Figuring out how to get us to school by bike

2 June 2014

biking from school

Last week, I biked my son home from preschool three days out of five.

This is a big deal for us, as normally I drive to and from school. I never wanted to be a car commuting person, but as his school is 16 blocks up a VERY BIG HILL, the idea of walking or biking was very intimidating.

We have a bike trailer, but I’ve never loved it for riding on the street as the invisibility of it scared me. It’s so low to the ground. I was researching all sorts of other on-my-bike solutions, but as he’s nearly 5, he’s getting big for those too. That hill, though.

After three hours at a bike shop, we finally found a rear seat that would fit my son and my bike. Because I’m short with long legs and I insist on riding step-throughs, my bike frame is very small, which turns out to be a problem with many rear bike seats. Though those bike shop guys know a million ways to bodge something together, so I recommend going to a proper bike mechanic to help you figure out the best way to install one if you’re having trouble.

We loved cycling together on the Seawall near our apartment, which is a fully paved embankment devoted to foot and bicycle traffic. The rear seat is much easier to manage than the trailer and less prone to becoming a dragging parachute. It’s still adding a small, 40-pound person to your bike, so it’s more work, but it feels less like a cruel boot-camp exercise.

On Tuesday last week I noticed it was Bike to Work Week. I work from home, so the work part didn’t really apply, but I reckoned this would be a good time to try the whole school commute by bike idea.

I think it’s common to think of this whole alternative transport idea as all or nothing. But a bit like cloth diapering, a small change still makes a difference. I decided that if The Hill was holding me back from doing this at all, then I would just do the return journey with my son on my bike, which is a glorious 15 minutes of all downhill. I fight my way up there (walking my bike up the worst of it, I’m being very honest here!) and park my bike, pick my son up from preschool, watch him play in the playground for an hour and a half, and then we pack everything on the bike and zoom home.

One less car trip a day makes a difference, even if it’s a small one. Even after one week of intermittent bike journeys, my son now asks how we’re getting somewhere instead of assuming we’re taking the car: “Are we walking? Are we taking the bike, Mummy?”

That’s pretty priceless.

 

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