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Families Who Bike (Have More Fun? You Decide)

Not all city parents ride bikes, and it’s not a requirement for being part of the hippest network of urban families on the planet. But the families who do ride say it’s one of the best lifestyle decisions they’ve ever made, claim that it helps them feel connected to their neighborhood like nothing else has, and swear it’s more fun than other ways of getting around the city.

In celebration of the launch of our Family Biking Handbook, we reached out to some real city families to tell us what it’s actually like to bike with kids in cities across the country. We asked for the good stuff as well as the challenges, and are excited to share their perspectives and opinions here. If you’ve ever been curious if family biking might be right for you, read what these parents say and then poke around in our handbook to get your wheels turning. Pun intended.

Jane B. / Manhattan, NYC

Who in your family rides and how long have you been biking? I’ve been biking for 5 years and now ride with my kids, ages 10 months and 4 years.

What kind of bike do you have? We ride a Radwagon longtail cargo bike.

What made you decide cycling was a good choice for your family? It seemed like the best way to spend family time, and to explore without having the kids be stuck inside.

Have you encountered any challenges? Nope, we have done mini trips and long trips. We just make sure the kids understand expectations.

Has biking changed your family dynamic? Yes; it a llows us to adventure at a pace everyone can enjoy.

What would you tell a family who is considering a family bike or is hesitant to make the lifestyle change? Do it. And challenge yourself to do it frequently.

How can families connect with you? Have any biking resources to share? @itsjanebutler on Instagram. We love the @radpowerbikes account.

Rene N. / Westside, Santa Cruz

Bike carrying bike and kid and rider and stuff!

How many people in your family ride and how long have you been biking? All three of us in the family bike, and I’ve been biking for 50 years. My child is 12 years old now and grew up on a bike.

What kind of bike do you ride? We have different bikes to ride depending on the situation: folding bikes, a compact bike, normal adult bikes, and electric-assist bikes. I’ve owned all sorts of cargo bikes over the years, and tandems too. Every kind is fun to ride.

How did you decide biking was a good choice for your family? It’s heathy. And if you need to travel farther than walking distance, what other rational choices are there?

Have you encountered any challenges? Bad biking infrastructure is a challenge in Santa Cruz. I work to change that by lobbying for better ones and more funding and creating a biking community here.

Has biking changed your family dynamic? How? Yes. It’s simple: more fun, more talking, less isolation, more time outdoors, more sanity.

What would you tell a family who is considering a family bike or is hesitant to make the lifestyle change? Just do it. Get out of your car and gain some freedom!

Anything else about biking you’d like to share? Most bike shops are too streamlined and cooperate in my opinion, and they sell only American bikes. I like good quality urban bikes but look for inexpensive, not-fancy, long-lasting bikes for commuting. Give me a solid bike that does its job well; I don’t need a high-end tricked out bike with fancy stuff.

Siouxzi D. / Chicago, IL

Siouxzi and her family at Bike the Drive.

How many people in your family ride, and how long have you been riding? All of us ride: Alan, myself, Lorelei (age 9), and Persy (age 5). Biking was a big part of our lives before we had kids, so there was no question that we were going to be a biking family. We started biking the babies at around 4 months old, so they’ve known biking as our primary, and favorite, way to get around their whole lives! We’re trying to figure out how to bring doggo on our adventures but aren’t quite ready yet.

What kind of bike do you ride? I ride a longtail to carry the 5-year-old and everyone else has their own bikes.

Why do you enjoy biking as a family? So many reasons!

  • The kids talk to everyone, all the time. When we stop at stop lights they’ll talk to people waiting on the bus and drivers of the vehicles around us.
  • We sing everywhere we go. By making up songs as we bike they’ve learned our phone numbers, their addresses.
  • We talk to each other. That may seem silly,  but I’ve noticed when we drive, the kids are in the back and I’m focused on the road and ignoring them unless they start fighting over something. On the bike, we talk. My youngest often lays against my back and does her constant babble. We talk about our day, we talk about what we see around us. We can point out interesting moments in the landscape.
  • The kids learn their surroundings. They really have a sense of how far away something is and how to get there.

Do your kids ride independently? My oldest does! The younger one isn’t able to ride as fast with us, so she often just rides along. Lorelei is 9 and rides a 16-gear, 20″ Redline Cyclocross bike because she’s told us she wants to race CX like her dad. We let her ride to the park and library on her own and she has a cheapo non-smart phone that she uses to text me when she gets there and when she’s on the way back. We always ride the routes with her before she does it alone and she stays on the sidewalk because it forces her to be more cautious and conscientious.

