Maybe you’ve thought about bicycle commuting before. And then you thought it would be too hard, because you have kids, and you have to take them to school or day care, and then you have to run errands after work, and you just can’t do all that by bike.
Gas prices in North America continue to go up and down, but they’re staying in the up range. Prices of many other items, including food have gone up, and many families’ incomes have gone down due to layoffs and cutbacks in the workplace. In these situations, it’s hard to afford a second car in the family for commuting.
Enter the bike. It costs nothing for gas and insurance (although it does require occasional maintenance). As a benefit, you get plenty of exercise. Maybe you can cancel the gym membership, too?
But if you have kids, and they have to go to day care or school, how do you manage without a car?
I’ve been doing it for almost a year. My husband goes to work at 6:00 a.m., so I have to drop the kids off on my way to work at 8:00 a.m. At first, I didn’t know how to do it by bike, but I was sure it could be done. Here are some of the options I used or considered.
Have your day care provider pick them up and drop them off. If your day care provider offers transportation, this may be your solution (or if a school bus is available, put your school-aged children on the bus). They pick up the kids, you ride off into the sunrise. I do this sometimes when the weather is bad, but due to scheduling issues this makes me late for work
Use a trailer for little ones. This works well for babies and toddlers. Older kids are usually too big for the trailer. You can simply unhitch the trailer and leave it with your day care provider until you come back at the end of the day. We haven’t used this option; a trailer is outside our budget, and we also have only one trailer-sized kid out of three. Some people also find the trailer more difficult to ride with.
Attach a child seat or seats to your bike. Both front and rear child seats are currently available for bikes. Some people use both at the same time! We started off using a borrowed rear child seat on my old three-speed bike for our youngest; the older two would bike and scooter on their own. However, my daughter felt cramped in the rear seat, and I was nearly sitting in her lap while riding. Choose your seat wisely to avoid this problem.
Use a bakfiets or bucket bike. Bakfietsen are still fairly new to North America, although they’ve been popular in Europe for years. A bakfiets is a bicycle with a box attached to it for hauling cargo and/or passengers. The box can be either between the rider and the front wheel or between the rider and the back wheel. Traditionally, a bakfiets has a wooden box, but some manufacturers are now using plastic tubs as well. A bakfiets is great for carrying kids, but can be difficult to park at work because of its size.
Try an Xtracycle cargo bike. An Xtracycle, also known as a longtail bike, is modified so that the rear end is longer, and includes a wooden deck for passengers or cargo and side bags for more cargo. This is what we’re currently riding. I can haul two kids and four bags of groceries on our Xtracycle (the oldest rides her own bike). An Xtracycle can be purchased as a complete bike or as a conversion kit, so that you can turn your own bike (or a bike you purchase) into an Xtracycle. The Xtracycle rides like a normal bike and can generally be parked like a normal bike unless space is tight. However, because it is extra long, it generally can’t be taken on buses or other public transit.
Before making a decision, be sure to try out the different options. Make a dry run on a non-work day first. Test-ride bikes and equipment at your local bike shop, or borrow someone else’s ride to try it out.
You don’t need a lot of special equipment to go with your bike. Helmets for everyone are a must. You’ll want front and rear lights if you’ll be riding while it’s dark (or even semi-dark). You’ll need bicycle pump; if you can get a portable one, great. Small patch kits are widely available, and your local bike shop may even have classes on how to fix a flat.
Special clothes are not essential. If you aren’t going too far, you can even wear your work clothes. Otherwise, you can bring a change. You don’t need spandex. You can get simple Velcro strips to wrap around your ankles and keep your pants out of the way.
You can do it! Whatever your family situation is, there is a way.