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 dont 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.

Later, you might consider spending money on a trailer, an Xtracycle, or even a bakfiets (box bike)! But you don’t need those to get started.

Hold a dress rehearsal

Our first try at a morning commute ended in tears. I didnt know how to attach the child seat, so we couldnt use that. My three-year-old couldnt ride a tricycle well enough on her own. When I tried to walk my bike, the chain fell off. Believe me, you dont want to do it the hard way. Do a dress rehearsal (or more than one) over the weekend, so that you know how its 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. Theres a bus line on our street, so my backup plan is the bus. Its 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.

Be safe

At a minimum, you need helmets for everyone. If youll 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 youll 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. Its 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 thats something that can wait if necessary. Childrens coats often come with reflective material built in; look for it if youre coat-shopping.

Dont stress about trying to make everything perfect! Just start with what you have, and go!

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