The following piece is a guest post by Kathleen McDade. Kathleen usually blogs over at Techno Earth Mama, but given her expertise in family cycling, she is going to write a few posts for Utility Cycling on the topic. We look forward to expanding this important piece of utility cycling with Kathleen’s help!
Bicycle commuting alone sounds daunting enough. Taking your kids with you? Isnt that dangerous? Doesnt that just make it harder? Are you crazy?
Im sure some people do think Im crazy. Others treat me as heroic: Youre so good! I could never do that. Its just an everyday thing for me, though. This is how we get to work and school. My husband has our one car, so we dont even have another option, besides walking. I take one or two kids on my Xtracycle, and the others ride or walk on their own.
But why? Well, here are eight reasons why bike commuting with kids is a good idea.
Its fun. Mostly. Yes, sometimes its rainy and windy and we dont wanna. But other times, we cycle through the raindrops singing If all the raindrops were lemon drops and gumdrops, oh what a rain that would be! Or we breeze along in the sun, soaking up the vitamin D.
It saves money. We dont need a second car in order to get the kids and me to school and work. So, no car payment, no insurance, no gas, no maintenance. Well, less maintenance. Bikes need maintenance and repairs too, but its generally cheaper and often you can do it yourself.
It reduces oil consumption. Oil is getting scarcer and more expensive. The less we use on short, daily trips, the more we have for when we really need it.
It reduces air and noise pollution. Think about all those cars idling outside the school. Theyre exposing both the schoolchildren and the neighborhood to exhaust fumes, as well as creating extra noise in the area.
First dibs on free boxes! says car-free parent Sarah Gilbert. You know, the free stuff out by the curb? If youre on a bike, its easier to see whats there and make a quick stop.
It sets a good example for your kids. Do you think non-motorized transportation is a good idea? Want to pass that value along to your children? Theres no better way to do that than to involve them in your commute.
It encourages others to ride and walk. People who see others riding and walking to school are more likely to try it themselves, which will multiply several of the benefits above!
It makes the streets safer for everyone. State Representative Mitch Greenlick, here in Portland, Oregon, recently proposed a bill that would make cycling with children under age 6 (in a child seat, trailer, Xtracycle, etc.) illegal. He cited an Oregon Health Sciences University study, which found that Approximately 20% of bicycle commuters experienced a traumatic event and 5% required medical attention during 1 year of commuting. Traumatic events were not related to rider demographics, safety practices, or experience levels.
Yes, that sounds bad. But this study counted any and all injuries as traumatic events, from a scraped knee on up. Research over the years has shown that as bicycle ridership goes up, the crash rate actually goes down (Elly Blue has a great article on grist.org about this, and page 11 of the 2009 Portland Bicycle Count report shows this trend vividly in a chart).
Im on the bike with my kids five days a week. But it doesnt have to be an all or nothing proposition. Can you take one day a week to bike and/or walk together?
Kathleen McDade is a writer, mama, Xtracycle rider and bicycle commuter in Portland, Oregon. She blogs about bicycle commuting and more at http://technoearthmama.com.