GET A WEEKLY DOSE OF PARENTING INSPIRATION

Bike riding with kids: Life in the bike lane

Bike riding with kids

Bike riding with kids

Ever thought of trading in your car for your bike? What about with three kids in tow? The Hays family has found a way to make bike riding with kids a part of their DNA and have definitely inspired me. Whether it is commuting to work, running errands or going to church— they try to use their bikes rather than their car.  Having three young kids didn’t stop them from bike riding, but rather enticed them and actually enhanced the whole experience. I asked them to share their story with Family Sponge, and now I am scouring Craigslist for a bakfiet for my family. —Jen

MEET THE HAYS FAMILY

My name is Wendie and I am a stay-at-home mom. My husband, Jason, is a laboratory technician at a waste water treatment plant. We have three children— a six year-old son, a three year-old daughter, and a eighteen month-old son. We spend many hours together learning, playing, and having fun. Important issues for us are doing our part to protect the environment (my husband’s bachelor’s degree is in environmental studies, hence the interest) and eating healthy (my bachelor’s degree is in nutrition and food science)…

Where do you live and how does bike riding mesh with the city?
We live in Lancaster, California— located in the Southern California high desert. Because of where we live, we are able to ride our bikes year round. We see very little rain, with sunshine and blue skies on most days. The winters get a bit cold, but our main limiting factor for riding is the wind. Whenever the weather is about to change, the wind gets crazy. Trying to ride a bike in the strong winds we get is nearly impossible.

Lancaster is fairly bike-friendly. We have many bike routes, bike lanes, and a few bike paths. My husband and I live a block from downtown, which just had a revamp that includes a bike share lane that we are very excited about. It has created easy bike access for us to many restaurants, shops, farmer’s market, library, post office, and a new park.

Bike riding with kids

How often do you use your bikes and where do you go?
I am trying to incorporate exercise into my daily life and I’m doing that by taking the bike instead of the car if it’s for a trip five miles away or less. We ride to church, to the farmer’s market, downtown restaurants, the park, the grocery store, the pharmacy, home improvement store, pretty much everywhere within five miles of our home. We have even managed a Costco trip with the bikes! My husband hooked the bike trailer to his trike and I took the Bakfiets with the kids. With our panniers (bags that attach to a back bike rack) we are able to get a whole Costco cart of groceries home. I will admit, there have been times when I was lazy, one of the kids were sick, we would get home too late in the dark, the wind was bad, or some other excuse and I jumped in the car. But for the most part, we take the bikes for short trips.

Bike riding with kids

Bike riding with kids

My husband, Jason, started using his bike to commute to work about six years ago. A co-worker of Jason’s got him into road biking and he would use the eight-mile one way commute as a way to get daily exercise without taking away from family time. His commute has since increased a little to a ten mile one-way commute. He bought a recumbent Tera Trike this past year, so now he trades off between his road bike and the trike for commuting to work. The road bike is much faster, but the trike is more comfortable and is fun to ride. We also have a Gazelle Cabby Bakfiets that we use for getting the kids around in and as a cargo bike for larger one person trips.

Bike riding with kids

What inspired you to become a bike-riding family?
We believe that weekly exercise is essential for good health. We had a gym membership for quite awhile. However, with each child we had, getting to the gym to exercise became an exceedingly more difficult task. A one-hour workout was easily two hours out of my day when we included the drive time and getting the kids checked in and out of the provided child care. Plus, my kids didn’t enjoy going to the gym child care, so the whole time I worked out I felt guilty about it. We started making it to the gym less and less until we were paying for something we really didn’t use. We decided to cancel our membership but that left me with trying to find a way to incorporate exercise into my life.

Jason was still getting exercise from commuting to work and from weekend road bike rides, but for me to try and exercise with three young children it was very difficult. Jason, being into road biking, wanted to get me a bike but I told him that the only way a bike would work for me is if we found a way to strap our three kids on it too. We started researching online about different ways to transport kids with bikes and that’s when we came across the Bakfiets.

It seemed perfect for me! However, then we saw the price. They were out of our price range. We hoped to find a used one at a more affordable price, but there weren’t any out there that we could find. Then we came across the Gazelle Cabby. It was a little lighter, a little less expensive, and the best part was that a bike shop in East LA, The Flying Pigeon, that specializes in Dutch bikes had one on their sales floor that they were extremely motivated to sell. It was a great find for us and it has enabled us to get the entire family transported on bikes!

