I decided some time ago that I wanted to dedicate time this summer holidays to cycling with the kids; the fact that we appear to be actually having a summer this year was the deciding factor. It’s pretty tricky to encourage everyone to use their bikes when it’s constantly chucking it down with rain outside. We’re in a bit of a transitional stage with cycling at the moment, in that everyone enjoys cycling, and at this time of year Rich and I probably do at least 80% of our individual journeys by bike, but we don’t yet use cycling as a way of moving the kids from one place to another. We tend to ‘go for a bike ride’ round the orchard near our house, or at Priory Marina, or the kids will cycle to the park and we’ll walk behind. That kind of thing. Polly and Will have been cycling for some time, and really enjoy it; Tilly is happy to pootle about on her bike (still with stabilizers for the moment.) She is not as fast as she’d like to be, and this causes quite a lot of, er ‘frustration.’ (A polite term for ‘massive tantrums and screaming hissy fits whilst her bike is thrown into the kerb.’) So I decided that this summer, we would try to use cycling more as a way of getting to places we wanted to go to, starting by trying to make at least one journey by bike every day. And so far, we have, even if it’s just been round to the shop for milk. For longer rides, Tilly goes in her seat on the back of my bike – from where she likes to give opinions on how fast we are going, what other people are wearing, where we should be going, why she doesn’t like our choice of destination, etc, etc.
There are, obviously, loads of benefits of cycling. Here were the things that basically swung it for me:
It’s faster than walking. (With less whining time.)
It’s cheaper than taking kids into town, or anywhere else on the bus. (£3.20 each way!!)
It’s also cheaper than parking in town (around 60p per hour.)
It’s exercise. In theory, exercise makes you happier, fitter and MAKES YOU SLEEP BETTER. Did you hear that kids???
So far, after a few weeks of regular cycling, I can conclude that:
- Cycle lanes are the best thing since sliced bread: we need more of them.
- Wide pavements are a beautiful thing.
- I lose more bike lock keys than is recommended for maintaining sanity. And bikes.
It’s been great so far – the weather has helped – but we’ve had some truly terrifying moments too. Cars reversing quickly out of driveways without checking for young cyclists, trying to use pedestrian crossings at busy intersections and having to cram three bikes onto a narrow island in the middle of a main road, negotiating somewhat erratic mobility scooters. We’ve cycled in the hot sun and in the rain (stylish rain ponchos on, obvs!) We’re converted. But successful cycling with children is something I think depends a lot on confidence. I’m planning to spend the summer building that confidence, learning the routes which best lend themselves to safe cycling, and instilling in the kids a sense that cycling is a legitimate and brilliant form of everyday transport, as well as a hobby.
I’m going to be writing more about our summer of cycling over the next few weeks, and I’ve got a few guest blogs lined up from people far more experienced than me about their experiences of cycling with a young family. I’m hoping that one of the kids will write – or something – about their views on it. I’m excited! The only irksome thing (apart from losing bike lock keys,) is the fact that Will now ‘NEEDS’ a pair of cycling gloves. Essential for any 6-year-old lad, obviously.