Author Archive: Matt

“Commuting” with Kids

We know everyone here at 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?


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.


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.


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!

Biking at Work, Too?

A recent Washington Post article highlights a couple ways to get exercise at work.  One of them is the ever-more-popular standing desk.  Another is the slightly-less-popular treadmill desk (most likely less popular since it requires, y’know, a treadmill… and those aren’t cheap!).

The FitDesk

The third is the Fitdesk (Amazon link), which allows you to pedal while you work away on a laptop (and folds up when you’re done).  I have yet to figure out how this would interface with a typical cubicle… but it’s an intriguing idea.  However, the Post article says us bikey people aren’t the target market:

Believing he had stumbled on a valuable training tool, [Ferrusi] tried marketing his idea to cyclists. They hated it. But fortunately for Ferrusi, others did not. “The truth is, that market has not warmed up to it as fast as everyone else,” Ferrusi told me. “The cyclist crowd, they’re self-motivated. This is a product for people who are not.”

What do you think?  Would a FitDesk fit in your life?  Would you rather pedal as you hunch over your laptop?  Or does this make biking seem too much like… work?

Via: Washcycle, Facebook page (via my wife, who thought I should get a FitDesk)

Speak up for Bike Commuting!

Transportation for America let us know today that the U.S. Senate will be voting today (Mar 6th) at noon on the revised two-year transportation bill. This bill is not perfect, but it’s by far the best we’ve seen discussed this year.  Please contact your Senator in support of this version of the bill!

The bill contains three key amendments:
1) Cardin-Cochran – Allows local-level government to compete for grants for things such as bike-pedestrian improvements.  Projects such as Safe Routes to School would be eligible for this money.
2) Franken-Blunt – Allows states to use Highway Bridge Program funds to repair non-federal highway bridges.  Why do we care?  Many of these bridges are ones cyclists use – or could use if they were repaired.
3) Landrieu-Murray – Prevents municipalities from having their transportation funds taken away if the state doesn’t meet transportation goals.  This means bike-ped and other local projects won’t be hurt just because a state DOT didn’t fix enough bridges – and also allows better municipal planning because of increased funding certainty.

T4America has set up a contact page to help you contact your senator.  This is especially important if you have a Republican senator.  While several have helped craft the bill and the amendments listed above, there is likely to be pressure on others to vote against it (for a variety of reasons).  Your support could help turn the tide and get some key votes.  If this does not pass, the likelihood of anything but highway funds in the transportation bill gets a lot smaller, even as statistics show we’re driving less.

Let’s tell our Senators we want a bill that serves the future, not the past.