Recreational & Family - Why don't families cycle more together?
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10-18-11, 03:55 AM
As an active cycling family in the UK we think nothing of getting on our bikes together, it's second nature. But apparently that's not normal!
So why don't more families cycle together? And how come they do in some parts of the world? We've been chewing this over informally having spent time trying to encourage non-cycling families to get on their bikes.
We garnered our thoughts in a blog we wrote back in 2009 but are now wondering, has anything changed?? Or has the world got worse!
Would love to hear your thoughts and views on both the barriers to participation and what kind of events, support, rewards work to get families biking together?
10-18-11, 10:07 AM
I think here (in Chicago) people cycle for two reasons -- as a hobby, and to get somewhere. The first is constrained by kids if what you really want to do is go fast, since kids always need some kind of accommodation (snacks, slower pace, boredom, etc). Some people see biking as something they mostly have to give up once they have a family. The second is constrained by safety, and the perception of safety. We need more cycle paths, and more protected bike lanes. And we need more families out there doing it, so that it looks like a real possibility.
We bike most places with our kids, and they bike to school on their own bikes (even at 2 and 4). But it is tricky, and requires some problem solving. I don't feel comfortable biking with a trailer on the road, but that's definitely the easiest solution. We use an xtracycle, which can carry 2-3 kids and 2 bikes, and that gives us a lot of flexibility. The kids can get on and off their own bikes as their energy levels allow. But it's still going to be awhile before the 2 year old can bike fast enough to be on her own bike in a family ride that she can ride and still have it be a satisfying ride for everyone else. We live close to a bike path that extends the length of the city, and that definitely makes it easier for us to rely on our bikes for transportation.
Chicago is planning to expand their network of bike lanes and protected bike lanes, so that everyone 8-80 can bike the roads for transportation. They have a first goal set for 2015 and another for 2030. I think there's a lot of momentum building right now in cities across the US to improve cycling. I saw presentations last week from representatives from San Francisco, New York City, and Portland, and there's a lot going on. Definitely made me want to visit NYC and go biking! They've apparently dramatically expanded their biking infrastructure since 2007. Portland has really seen that there's a snowball effect -- more people out biking means more people perceive it as safe (and it is more safe, since cars become more aware) and that leads in turn to more people biking.
We have a "kidical mass" here ( http://chicagokidicalmass.org/ ) and that's been a lot of fun. You meet other cycling families, trade tips on urban family riding, and check out the other ways other families have found for transporting their families.
10-18-11, 11:04 AM
I have 4 kids. It's very hard to do anything with all of them, as their ages and abilities vary greatly. I don't mind going on short rides with them, but the younger ones cannot ride steadily enough to go in the street, and my older ones aren't strong enough to go any real distance. I'd get a longtail of bakefiets, but I can't afford another $2000 bike just to cart my kids around for kicks.
The roads here also suck horribly, both in design and execution.
10-18-11, 12:53 PM
you have to want to do it badly enough. it's not the easiest or most convenient thing to do in the car-centered US. but we all make choices in life, and we prioritize the choices we make. this is no different. if you make it a priority, you'll make it happen.
i'm car-lite, cycling with a 3-year old, and in a couple more months my then larger, fatter, and stronger infant will join us in the trailer. for the the 95% of our lives, everything is within a few miles. we pay more to live closer in, but the quality of life we feel it provides in return is more than enough dividend to make it worthwhile.
my relatives, on the other hand, choose to live in the burbs, and spend hours a day in a car. as for us, we're in local urban parks, on back roads, in grocery stores, etc. we don't save time, we just choose to use it in ways that are productive for us and our notion of what a "good" family constitutes.
10-18-11, 01:10 PM
Where you live really makes a huge difference. The bike trail we live close to can get us to downtown, to a zoo, an aquarium, planetarium, and two other museums. That gives us lots of safe car-free destinations for family rides. And being able to hitch and un-hitch the kids bikes from our setup allows the kids to build endurance, so that the 4 year old can now bike himself the 5 miles to the museum campus. Of course, that bike trail is a big part of why we live where we live, as is the easy bike ride to work for both my husband and I. But when we moved to Chicago, we weren't big bikers, and the car route that parallels the bike route was the more important factor.
