venture to say it catches motorists’ eyes more and therefore provides better safety than a standard one. In general we try not to ride with our kiddo after dark for both safety and bedtime reasons, but in the winter when the days are short we adorn our Chariot with a lot of battery-powered LED Christmas lights for the same reasons.

  3. hey there! i’m in a one car household so most days our bike and (abysmal) public transit are our only ways to get around. my toddler and i LOVE biking, but with the summer temperatures rising, i’ve been struggling to figure out when to call off any more bicycle outings for the day.
    do you have any thoughts on what a good cutoff would be? right now i’ve been going by no hotter than a “feels like” temperature of 100º and a UV index no higher than 8, but that’s starting to leave us with precious few hours available.
    any tips you have for keeping a toddler safe on a bike in high heat would also be much appreciated!

    • Hi Brielle,
      Uggh, it’s so hot right here now as well. My personal cutoff has always been around 100 degrees as well, except for very short trips. You didn’t mention what type of carrier you’re using for your toddler–bike seat, trailer, etc. Shade can definitely help. I haven’t tried it but I also know parents who use a clip-on battery operated fan in the trailer. There are also carseat coolers that are basically ice packs that you could put in the seat or trailer beforehand so it’s cool to start out with. Depending on how humid it is there you could try a wet shirt or wet bandana on your toddler and change when you get to your destination. Good luck!


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