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Our first week on the Walk & Bike Challenge

The first five days of the Walk & Bike Challenge are done.  Over 30 schools are signed up and I hear some school communities are starting out with a bang!  The month of May also coincides with PDOT-promoted Bike to Work month, with events throughout May like guided beginner level rides, fun events with free food, and commuting workshops.  The double motivation is working for us and - especially with the fair whether out last week - we are seeing so many more folks walking and biking.

With all this biking going on, it can be so daunting to start trying bike commuting, especially as a family.  While we've tried to chronicle some of our own experiences with family biking, another great resource are upcoming workshops (remaining dates May 12 in SE, May 15 in Downtown, May 22 outer SE) "Getting Started in Family Bike Commuting."

Nervous about mounting a bicycle with little ones? Confused by all the options for carrying kids on bicycles?  The BTA's Family Biking Commute Workshops discuss the common challenges that families face when considering bike commuting. They are also a place for seasoned bicyclists to learn more about commuting with kids and share what they know about commuting with new riders.

For our family, after such a loooooooong winter and lots of wet, we have been driving more than biking in past weeks.  Last week, however, we were motivated by the Walk & Bike Challenge and here was our play-by-play for our famiy of four:

  • Monday: we all biked
  • Tuesday: we all drove
  • Wednesday: one parent took the bus with one child; one parent biked with the other child
  • Thursday: we all biked
  • Friday: one parent biked with one child; one parent drove with the other child

How did you fare in the first week of the Walk & Bike Challenge?  Did you find many other families participating?  Is your school not signed up?  You can still sign up here!  What are some challenges that keeps you from walking, biking, or riding the bus to school?

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Thanks for the excellent resource in the BTA's upcoming workshop, I forwarded it to my husband who is the most likely candidate in this house!

Also, as for barriers, time is a big one for me, since driving can be so very much faster - at least in my case. My safety issues re biking with kids on city roads is another barrier, and expensive equipment that you never know whether the parents and/or the kids will like is daunting. What if the local bike shops (clever cycles comes to mind) rented a family bike get-up by the week for testing, then allowed fine tuning before purchase?

Thanks for the reminder and the inspiration! One question: where we do we transit riders fit into all this?

LTF:

I hope to see you or your husband in the workshops!

Transit riders are encouraged to add as much active transportation into their trip as possible for Walk + Bike Challenge month. Anytime you couple transit with a walking or biking trip, your family can count that as a trip for the challenge month.

I'm the coordinator for our school and my understanding from reading the paperwork, is that transit for all or part of your commute counts in the challenge too! The name of the game is to take cars off the road, any way you can counts...

We missed a couple days at school last week because my kids were sick, but we walked at least one leg the other days. The sick days we didnt leave the house...I questioned my sanity by the end of the week!

Biking is really fun, I'm just getting into it and yes, it can be quite daunting with the kids and the gear they require. Some sort of rental program would be amazing--I'd be much less gun-shy about dropping the cash to get the perfect set up for us if I knew that it really worked. We're currently doing both kids in a trailer, but I'm wondering about the possibilities of a baby seat on the back with a trail-a-bike for my 3.5 year old to ride. Several weeks ago I was stalking craigslist looking for a cute cruiser bike to buy to ride this summer, but in the end I've decided to ride my mountain bike around town this year and see how we do. I might get some skinnier tires for riding on the road, and maybe a rack on the back for cargo, we'll see. We also talked breifly about converting one of our bikes (we have a bit of a collection in the garage due to a habit of my husband's!) with an extra-cycle, but I'm not sure about that option yet...

I'm a big walker, but I know I can cover more ground in less time with a bike so my plan this summer is to try to bike as much as possible. We're doing longer rides on the weekends and I've been a bit surprised by how much of the city we've seen on bikes, and proud of myself that I made it up the Interstate Ave hill a few weekends ago! Maybe I'll attempt a ride to Jamison Square when it's 90 degrees later in the week...

Leah, the only trail-a-bike that will work with a child seat that I've been able to find (and believe me I've been looking) is the Roland add+bike, and it's not available in the US. I thought about trying to import one on my own, but with the dollar as weak as it is, it was going to be a $500+ trail-a-bike. Um, not an option.

So I'm sticking with the trailer and Bobike for the foreseeable future.

My daughter's school is participating this year and I think it is for the first time. It was great last week to see so many people leaving their cars at home!

I have struggled with how to get a 6 and 2 year old two miles to school - it is not that far but it is on busy streets. Transit would take around an hour even though both home and school are on good transit they do not have a direct route that does not include several transfers.

In the fall I managed to get both in the trailer but it was tight and they were unhappy. About a month ago a friend from school told me that he was looking to sell his Haley Trike http://www.haleytrikes.com/ and I bought it. So far it is working out great and the kids love it. We are going to add a bench and seat belts to make it an even better ride.

Last week we biked 8 out of 10 trips to the school. The two we didn't were because of time/distance constraints that we have a few days a week. We did not ride this morning because the two year old has an ear infection and it was too wet and cold. I know that I cannot complete replace my car but I am really looking to reduce the usage.

Thanks JJ! Now that frees up some space in my head to obsess over other things... :)

For those of you with babies in the biking mix, do you find that a seat is more comfortable for them than the trailer? The trailer works out ok for us I guess, but with the baby and the 3.5 year old, it seems a little cramped in there. (Or maybe they're already starting that sibling "poking" thing that just drives each other crazy!) I've just been thinking maybe it would be better to have the babe up closer to me in a harder seat frame than the trailer provides for him to sit in. I also thought the trail-a-bike is interesting because it would force my 3.5 year old to stay awake and do some of the work for us!

