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“Commuting” with Kids

We know everyone here at bikecommuters.com uses their bike to get back and forth to work at least some of the time.  But what about other destinations?  And what happens when you have to bring the family along?

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J in the Burley, hooked to my commuter

Since my wife (who’s a stay-at-home mom) and I share one car between us, we’re familiar with a couple strategies and are considering a couple more.  Here are a few things we’re using/have used/will use with our two daughters.

Our older daughter, J, is three years old.  Since she was about a year old, we’ve used a BurleyD’lite trailer (my review here) to pull her around.  We’ve used it on trips to the playground, trips to the grocery store, and for getting around while on vacation.  It’s a handy thing: it holds up to two kids plus a bunch of gear (we’ve had a week’s worth of groceries in it before!).  However, it is a little bulky and can be annoying to hook up (and unhook) when you’re only going a short distance.

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J "commuting"

Once kids are a little older, they can often bike along on short errands.  We started J on a balance bike when she turned three (though other parents have started as early as 1!).  She’s able to go around 2-3 miles round trip on this without too much fuss, which gets us to destinations like the library or the farmers market.  Another good option for tired kids or longer rides is some sort of trailer bike.

For younger kids, it gets tricky.  Most physicians don’t recommend putting infants in most bike seats, as their necks aren’t strong enough until they’re around 9 months to a year old.  However, that doesn’t mean you can’t put them on a bike at all.  The family over at Totcycle has compiled a good list of options, including using a car seat base in a trailer, or putting a car seat in the front box of a bakfiets or rear “bucket” of a Madsen.  The bakfiets or Madsen bikes generally require a large up-front investment, but offer the advantage of a bike you can continue to carry kids in for several years.

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R with her shadow

We haven’t put our younger daughter, R (8 months, pictured here with her constant canine companion Otis), on a bike yet – a combination of laziness, cold weather, and not being too enthusiastic about our car seat working well with our trailer.  However, we’re looking at a couple options right now.  The Topeak Babyseat is a classic rear-mounted “kid’s bike seat” – on steroids.  It’s got some nice safety and comfort features (suspension!), and has the advantage of being quickly removable (the rack then works seamlessly with Topeak’s other lock-on bags).  We’re also looking at some front-mounted seats, such as the Yepp mini or the iBert.  The advantage with these is that the child is in between your arms, can see really well, and can easily converse with you (assuming they’re able to converse with you to begin with).  The disadvantage is these apparently turn many children into speed freaks, constantly urging you to go faster and making you work even harder!

There are tons of options out there – more than most people realize – and once kids get started biking, most of them continue to enjoy it (and will hopefully grow up thinking biking for errands or to work is normal and fun!).  In my view, bringing up the next generation to bike everywhere is even more important than biking everywhere ourselves – and (most of the time) is a lot of fun too!

So you wanna ride in Oregon with your children??? Well…you may want to think twice…

I’ve been following this topic to see what our “powers that be” here in Oregon will decide on a  new measure going before committee soon. As far as I can tell, without some amendments, this bill will not pass as is.
Oregon State Rep. Jules Bailey has been working with the draftsman of state measure HB 2228, Rep. Mitch Greenlick to amend the proposal.
Below is an article from Bicycle Retailer & Industry News reporter, Lynette Carpiet.
BIKE TRAILER BILL NOT LIKELY TO PASS
SALEM, OR (BRAIN)—An Oregon bill seeking to make it unlawful for a person to carry a child under 6 years old on a bike or in a bike trailer most likely will not advance out of committee as it is currently drafted, say people close to the matter.

Rep. Mitch Greenlick (D-Portland), a health researcher and former professor at the Oregon Health and Science University’s school of medicine, introduced the measure (HB 2228), saying he wasn’t “convinced that we are doing all we can to protect the health and safety of young children who join their parents bicycling on the streets and roads of Oregon.?

In a statement that followed, Greenlick cited a study completed at OHSU that showed that about 30 percent of riders who bike to work on a regular basis suffer a traumatic injury every year. In the same letter, he said the bill was not “anti-cycling,? but that he hoped to start a “rational discussion? about bike safety and children.

But the bill caused quite a stir throughout the Oregon bike community last week. A post on the popular BikePortland.org website about the bill drew more than 100 comments, and subsequent updates kept readers glued to the site.

“The nature of what this rep was proposing was over the top so you sort of expect a similar reaction from the community,? said BikePortland.org editor Jonathan Maus. “It was so preposterous, that it upset people on a personal level.?

The Oregonian, the state’s newspaper of record, reported that Rep. Greenlick received 100 emails the morning the bill became public, many from angry constituents. News stories on its site about the bill generated more than 300 comments, the paper reported.

Burley Designs, a 30-year-old company in Eugene, Oregon that sells and manufactures child trailers for bikes, ensures all of its trailers meet ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) safety standards on frame strength, durability and safety harnesses, said product and marketing manager Garrett Barnum, adding that no accident data specific to bike trailers or children on bike carriers exists.

“Since he proposed it, we’ve talked to a lot of media and state reps and legislators. They all responded and said the bill will not pass,? without amendments, Barnum said, adding that Burley was never approached by Rep. Greenlick on the matter of trailer safety. “But if that’s a result of this discussion, a study around child safety and trailers and bikes, that’s great. We are excited about the discussion around safety because that’s the strength of our products over lower-cost trailers sold at big-box stores.?

—Lynette Carpiet
lcarpiet@bicycleretailer.com

To read more about this heavily debated topic, check out BikePortland.Org
(Thanks go out to Jonathan Maus of BikePortland for keeping his finger on the pulse of this topic!)