Cycling with kids in Daily Life, part 1

Cycling in Daily Life, part 1

“My two favourite things in life are libraries and bicycles. They both move people forward without wasting anything. The perfect day: riding a bike to the library.” Peter Golkin

Experience the joy more often

Let’s check in and see where are you at. You’ve got bikes and you can ride, you’ve had some lovely weekend outings and are becoming more confident and experienced. Best of all you are having fun. What next? Maybe you’d like to try some longer rides, and want to be fit enough? Perhaps you want to be more active or use your car less?

Would you like to cycle more? An easy way is to add some cycling to your everyday life.

It’s not that far!

  • One-sixth of household car trips in New Zealand are under 2km long and almost half are less than 6km long
  • Short distance car trips are particularly polluting, as cold engines consume around 40% more fuel, produce more emissions and increase engine wear and tear.

What short trips do you make? Which of them could you do by bike? Could you declare your own ‘carless’ days, where you commit to cycling, walking and using public transport instead of driving?

What stops us? Overcoming the Barriers to cycling in Daily Life

Weather

I frequently tell myself that there is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing. This helps me dress for the weather and get on with it. For wet weather, we use good rain jackets and, sometimes, rain pants. In winter we add extra layers, and gloves.

Does the rain put you off? Consider that rainy days are accompanied by more congestion and parking hassles, and you still get wet getting to and from your vehicle. Don’t worry if the weather is too much for you or your kids. You can still get out and ride on the fine days, and in most months of the year, there are plenty of them!

https://weather-and-climate.com/average-monthly-Rainfall-Temperature-Sunshine,Wellington,New-Zealand

Time

You might be surprised to learn that, on short trips, sometimes cycling is faster than driving. Door to door, a 2km journey takes about 10 minutes by bike (with kids). When there is traffic congestion and parking problems, the same journey can take as long (or longer) by car. Sometimes we just think the car is quicker.

Cycling is also a time management bonus:

  • You’ll be getting active without having to squeeze it into some other part of our day.
  • It is time spent together, without devices!
  • You’ll arrive clear headed and energised ready for work or learning.

Safety

Often I have been asked whether I think it is safe to cycle: ‘aren’t you worried….?’ Although I’ve had my moments, mostly it is fine. It is important to cycle confidently, predictably and be highly visible. Choose low traffic routes and make maximum use of cycle paths, or the footpath. Ironically I’ve had better experiences cycling in everyday clothing around town than on lycra-clad distance rides.

Choosing to cycle makes cycling safer – the more people who do it, the safer it gets. This is because there is safety in numbers, and because it helps motorists get used to the idea that riders are out there on the road (or path) and they need to watch out for them and ‘share with care’. And simply by choosing to cycle, you may inspire others to give it a go.

Address your safety concerns by becoming a skilled and defensive rider, choosing the right places to ride and being highly visible. See earlier posts on skills, safety and gear.

Experience: To High Vis or not to High Vis, that is the question. Love it or hate it, high visibility safety gear is an effective way to stand out when you are out on your bike. I resisted for a long time, but now I happily get around wearing my bright orange hi-vis vest emblazoned with “Mum” on the back. We each have one, and I added hi-vis fairy wings to my daughter’s. Regardless of what else we wear, they make us just that much more visible to other road users. Hard to argue with that!

Daylight

With kids, most trips are during the day, so lights are not necessary. However your own commitments might take you out beyond daylight hours, and you’ll need lights.

Carrying gear

As discussed in a previous post, panniers and racks are good options for carrying gear. And don’t forget the good old fashioned basket (mounted front or back). Most bike shops cater for speed and sport over utility, so their ranges may be limited. If that is the case try shopping online, or trawl the net for some good innovative DIY options. My bike basket is just a metal shopping basket attached to my rack with adjustable straps.

Securing your bike

Are you worried about your bike being stolen? Bike thieves are opportunistic, and you can make your bike less desirable to them by making it slower/harder to steal, and harder to sell if they do steal it.