Bike riding with kids

What are some of the perks that have come along with using your bikes vs your car?
The number one perk for me is that I’m getting weekly exercise that I enjoy— that’s fun and not taking time away from my kids. We want to demonstrate to our children that exercise can be enjoyable. For us, exercise that we have to go out of our way to do (like going to the gym or stationary bike) is doable at first but slowly we lose interest. By incorporating biking into our daily lives it has become a lifestyle change. It is just part of every day life now, part of who we are. And the bonus is that we’re not paying expensive gym membership fees to get our exercise in!

Another perk is less wear and tear on our car from all the short trips we take throughout the week. This will hopefully help our car last longer and the need for repairs will be fewer. We also are using less gasoline, which is good for both the environment and our bank account. We are getting outdoors more and taking in more fresh air. It forces us to slow life down and enjoy our time with each other. And lastly, it’s an icebreaker in meeting new people when we go places. At least one person will come up to us to ask about our bikes.

Bike riding with kids

Any advice for a family looking to transition to riding bikes more?
There are a lot of options available for biking with children. There are child seats that attach to both the front and back of a bike, bike trailers, trailercyles, tandem links, and Bakfiets to name a few. Depending on your budget, children’s ages, and number of children, one would need to find the options that best suit their family’s needs. I think it’s important to point out that one does not need to buy expensive bikes or equipment to bike with the family. There are ways to work it in with every size budget.

Start small, like a quick trip to the store for that needed milk. Build up your confidence by gradually adding an extra ride into your week. It won’t be long until you reach for your bike helmet rather then your car keys!

What safety measures do you take when out bike riding with kids?
I think the biggest safety measure is mapping out the route I’m going to take. Google Maps has an option for biking directions. It’s not always the best route, but it’s a place to start. I can’t ride my bike on the same route I would drive the car. Some roads do not have bike lanes and trying to ride a bike full of kids would not be safe.

I usually check Google Maps for biking directions and then check if its having me take bike lanes (a marked lane on the road that physically separates bicycles from motor vehicles) or a bike route (roads that have signs which signify that a route is good for bicycles and increases awareness of a cyclist’s right to the road). If it has me go on a road that I remember is busy, then I go to the “street view” to see how it looks. Sometimes I may go through a neighborhood rather then risking a busy road. There are a couple of routes that I use the sidewalk for a small portion because the road is so narrow and I get nervous about cars getting too close.

Bike riding with kids

Another safety measure is to have street smarts. For example, it is important to know the rules for riding bikes on roads (like where on the road one is suppose to ride, and how to cross an intersection on a bike.) There is a free publication available online called, “Bicycling Street Smarts: Riding Confidently, Legally, and Safely” by John Allen. It’s a great place to start for learning the rules of the road.

Another important safety measure for cloudy days, at dusk/dawn, or night is having lights on your bike so that cars can see you. Jason did quite a bit of research to find the brightest flashing tail light he could find. When riding behind him, the tail light is almost too bright. But we want to make sure cars know we are there.

And last, helmets on everyone (even if the kids are riding in the Bakfiets or bike trailer). It may seem like a difficult task to get a one year-old to comply to wearing a helmet, but it only took a couple of times of unhappiest before it became second nature. Now when we are reading books, our son points out when a bicyclist isn’t wearing a helmet.


Ever thought of becoming a bike-riding family?

If you are anything like me, you have thought about this countless times and really want to do it. What has stopped you? Or what has made it a reality for you? Share your stories and become a part of the Family Sponge community.


Want to continue the conversation? Join our community on Facebook and enter our current giveaway!

Would you like to share this “Life in the Bike Lane” article with other readers?
Spread the word by sharing this post on Facebook with your friends.
Click to StumbleUpon, Reddit and Digg Us!
Subscribe to our weekly newsletter for updates and enter our free giveaways.

, , , , , ,

21 Responses to Bike riding with kids: Life in the bike lane

  1. Jadah Sellner February 17, 2012 at 8:35 am #

    What an inspirational story! Thank you Hays family for sharing. Bike riding has been on my mind. I sent my bike from Kauai back to California and it is still in the box. I think I will go to the bike shop this weekend to put it back together. Zoe and I could definitely add biking to our weekly trip to the library (less than 2 miles away). I can relate to they gym. I have a gym membership and Zoe does not enjoy going to the childcare there, so it’s not an enjoyable process getting there because she does not want to go. And it does turn into a 2 hour ordeal. I love that your husband commutes to work. We have amazing bike trails and wide roads with bike lanes in northern California. My question: do you ever deal with hills? We have some around where we live. And that always discourages me. Thank you for sharing the google maps bike route idea. I am definitely adding bike riding to my lifestyle change list!

