Here’s a great autumn resolution: Try biking with your kids to school. After five years of steady build-out in New York City’s bike network, safe routes for families abound. And the number of families commuting to school is on the rise, not without reason:
- Moderate exercise is a great way for kids (and parents!) to start a productive day.
- Kids can learn much more about their environment and community on a bicycle.
- You can speak and stop and interact with your kids more freely when traveling by bike than by car.
- Cycling for transportation accustoms kids to an active lifestyle centered on daily exercise that they can sustain for an entire lifetime.
About today’s guest writer: Steve Vaccaro is a lawyer and a volunteer advocate representing cyclists and cycling organizations in New York City. He frequently rides bicycles with his children (see photo, bottom).
The key to safe, enjoyable cycling is using the right technique for the age and skill level of your child. Here are some basics:
- Leave extra time, especially with a new route. When you have extra time, you can stop on the way to discuss unexpected things you come upon. Avoid stress, and make it fun!
- There are a variety of child towing and carrying products on the market for kids too young to pedal. For the very youngest children, top-tube-mounted seats are often best because they allow you to speak with and see your children as you ride, while older, heavier children require rear-mounted seats (right). Trailers are fun, too, though they are best suited to car-free routes.
- Introduce older kids to pedaling with a single-wheel trailer that allows the child to pedal, but is fastened to your seat post (top photo).
- Kids who can ride on their own can do so legally in New York on the sidewalk up to age 14. Adults can accompany kids riding on the sidewalk by riding parallel in the street, and meeting them and guiding them through each intersection. But parents have to move with the flow of street traffic!
- Once your child is old enough to ride his or her own bicycle in the street, try to stick to bike paths and bike lanes. Ride behind your child and slightly further out from the curb. You’ll be able to spot hazards ahead and guide them through them, and provide a buffer to oncoming traffic from behind.
As Enrique Peñalosa, the noted South American politician and urbanist, has said, “The measure of a good city is one where a child on a tricycle or bicycle can safely go anywhere.” Parents can help realize this vision of a good city by bicycling with their children and making sure that they are safe. Learn more here about urban cycling with children.