  • Invest in a strong chain and lock.
    • The thicker the chain, the longer it takes to cut through. Avoid cheap locks which can easily be ‘popped’ open by hitting the lock with a hammer.
  • Lock often and lock well
    • Lock your bike every time you leave it. Even if you are only gone five minutes, that is long enough for someone to ride off on it.
    • Lock your bike in a shed or garage at night (don’t leave it lying around). Even a locked bike regularly left outside gives thieves plenty of time to plan how to take it and come back with their tools.
    • Carefully select where you will leave your bike to ensure it is well lit, observable by many, and possibly near security cameras.
    • Lock your bike to a solid object which it cannot be lifted over.
    • Lock through the frame, and if possible also through the front wheel.
  • Keep a record of the frame number and photos of your bike.
    • Police suggest bike owners to keep a record of the serial number(s) and any photos of the bike in a personal asset register such as SNAP.
    • Write your bike’s serial number in marker on paper and have someone photograph you displaying it next to your bike. Also take shots of identifying details and keep them stored in your phone. This enables proof of ownership if there is a dispute.
  • Mark your bike to make it less desirable.
    • Etch your driver licence number, if you have one, on the bike frame.
    • Write your initials at 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock on each tyre/wheel with a permanent marker.­
    • Pen your name on the top tube and cover it with layers of clear packing tape. A thief can remove it with some effort, but it probably won’t be worth the hassle.
    • Covering parts of the bike frame with duct tape or reflective tape makes your bike distinctive and perhaps much less attractive to thieves. So do decorations!
  • If your bike is stolen…..
    • Report the crime as soon as possible. This, together with photos and serial numbers, will help police to identify and return your bike if it is recovered, as well as measure and report on crime. You’ll need a police report for insurance purposes.
    • It may also help to let your local bikes shops know, or post photos online to cycling communities and social media asking them to look out for your stolen bike.

A case study

Recently I had a great opportunity to take my own advice! When we are used to getting around by car we get stuck thinking that other options are not possible or practical. One day a week my children attend different schools, in different directions, approximately 5 km apart. Both classes start at roughly the same time, a case of needing to be in two places at once. Normally my husband cycles one child to school – 800 metres – and I take my son, via car to the other school – about 5 km away. But this time I had no husband and no car – I needed a different plan. With the help of google maps and journeyplanner.org.nz I considered my options:

Option & considerations Time Required Costs / Benefits
A Walk both children to nearest school, then catch bus to furthest school.

Requires lots of herding to avoid missing the bus.

25 minutes each way, plus waiting time according to bus schedule. So most likely more than one hour. Bus fares: $8.50 including my return fare home.
B Use Taxi to drop off both children then walk home. 15 minutes in taxi, plus 45 minutes to walk home, so 1 hour total. Expected cost $25 one way (allowing for congestion around schools and two drop offs)
C Go by bike and scooter. One child rides pillion whilst other scooters to nearest school. Then cycle to furthest school, drop off second child and ride home again. 40 minutes total (actual time!) According to journeyplanner.org.nz my monetary health savings were $16.10 each way, and I saved $3.19 each way versus the costs of the car trip I usually take. Carbon savings were 1kg each way, and I burned 500 calories.

I chose option C. I was amazed how easy and effective it was. I had felt dependent on a car for this trip because of the logistics, but it could be accomplished quickly and easily by bike! I did not have to stress about parking and I got my workout for the day done at the same time as transporting my kids.

It does help that I have an awesome cargo bike, but if your kids are energetic enough and organised enough to leave a bit earlier, they could do it under their own steam.

Organisations

Cycling Action Network. Work with government and local authorities on behalf of cyclists, for a better cycling environment. Membership open to anyone. https://can.org.nz

Bike Wise. New Zealand’s national programme of activities which promote cycling as a fun, healthy and safe way to travel. https://www.bikewise.co.nz

Local Authority Cycling Resources

Check out your councils website or https://www.bikeswelcome.org/local-authorities/

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