    • wendie February 17, 2012 at 8:51 pm #

      Our area is flat so hills are not an issue. I would imagine hills would be challenging! Our bike alone is 70 lbs (which is light for a Bakfiets) then to add the weight of the kids, up hill would be quite the workout!

  2. Laura February 17, 2012 at 9:55 am #

    That is awesome- and with three kids! I was car free and relied on my bike to get everywhere when I was in college. That was in Davis- where everybody rides a bike! I can’t ride my bike to commute- there is a killer hill and I have to pick my son up on my 15 minute break! But I would like to do some weekend riding! You are right…it is so much easier to stick to a fitness change when it becomes part of your lifestyle.

  3. Leah Baird February 20, 2012 at 7:59 am #

    My brother in law does group riding on the weekends, and has something to thing put the two youngest in.

  4. Josie February 20, 2012 at 8:14 am #

    Great article! Congratulations to the Hays family for their lifestyle change!

    We started bike commuting to work for similar reasons: exercise and environmental friendliness. My husband and I trade off biking while the other does the school run in the car.
    Later, we incorporated recreational biking with our kids, and then, biking them to school.
    Time is a factor for us, in order to get them from daycare ontime, we have to leave work early. So, it’s a rare treat.
    We live in hilly Seattle. Over time, you get stronger, and are able to attack the hills. Until then, you take a few breaks, or select routes with more gradual climbs. You can also get an electrical assist for your bike. Xtra-cycle is a company that has this, I think.

    I second the points made about selecting a safe route. There ate certainly routes that I would bike solo, that I would never bike with my kids. You definitely want to be extra cautious with route selection.

    Two unexpected benefits: biking home from work is very stress relieving. And my kids are *so proud* when we bike them to school. They really love it.

    • familysponge February 26, 2012 at 12:51 pm #

      Josie, thanks for sharing those tips. I never thought of biking from home being a stress reliever. Definitely more reasons pointing to adopting this healthy lifestyle change.

  5. Sleeping Mom February 26, 2012 at 1:24 pm #

    I’ve always wanted to ride a bike, but the reason I’ve hesitated so much is because of my work schedule. I feel like I’m so crammed for time, that even though it only takes eight minutes to get to work, I still have to drive my two-year-old to my aunt’s, then go to work, then pick him up, then go home, etc. that I feel like we’ll lose so much of our day.

    The other reason is safety. I’m so scared of getting hit by the gazillions of car that we would have to share the road with (I’m also in southern Cali, but not Lancaster).

  6. Heather February 26, 2012 at 3:07 pm #

    Love this! We have one baby (6 months) and my husband and I are doing our best to replace our car with bikes as much as possible. Living in Canada, this is a little more difficult in the winter time, but we manage as best we can! We are also hoping to get some longer trips on our bikes, and are anxiously waiting for when our son is old enough to wear a helmet and ride with us!

    We also have friends who are biking from our home town around North America and into Central America. With their two kids, ages 2 and 4. Right now they are going through Guatamala. You can follow them on their journey at http://www.pedalpoweredfamily.com

  7. bryssy February 26, 2012 at 4:07 pm #

    We are a bike riding family. I also have 3 kids. Our daughter will be 7 in less than a month, our oldest boy is turning 4 just after that and our youngest boy is 18 months. They youngest LOVES riding in his seat on the back of my bike. The older 2 ride their own bikes, my son with trainers. We live in a small town and never really have to deal with heavily traveled highways. I consider biking part of who we are. We bike a couple miles to see Great Grandma 2 or 3 times every week. We make small grocery runs (we all have baskets) and we do all of our errands on bikes. I still have an 10+ year old vehicle that we drive if we have to go long distances (and it holds 3 car seats) but I would guess we bike around 20 miles a week.

    We live in Florida, so our bike riding is at it’s peak during the winter. It’s nothing short of glorious. But, come may, it’s just way too hot to be practical to bike very far. We still bike a fair amount early in the morning and into the evenings but mid-day is not feasible. :-(

    • familysponge February 26, 2012 at 4:13 pm #

      Where in Florida are you? I moved to Wesley Chapel last summer and have been trying to become a bike riding family. My fear is the summer, but it’s great to hear you can do it— just early and late in the day. Now I don’t have any reason NOT to do this!

      Families like you inspire me and I have been searching on Craigslist for some decent bikes for our family. We sold our Treks in California before we moved and are ready to get back into it now that we have little kids.

