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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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