Now that we have built confidence and endurance on the bike path, we feel fine biking with the kids to school or to other destinations where we have to combine sidewalk and street and local park biking.
As for cost -- a default repair for my car seems always to be about $500, while a default repair for my bike seems to be about $50. Bikes don't require gas. I think we've invested about $1200 in our family-biking cargo bike, and after a year of use, I'm pretty sure we've made up the difference in gas and car maintenance. Car insurance is cheaper too, when you're using the car less. And we're spending a lot less on parking fees and parking tickets (which unfortunately did happen when we were more reliant on the car).
10-18-11, 02:41 PM
If there were MUPs (or bike lanes even) where I live, I'm sure I would use them frequently. It has a lot to do with where you live, and sadly, I can't afford to live in urban areas where these things are. I moved out of New Orleans so I could afford a decently sized house that all 6 of us could fit in, with a nice back yard, but now we're 8 miles away from anything. It's a tradeoff.
10-18-11, 03:30 PM
Just thniking like a kid.
A bike is something where I could go where I wanted to go, without parents involved. Ride to Joe's house and from there to wherever we wanted. Perhaps the creek to hunt frogs.
The window for family bike outings is small if cycling is the main event.
Compare to the beach, where the parents relax, the older kids go in the water and the little ones build sand castles.
10-18-11, 03:34 PM
We are a car free family that now numbers 4... we cycle everywhere together and these are the most enjoyable of times.
Our lifestyle is a little more laid back and we have set things up so our world is one that can be explored by bicycle.
10-18-11, 08:10 PM
Unfortunately, our suburb is not conducive to riding either. The back roads are extremely hilly and the main roads have speeding cars and no bike paths. People in the burbs are not used to seeing cyclists on the road and don't drive as carefully as they should. When people want to ride, they will go to a local park or a bike trail but you will rarely see a cyclist on the road and I don't think I have never seen a child on the road -though I have seen them in the parks and trails. Motorists here do not know how to share the road with cyclists and I wouldn't put myself in danger, much less my children.
NYC is more bicycle friendly and I would love to ride my bike to work but there is no direct way. I either have to cross several undesirable neighborhoods in the dark (not ideal for a petite female) or bike on a highway (not allowed and will end up as road kill) I am unfortunately a slave to my car. I went to Martha's Vineyard on vacation this summer and when I saw how cycle friendly it was- I was jealous! If my suburb had the same biking infrastructure as Martha's Vineyard, we would be a cycling family.
10-19-11, 02:01 PM
you can have bicycling infrastructure in your neighborhood. but it takes a lot of time, commitment, people, and community support. it takes a lot of effort and involvement. but the long-term goal is not only some hippie dream, but safer and greener spaces for our lives. it also helps to boost property values don't you know. (<-- ol' capitalist argument) and it is better for our kids.
i currently live in a place that's considered very bike friendly. but there are plenty of improvements to make, and it's taken a lot of people a lot of time to even get to where we are. it can and should happen in other places, too—just look at the current struggles in NYC or the changes to less-well-publicized communities across the US.
my guess is that there are people in your area that want to make this happen, too. you can do like i did and seek them out. help them help yourself out. you don't have to be best friends or wear tie-dye (or even spandex!), but you can share a common goal about common spaces and still maintain your individuality. the streets belong to all of us, not just the biggest most-aggressively driven vehicles and their clueless drivers.
10-19-11, 02:36 PM
My process of neighborhood selection when choosing where to live has always focused on bikeability. I prefer to have 25mph streets connecting my home to stores and schools so I can ride with the family more comfortably to those places. Proximity to a greenway is also very useful. I started home shopping that way before I had kids, and now it is paying off.
Next time I buy a home, I will probably be more careful about how steep the hills are on the best routes. Some of my family members have trouble climbing the steep hill on the low-speed/low-traffic street that provides the most direct access to a greenway and a local shopping center.
I have three kids; 3-year-old twins who ride trail-a-bike trailers (they are very big for their age) and an 8-year-old riding his own 26" MTB.