How has it changed your family dynamic? Biking is primarily our transportation. We do have a car, but use it as little as possible.

How can people connect with you? I’m on Instagram as @the_anditron and Twitter as @nohwear and @webybike.

Michelle C. / Charlottesville, VA

How many people in your family ride and how long have you been biking Everyone rides! Two parents and two daughters, age 8 and 12. We’ve been biking since 2012.

What kind of bike(s) do you have? We ride a longtail cargo bike, specifically the Xtracycle EdgeRunner.

What made you decide cycling was a good choice for your family? Living in Portland was a game changer! The first summer we moved there, both car batteries died because we just NEVER drove anywhere.

Have you encountered any challenges? How have you dealt with them?

Moving to Charlottesville has been the main challenge. Sadly, the city is not bike friendly. It thinks it is, but the infrastructure just doesn’t exist. I really miss Portland for its biking culture.

When living in PDX, we wouldn’t think twice about getting on a bike. Now, living in Charlottesville, I never even consider riding my bike. It’s just too unsafe.

What would you tell a family who is considering a family bike or is hesitant to make the lifestyle change?

Get lots of lights and be SEEN!

Have any extra-good biking resources or friends?

I co-founded the PDX Cargo Bike Gang on Facebook, and it’s a fabulous resource. I’m on Facebook too!

Dustin H. / Muncie, IN

Madsen + trailer + kid bikes + kids = a new level of badassery.

Who in your family rides bikes? I ride with my three kids, a 4-year-old and two 2-year-olds.

What kind of bike do you ride? How long have you been riding We’ve been riding our Madsen cargo bike for 3 years.

Have you encountered any challenges? How have you dealt with them? Variable weather is a challenge in my city. We have everything ready to go the night before to be prepared.

Has biking changed your family in any way? How? We’re much happier and healthier on a bike! We have more intimate interactions, many more opportunities to develop sensory curiosity, more dialogs about the natural world all around us, and more parental modeling of one aspect of what it looks like to live a healthy lifestyle.

Biking has also encouraged different habits and mindsets about how to travel. For example, we used to talk about time in comparison to the speed of a car, but now we talk about the benefits of going a little slower and absorbing the present moment. We’re more motivated to do that since we’ve adopted a slower pace from our experiences biking.

What would you tell a family who is considering a family bike or is hesitant to make the lifestyle change?

Find a network of support. Expect it to be a gradual process with minor and major adaptations everyday. We have found that we have to get creative in our problem solving strategies, a process and outcome worth investing in.

How can readers connect with you, and what’s the best biking resource you can share with other families? I’m on Facebook. Google is a godsend when I need to solve a bike problem; there are so many stories and perspectives out there. And if you’re in Muncie, Kirk’s Bike Shop is my go-to.

Alison H. / Avondale, Chicago

Best beach buggy? A cargo bike.

How long have you been biking, and who in your family rides? We’ve been biking with our kids for 6 years. They’re age 4 and 6 now, and the whole family rides!

What kind of bike(s) do you have? Our family bike is an Xtracycle 11i (longtail) and we love it so much. We all have our own bikes too. My husband has a commuter and I have a townie.

What made you decide cycling was a good choice for your family? It’s good exercise! Biking opens up the neighborhood to us without always having to be in a car or dragging kids on foot. And you can’t forget the environmental factor.

Have you encountered any challenges biking with your kids? Unsafe roads (i.e. potholes and no bike lanes) and impatient drivers. We try to be hyper-vigilant to avoid these things. I often scout routes before riding with kids, and go out of our way to avoid busy intersections.

Has biking changed your family dynamic? It has greatly improved my mental health. I love the added movement and fresh air.

What would you tell a family who is considering a family bike or is hesitant to make the lifestyle change? Just do it! You won’t regret it. You’ll get used to it, you’ll learn and adapt and wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.

How can families connect with you? And do you have any biking resources to share? I’m @the_chitowers on Instagram. The Chicago Family Biking Group on Facebook is a good resource, and Four Star Family Cyclery is our favorite local bike shop!


Cover image of Monica Garrison, founder of Black Girls Do Bike, with her children in Pittsburgh. Photograph by Samone Riddle courtesy of Healthy Ride Pittsburgh.