Leaving the house with your children is challenging no matter what type of transportation you use. Depending on their age, children require so many things. They need snacks, diapering supplies, changes of clothing, entertainment options and on and on. When a car is your main transportation choice, you can store these items in your trunk or in one of those nifty backseat organizers. However, when your transportation is two wheels, you have to be creative in your hauling methods.
To begin my story of how I became a “Pedal Parent,” I want to be clear that I do not consider myself a cyclist, but rather a person who bikes. By making that clarification, I don’t mean to put down any other kind of cyclist, but rather demonstrate how completely not hardcore (or even medium-core!) I am. I do not have a typical cyclist’s physique and I am most comfortable riding my bike in a dress. I haven’t set out to break a mold, but I do hope to serve as an example of how you can bike no matter how athletic you are and with any kind of clothing or gear fit for any budget.
When I began commuting to work by bike, I went through a trial and error process of identifying the best gear and clothing for my one-way 3 mile rides. At first I wore athletic clothes and carried my work attire in a messenger bag. As I became a more experienced commuter, I realized that the time it was taking me to change my clothes was tedious. I now bike in my work clothes and switched to a rack and basket set-up on the back of my bike. It turned out that this decision was to help when I began riding with my two children and their many things.
Just before my daughter turned two, I invested in a front attachment child bike seat. I can still remember the hot summer day it arrived, sweating as I worked to attach it onto my bike. Our first ride was just around the block, but immediately I could feel the magic that this new arrangement was creating. She was able to see everything I could see and we could talk about every bird, barking dog and car we passed. She reached back to pull me close for a hug every few minutes and I felt like I had found something really special.
My son didn’t feel comfortable riding at all until he was almost 8. I waited as patiently as I could (not very patiently) for him to be ready. Our first ride together was slow and short, but the freedom from the car was exciting. Since then we have traveled all over Rochester by bike. I pack snacks, refillable water bottles, weather-appropriate accessories and the ever-important sunscreen for every trip. We don’t often ride for more than 5 miles at a time and the trip is likely to end at a local ice cream spot, but there are a couple of benefits for riding as a family. First of all, I want my children to see that we do not need to pile into our car for short trips. We get the benefit of exercise, have fun, spend less money and get to/from our destination efficiently this way. Secondly, seeing the sights and knowing the roads and trails from the seat of a bicycle are much different than from the inside of the car. We see (and sometimes smell!) things that we would not notice if we were flying by in a car.
For more information and resources on biking in Rochester, visit http://www.webikerochester.com