Getting Started With Family Cycling
The following piece is the second post by Kathleen McDade. Kathleen usually blogs over at Techno Earth Mama, but given her expertise in family cycling, she is writing a few posts for Utility Cycling on the topic. Check out her first post here: 8 Reasons to Bike Commute with Your Kids. We look forward to expanding this important piece of utility cycling with Kathleen’s help!
So, you’ve thought about bicycle commuting with your family, but how do you start? Do you need to go out and buy a family bike first? Here are some answers and ideas.
Start where you are
Family bikes are great, but you don’t have to have one from the beginning. What cycling equipment do you have already? We started with my old 3-speed, one kids’ bike, and a scooter. We borrowed a child seat for my bike, and we had something for each child. You might even start off with one or more of you walking.
Hold a dress rehearsal
Our first try at a morning commute ended in tears. I didn’t know how to attach the child seat, so we couldn’t use that. My three-year-old couldn’t ride a tricycle well enough on her own. When I tried to walk my bike, the chain fell off. Believe me, you don’t want to do it the hard way. Do a dress rehearsal (or more than one) over the weekend, so that you know how it’s going to work (or not work).
Have a backup plan
Sooner or later, something will go wrong at the last minute – a flat tire, a snowstorm, etc. You need a backup plan. There’s a bus line on our street, so my backup plan is the bus. It’s not particularly convenient and gets me to work a little late, but it works in a pinch. My boss is also very supportive and always reminds me that I can call her if I need a ride. And I can always pull out the old three-speed, too.
At a minimum, you need helmets for everyone. If you’ll be out in the dark (AM or PM), make sure you have lights at the ready for everyone. Check your local laws about what lights are required for bicycles, but you’ll most likely need a white light in front and a red light in back. I like to use flashers; your local laws may or may not allow flashers. It’s a good idea to have clip-on flashers for scooter riders and walkers, too.
You may also want reflective vests and/or rain gear, but that’s something that can wait if necessary. Children’s coats often come with reflective material built in; look for it if you’re coat-shopping.
Don’t stress about trying to make everything perfect! Just start with what you have, and go!