Leah, my husband and I have this constant disagreement about the seat on the bike. He thinks that if the bike falls (for whatever reason!) the kids are safer in the trailer, where they will remain upright. I want the bike seat, because I'm tired of hitching up the trailer all the time! Our boys are 2 and 4. We're really close to getting an Xtracycle but I think we're going to still have the trailer in the back for awhile. The trail-a-bike is great for us, but only fits on my husband's bike, so for now I still have the two crammed in the trailer. I love the cargo aspect of the Xtra and will be glad to have it when our trailer days are done. Our biggest road block now is whether or not to convert an existing bike (our garages sound similar...) or get a new one that might fit both of us. I don't think we can stay with both in the trailer much longer though, that's for sure. As for the trailer comfort, both of my boys have loved it. Never a complaint about comfort once they got tall enough to manage the helmet in the seat. They don't really even complain too much about the tight fit. I just notice it and feel bad for them!

We added some more biking into the usual transit + walking mix. My husband drove to work one day while I biked; and ironically I drove and picked up the kids on my telecommute day as I had some errands to run around pick up time.

Is this you Sarah? Check out BikePortland and see for yourself: http://bikeportland.org/2008/05/08/seen-in-portland-dutch-on-a-tall-bike-and-lucky-kids/

I must confess that I'm the one with the "collection", and am not sure how it happened since I am not an avid rider. mom22, I just went through the process of trying to figure out how to convert an old bike or new one to an Xtracycle. I went with the get a new bike route. I was disappointed that I needed to do a lot to one of my old bikes to get it up to Xtracycle muster. In the end, the cost of retrofitting an older bike (new brakes, wheels, extra parts, etc.) was pretty much the same as getting a new one. I also wanted a step through bike. Though I am 5'2" on a good day, and my husband is 6'1", the Electra Townie (REI just had a great sale) is supposed to be able to accommodate a wide ranges of sizes. That was "sort of" the selling point for my husband though the color is definitely more me than him. The next step for me is to bring it into the shop for the conversion. I am excited!

we've been doing pretty well on the bike, though *all* my trips this weekend were in the car because we had to pick up daddy from the airport and zip back and forth across town. one of my self-imposed rules is "say no to stuff" but I let myself say "yes" this weekend!

every time everett gets to ride to school, he has a great day, whether it's dad with the tagalong or me with the xtracycle and a little brother or two. (we haven't had that many opportunities, as his school is on a modified year-round schedule and he was off all last week.)

if you're interested in family bike options, you should check out my post on my site -- http://www.cafemama.com/2008/may/03_adventures_of_mamabikeorama.html
we have the Townie + Xtracycle setup that hau is referring to, plus a front bobike mini seat for monroe. i love it, and i have nothing to attach/detach/adjust, i just strap monroe in and set the boys on the back and away we go. i've travelled 30 or 40 miles in a few weeks and have already gotten over my fear of riding at night -- monroe and i had a really nice ride to twisted on broadway from our house near 39th/holgate.

it's been interesting riding children in traffic. sometimes i wonder if i'm crazy taking my kids' lives in my hands like that, but i suppose we're doing the same every time we get behind the wheel, way more children die in cars than on bikes! my theory is that, when you're on the bike with your child, at least everyone around you can SEE that you are toting a child and, instead of being isolated in our little steel-and-glass bubbles, we're interacting and it's far easier to relate as humans.

Thanks, Hau. Nice to know you found a bike for both of your sizes. We don't have that big of a differential, so we should be able to as well. You mention several reasons why we're thinking of a new one, the step through being one of them. I also just don't want to get rid of my bike by converting it. I want the freedom to not use a cargo bike when I don't want to. We will be taking a look at the Townie here soon. We test rode something else, but I can't remember which one it was. I'm really looking forward to it!

No kids in school just yet, but we've been practicing on the new xtracycle for biking to school next year. I looked on cafemama's site at the great post there! Sarah, I found my bobike maxi on craigslist, somehow... keep looking. Also, I padded the snapdeck for my son, and added running boards for him to set his feet soundly on while we ride so he is VERY stable (they aren't pretty or light, but only a couple bucks in materials). He has a handle bar that I made out of conduit, too, and attached with some pipe clamps to the front of the v-racks. Just some suggestions that have helped me make this whole thing a little more comfortable for me and them! It is a little scary to take your kids out on the road, but exhilarating at the same time.

Great to hear all your stories and configurations. We have been almost exclusively biking our two girls, aged 4 and 1, to their respective school/daycare since the challenge began (even though neither of their schools is on the list, we're just making it our personal challenge). I am finally in that place that it seems key to get to to making bike transit work: I don't even really let myself think of the option of driving. It does take more time, but we are lucky that in the summer months (when UP is out of session), we are a little more flex with time. Our 1 year old hates the helmet, for it always falls down on her face, but I'm hoping that will improve. When one of us takes both girls, we stuff 'em both in the trailer. I have tried for grocery trips to do one in the bike seat (b/c I have found, Leah, that little-little ones seem to prefer that riding position, at least mine does) and one in the trailer, but I find that arrangement doesn't feel safe enough for "dismounting"--too many kids to unload with too much potential for the bike to fall over while dealing with the trailer. So it's both in the trailer if I'm alone, one in the trailer and one in the bike seat if I'm with their dad. But I like many now covet an Xtracycle and we probably need to get a tag along bike for the 4 year old. As for the person who wondered about buying gear that then doesn't work out that well...the upside at least is that there is such a thriving market for all these bike implements on craigslist. I know that Burley trailers are in great demand, used, and I'd imagine all the other pieces are too--new ones probably fetching near their original value.

Happy biking, all!

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