When my older daughter was in preschool in our town near Boston, I used to see one lone father biking his child to school in an enclosed pull-along pod-like thing with a little flag waving to hopefully ward off SUVs from driving over his child.
But except for a few brave or foolhardy souls, parents didn’t–and still don’t–bike their young kids around my Massachusetts town, or indeed anywhere in America in any sort of big way (sorry, Portland, not even you).
Here in Cambridge, England, it seems that every second bike has a kid on it or attached to it.
There’s the perching-in-front-version with the child in a little seat by the handlebars or sitting sideways on the crossbar. There’s also a version (not pictured) where the child rides behind the parent’s seat, which I’ve also seen in America.
And there’s the sort of one-and-a-half bikes, seen below, in which a bike ridden by the parent pulls along the back half of a bike on which the child rides. I’ve also seen a bicycle-built-for-three with a dad and his two kids, aged about 8 and 10, attached in a row behind the parent’s bike.
Then there’s what I call the baby-in-a-box version, known here as Danish cargo bikes, which I was told came over from Denmark where biking is a common way of transporting children around town. For more information, take a look at: http://www.copenhagenize.com/2007/07/danish-cargo-bikes.html
Here’s one with two comfortable seats at the back:
And here’s my favorite: something called a kangaroo bike that this parent used to transport not one, not two, but three of her children! I like this version in particular because it gives the parent the best visibility and control. http://www.kangaroobike.com/pages/index.php
Of course, once these kids grow older, they themselves will be on bicycles.
My 17-year-old daughter bikes every day to her Sixth Form College, a trip of 1-1/2 miles each way, and my 9-year-old and I bike to her school, a mile away, and then back again in the late afternoon (giving me double the exercise as I accompany her to school and then return home). Several friends of my older daughter bike to school from outlying villages, round trips of 10 miles or more.
In the case of Cambridge, England, it helps enormously that there are green spaces near the center of the city for bike routes as well as designated bike lanes in the roadways. It also helps that drivers are generally considerate to bicyclists and that the terrain here is flat (this form of transport wouldn’t work well in San Francisco, for example).
But think about what it would be like if more towns and cities had safe bicycle routes and people actually used all these cool ways of transporting young children. It could be the start of a mini-revolution, with savings in fuel costs, more time for parents to spend with their kids outdoors, and much fitter and healthier parents–all good things!
My own town near Boston, and the city of Boston under the leadership of Mayor Thomas Menino, are installing more bike lanes and instituting a program similar to the “Boris bikes” of London. As far as I’m concerned, it can’t come soon enough!