      —Jen

      • bryssy February 26, 2012 at 4:28 pm #

        We are in Central Florida in Polk County. I don’t know that we are SO inspiring. Our little town is much smaller than Wesley Chapel. I just ride a cheap WalMart cruizer with a baby seat on the back. Nothing fancy at all. I have a nice Trek but I need to be able to go a lot slower. My 3 year old has been riding almost a year and we have to go pretty slow. I also keep a long rope on my bike – I’ve been know give them a tow now and again. Our littlest actually runs to my bike and cries until I put him in. My favorite is when he yells “wheeeee!!!” when we go down a hill. Yes, we are red neck bike riders here. I’ve been surprisingly happy with my cruizer – it does what I need it to do.

        I’ve found that I scope out the easiest routes for our bikes (fewest cars and curbs). My mom lives a couple blocks away and now she has started riding with us on the weekends. One thing I did was have the kids who are riding have a horn on the left handlebar and a bell on the right. That way if I want to tell them to turn I can say horn-side or bell-side and I don’t have to worry if they remember their left or right. We have a few rules. Everyone stops at every corner and alley together and waits until mom gives the all clear. Then I start out and usher them across if there is traffic. My daughter is famous for telling my mom that she could ride with us, only if she used her good listening ears.

        We homeschool and summer is when we kick school into high gear – we bike to a neighbors pool (a couple blocks away) after breakfast, swim for a couple hours and then bike home for a snack and school by 10 or 10:30. If we ride again, it’s not until after dinner when the sun is starting to go down.

        It’s do-able but I wouldn’t get rid of my car. It’s a must have for doctor appointments and other errands that we have to do in another town. But, for everything local – we totally bike.

        • Family Sponge June 13, 2012 at 3:19 pm #

          You totally inspired me to do the bike+kids in Florida! We have a bike trailer and have a rule that anything within 2 miles we bike to (which for us, is pretty much everything). Thanks for helping me find a way to make it work in Florida with the heat and humidity. (I must say the humidity isn’t as bad on a bike!)

  8. Leigh February 26, 2012 at 6:33 pm #

    what a fabulous post. So much to think about. Here on the east coast, I get a lot of inspiration for biking (currently I walk and take public transportation) from this blog: http://carfreecambridge.com/ I have been eying a Bakfiets. I wish I could find a used one/cheaper one.

  9. Megan February 26, 2012 at 7:29 pm #

    This is totally inspiring! Thanks for sharing their story! Last summer we walk almost everywhere, (grocery store, play dates, lake) as biking with my daughter was not an options since I was roundly pregnant. This summer we have big plans to bike. We have a second hand trailer to start with, but may get something else when we know how we’ll use it. Thanks for all your suggestions, Wendie. Do you have a suggestion for a helmet for a 1 year old? My daughter has an adjustable Schwinn, but I’m wondering if you have had great luck with a certain type?

    • Wendie February 29, 2012 at 2:10 pm #

      We went with the Giro Me2 Infant Bike Helmet. We ordered it off of Amazon. It is smaller than any of the others we looked at. It too is adjustable (1yr to 3yrs). We used this one for our three year old as well. She is very tiny for her age and the toddler ones are still too big on her.

  10. Caroline February 27, 2012 at 7:13 pm #

    Thank you so much for sharing! I have a Schwinn Joyrider Double Bike Trailer and LOVE it. I also get asked all the time about it and use it all the time. When I lived in TX, I loved being able to bike to the library or festival and then convert it into a stroller. I’m in MD now and with a new baby must wait another 6 months or so before getting back on the bike (with kids anyway), but thank you for the inspiration. I love the Google Maps idea, such a good idea!

  11. Margo, Thrift at Home May 24, 2012 at 5:24 pm #

    This is so cool! I’ve never seen an outfit like this. We have a trailer, but the kids are now too big for it. A friend of ours has a Pedicab and it’s so cool – but that’s like owning a car, really.

    • Family Sponge June 13, 2012 at 3:20 pm #

      I agree about the Pedicab. While in Amsterdam last summer I was drooling over the Pedicabs. I would LOVE one, but they are not in our budget. :)\

  12. Pregnancy-Babies-Parenting.Com November 7, 2013 at 11:05 am #

    I have got study a handful of excellent products in this article. Undoubtedly value book-marking intended for returning to. I actually surprise just how much test you add to make a real wonderful educational web site.

  13. www.paseoner.com November 17, 2013 at 9:35 pm #

    of course appreciate your site and you need to take apple iphone 4 transliteration in a good number of of your respective posts. Many of them are usually filled by using punctuational issues i locating them incredibly problematic to express to the reality in contrast We’ll definitely return just as before.

  14. quality auto body shop review February 10, 2014 at 3:15 pm #

    Thanks for the excellent writeup. That in reality was obviously a fun consideration the idea. Appear sophisticated in order to much more added gratifying from you! Nevertheless, how can we speak?

Leave a Reply