morning glory: bicycling to school with the kids

photos: genevieve walker

By Genevieve Walker

Every morning Sudie Anning and her two kids pack a Basil bike basket and a Linus pannier before walking out the door for their morning commute to school. While Sydney, five years old, holds two-year-old James’s hand to cross their quiet street in Battery Park, Sudie unlocks their waiting chariot: a shiny black Bakfiets bike that Sydney named Baby Fee after their family car, Felix.

A quick snap, and the bike’s built-in lock is open. Sudie pulls back the thick tarp that covers a front-loading box built into the middle section of the bicycle. Shaped like a slice of pie with one generous bite off the end where the front wheel sticks out, the box on the Bakfiets is designed specifically for carrying two little riders, like Syndey and James. Everyone gets a helmet, the kids get a blanket and breakfast, and they’re off to the Westside Greenway. They’ve been riding to and from school every day since May, and they love it.

Why do you commute by bike?

Sydney just started going to this new school and I got the bike, really, because I didn’t know how else to do this commute. We have to get up to Sydney’s school in the West Village between 8:30 a.m. and 9 a.m., and then I have to go back to Tribeca to my son’s school. I like having control and no variables; no subway issues and no getting a cab.

I looked at the Bakfiets for a year before I pulled the trigger. I couldn’t justify the expense ,and I was afraid I wasn’t going to ride it enough. But I already feel like it’s been worth it. You cannot replace the fresh air. And I love starting the morning like this. It puts me in such a good mood; I am a nicer mom.

What is your commuting route?

We go up the West Side bike path, cut over on Morton and up to Hudson. We park our bike right in front of the school’s gates. It takes us 10 minutes to get to the West Village and then it’s about another 10 back to Tribeca.

Why did you choose this bike, rather than a tricycle with the box in the back?

This bike is really easy to maneuver, and I can go a little bit faster than on the tricycle; I tried both. At first when I was looking at the Bakfiets I thought, ‘No way––I want a tricycle. That looks too hard.’  When I got to the store I said, ‘I don’t want to try this with my kids in it.’ But the second I turned it just a little bit, I was like, ‘No, you guys can get in.’ It’s such a good bike; it’s so well balanced.


all photos: genevieve walker

How was it starting out?

The first couple of weeks of riding to school, both ways, I was a little bit tired. The bike is really heavy, plus the kids. I kept getting to pick-up early and I was thinking, ‘Why am I always so early for pick-up, but late in the mornings?’ It was because I have 40 pounds less on the bike.

What do you wear?

In the morning I like to go work out after, so I look like a true biker, but at the pick-up I don’t. But the bike’s so easy to control that it’s really not a problem to wear high-heel clogs.

What do you carry on your bike?

We have a basket, a pannier, the kids’ backpacks and a blanket. Other than that… what do we have in our box?

Sydney: A blanket…and ant spray.

They pretty much eat their breakfast in the bike every morning. I got some ant spray from the health-food store so it’s not so toxic. We also carry paper towels because when it rains it’s nice to dry off my seat.

How is it out there for a bike mom?

I feel very safe. I don’t go above 14th Street that often, so I can’t speak for the rest of the city. There are a few stretches of Broadway and West Broadway that I’m not a big fan of riding on. I’ve figured out how to ride the bike all over the place. Especially with the kids; you get a little momma-bear that comes out in you. I feel very big and present when I’m on the bike with my kids. I turn and I look at the cab driver and go, ‘I’m getting over––don’t mess.’ But I’ve had a few moments when I’ve said some bad words.

We get a lot of thumbs up from the hard-core bikers. I get stopped every time I’m on the bike. The first thing people ask is, is it hard to ride?  And then they say, is it custom? And then it’s, where did you get it? Without a doubt––every time. And it gives people the biggest smile. I think my kids feel like celebrities when they’re on that bike. It’s a really warm feeling.

What’s your pleasure cruise?

In the summer, after dinner when it was still light out, I’d buy the kids ice cream, and I’d peddle them around. We would go up to Chelsea Piers to the carousel. Then we would come back down and see the Statue of Liberty and ride around down there. It’s so pretty. I tell everybody, ‘This might sound like a very un-New York thing to do, but go rent bikes down in Battery Park and ride up.’

What do the kids think?

It is so much easier to get my kids to school now that I’m biking with them. They prefer this. We’re giving our double stroller away today. With Sydney I get such good conversation out of her. She’s really chatty on the bike, especially if her brother isn’t with us. She turns her body towards me and tells me her whole day.

Sometimes, with the way our days go, the only time the kids are out in the fresh air is when we’re on the bike.

Did you ride before getting the Bakfiets?

No, not really. I wasn’t biking much. Once I bought that bike though I also bought my own. But it ends up that I ride the Bakfiets because I can put my stuff in it. We don’t really don’t go anywhere without that bike.

Any tips for people considering commuting by bike?

Get on it and have fun with it. See how much easier it makes your life; do one errand and see how much faster you got it done.

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