10-19-11, 03:25 PM
We have four kids and we bike most anywhere we need to go in our little community. The 11 and 10 year olds have thier own bikes and have proven to be able to ride a steady pace up to 16 miles in a single outing. The 8 year old also has his own bike and uses a Trail gator on my wife's bike if he gets tired. I have an Xtracycle with a trailer for the 4 year old and a hookup to attach the older kids' bikes to mine and the trailer to those bikes if they ever needed a rest. Very versatile. But in our neck of the woods, biking is only practical with kids about 5-6 months out of the year as the rest of the year is too cold for them to be biking. When we lived further south and had mild winters, it wasnt uncommon to see us out year-round, if nothing more than just tooling around the housing subdivision.
Alot of other folks mentioned this already, but alot has to do with where you live. There's a bike setup for any family willing to make it work, but as mentioned before, the kids need more motivation than just "riding". Ice cream usually works for my kids ;)
10-19-11, 06:33 PM
I'm the only one who rides in my family. My sister is just lazy, my mom is always buzy, and my dad doesn't know how to ride a bike.
10-24-11, 11:29 AM
a followup on ebartom's post for kidicalmass (fantastic [and legal] bicycle fun for the family):
With locations in:
Eugene, OR (the original!)
San Diego, CA (via a fb page)
San Luis Obispo, CA
Santa Barbara, CA
Saskatoon SK, Canada
My city ranks surprisingly high on all the lists of bike friendly cities which shows how inaccurate those lists are. First you need to subtract 2/3 to 3/4 of the miles of bike paths because they are not owned by the city, they were built and paid for by suburbs and dead end as soon as they hit the city limits so the city thats taking credit for them had nothing to do with them. The trails the city actually did make are mostly within the park land. Their idea is you should load the bikes on your car, drive to the park then unload your bikes, ride, then load them up and haul them home.
So there lies the issue, you can't bike on narrow 45mph roads with cars speeding by up to 60mph with lanes barely wider than the cars there is no where to ride safely unless you do pack everyone up in the car and drive to the park which adds extra time to your trip. And then since all the bike paths are in the parks the kids don't want to ride since they see multiple playgrounds. Then when you do finally get to ride you almost run over dogs and people jogging on the wrong side of the path and the coolers and chairs from people sitting watching the ball games or the road block because they shut down the trail for a car show (I rode right through that road block and stared at the security guard just waiting for him to say something, then went right through the middle of the car show).
01-09-12, 06:28 AM
In my old neighbourhood, it wasn't safe to ride your bike with children. I tried it once, never again. Also, I remember hearing advice like this from websites and Dr: A baby or young child in a carrier that is attached to an adult's bike is at risk for serious injury, even when using all the latest safety equipment.....It is best to wait to bike with children until they have the balance and coordination to ride along with you on their own bicycles. Usually, this is around age 7. Do not allow children to ride in the street until they are 10 years old, are skilled riders, and consistently observe the basic rules of the road.... Children younger than 1 year should not ride in any type of seat mounted on your bicycle. Before sitting in a rear-mounted seat, your child must sit well without support and be able to wear a lightweight helmet.... Be careful where you ride. Do not ride with your child on busy streets, even where there is a bike lane. Try to ride in bicycle-only areas, such as recreational paths....Do not ride with your child during bad weather....Don't buy a tricycle until your child has the basic coordination to ride it appropriately. Usually, this is around age 3. https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/kb/content/special/ue5158.html
The message I got from authorities was that cycling with small children was frowned on in general. Most of the roads around us to get anywhere were busy, fast and didn't have sidewalks. I have 2years between my older 2, 2.5 years between my middle and younger child. That's 6 years with a baby/toddler in the house. It stopped occuring to me to go ride.
The community I live in has a fair amount of bike routes, some bike lanes and there's a bike path (SART for those in SoCal) a few cities away. It's enough for me for right now, but it's not the best condition for a bicyclist as many of the roads just aren't taken care of and I find myself riding newly paved streets over the bike routes. I ride with my nephew frequently and now my wife wants to join us. In short, California has some areas that are working on it, so progress is progress. Families in general are just too busy and most in my area look at cycling as exercise and want no part of it (this is my wife as well, she just loves spending time with the nephew).
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