Friday, January 1, 2010

Read Totcycle's "Is Family Cycling Safe?"

I have enjoyed catching up with the past posts from Julian from Totcycle. I was a bit bummed to hear that he was 'in our neighborhood' for a short moment over the winter break and I didn't get to meet this Seattle-dwelling fellow who writes an amazing family cycling blog and leads Kiddical Mass outings in his community. Plus, did I mention that he is hilarious? Also, he's a PEDIATRICIAN, as well. I put this all in capital letters because I will let this detail add some professional credibility to his latest blog post "Is Family Cycling Safe?".

Please read it now. I will wait.

Ok, what did you think? Here's what I wrote in comment section. WAY too long, I know, for mere comments (SO sorry, Julian) but it got me thinking about our own experiences and decision to do this family cycling thing:

Thanks for putting this all down, Julian. Thoughtful, thorough, & quite reflective of my husband's and my views. I hope you don't mind if I post a link to this blog post to my Facebook account & link it on my blog with big "this was written by a PEDIATRICIAN" intro :).

When contemplating investing in the Bakfiets and taking the big plunge into family biking, I did have some worries. I had a few anxiety dreams before I actually got out on the road on a bike, particularly dealing with this one crazy intersection we must cross on our way to school. But once I was actually ON the bike and riding, many of my extreme worries went away and I felt so much safer and more comfortable cycling than anticipating cycling in my dreams.

Whenever I ride with one or more of my children, I am always (hyper)aware that he/they is/are on the bike with me. I am an extreme traffic rules follower & even if I get fuming about something a driver does, I let it go (in ways I wouldn't likely if I were driving a car where I might speed up & express my displeasure). I always stop at red lights, I signal, I ride on the right unless I need to take the lane, etc. In the ten months that we have been doing this, we have only had two real incidents that scared me on the bike and I don't live in a town that is particularly bike friendly. I can't even count the number of times I was totally delighted out there on our bikes; there have been so many, a nearly everyday happening.

I had a moment just this past week when we got my sons' fixed-up bikes back from our local shop. One of my guys was thrilled to hop on his bike and wanted to ride around our block. We live in an urban area, not super urban though, and in the past, I think one of us always accompanied him. He was staying on the sidewalk, not crossing any streets, and has had practice slowing down & voice signaling if he comes upon pedestrians (it was a quiet afternoon). So I said yes & off he went. And I hung out in front of our house & he lapped me again and again, calling out the number of times he did. I realized that this was the VERY FIRST time he had 'gone off' on his own and it felt... I'm not sure, sort of weird. When I was his age, I think I rode all over my suburban neighborhood by bike alone or with friends or my siblings. The truth was that I wasn't really worried about HIM; I was more worried what other folks who saw him riding alone on the far side of the block would think about ME and my parenting choice.

I don't, however, really worry about what others think of me cycling with my kids on our cargo bikes. I have gotten a few super passive aggressive comments from other parents who clearly disapprove of my choice, but we've gotten far more support for our family cycling. We were thoughtful in our decision to family cycle and we try to remain ever thoughtful and vigilant when we are out there on our bikes.


Julian said...

Please, no apologies about the length, that comment was EXACTLY was I was hoping folks would respond with.

I think families who ride with their kids have had a lot of anxieties and second thoughts about these things, but also get into a bit of a defensive posture against real or anticipated judgments.

So far people have been very supportive in comments on my site, but not so much on other cycling, or god forbid, mainstream media sites (which is where the real yahoos seem to troll). Thanks so much for the link and kind words!

I'm sorry we missed meeting you guys as well. Congrats on your son's Big Adventure around the block!

Terra said...

Julian lays it out perfectly ("what is this thing we call safe?") Sara, you too. The benefits of careful, thoughtful biking/cycling just far, far outweigh the risks. But that is for each person, each parent and each kid to assess for themselves. And hopefully, more and more people will feel encouraged to make it a part of their life.

miss sarah said...

I used to take off on my own all the time as well! I hope Dexter finds a gratifying sense of independence on a bike in the future (but not TOO soon), like your boy:)

It feels so good to know I'm not alone. And hopefully once people see me on the madsen this coming spring and summer, cargo bikes will start to spread in popularity. The number of cyclists in my city has been increasing (yay)! Hopefully we can get the number of families on bikes up as well.