… and get out in the sun with your family for summer fun on your bicycles. The following builds on some of the thoughts expressed in the January 2016 Bicycle Times.
The magazine highlighted some of the many benefits of getting your family out on bicycles to enjoy the summer in a healthful and non-polluting fashion. Regardless of its size or composition, nothing beats a bicycle ride for learning (or re-learning) to enjoy each other’s company. Not only is the ride healthy as opposed to traveling by car to some high-cost destination but also it brings the family members closer together. This is particularly true if you are a car free or near car free family as the simplest chore or errand can turn into an A+ social experience.
In addition to the immediate benefits to the family members, a bicycle ride always presents an opportunity to engage more intimately with your surroundings and with your fellow citizens. What better way to build community than a friendly “hello,” “good morning,” “or good afternoon” – a social grace that is missed when we travel around air-conditioned cocoons. This is particularly true if your family includes an infant or toddler in a trailer or bicycle seat. Who cannot smile at the sign of a small child riding with his or her parents on a bicycle and waving happily to everyone? On a more altruistic note, the active presence of a family unit riding together shows others that it is safe and fun.
If the ride is of reasonable length and includes frequent stops for playgrounds, running around, and exploring, any small child will enjoy the experience. Parents would be wise to enhance this experience as opposed to the building the mileage. Typically, a family with young or inexperienced riders will seek out routes that have minimal or slow motor vehicle traffic. A side benefit of this type of exploration is that the cycling family can discover the low stress ways to navigate the city. In this regard, parents would be wise to confer with other families on the routes that they’ve discovered with a special emphasis on the attractive features of that route or the features of that route that will be attractive to young ride-alongs who are looking for some adventure. A benefit of family bike rides – particularly when the young members are riding their own bicycle – is engendering a spirit of independence as well as awareness for the needs for the skill of riding in traffic. What better opportunity to learn the rules of the road than to ride as a family with close adult supervision and guidance? (If you expect your children to wear a helmet when you are not around, you’d better wear one yourself at all times.) As children grow older, they can map the route and lead the ride for the entire family.
For longer rides that may involve an overnight, other considerations come into play. The same Bicycle Times issue offered some ideas on bicycle touring with young children. Aspects include careful planning of the route, careful packing, and – above all – ensuring that the experience will be positive for the youngsters. The fact that the trip is short is less relevant than the quality of the time spent together and the opportunities for exploration and excitement. Not only do the young family members experience the joy of independent travel but they have an opportunity to learn valuable living skills such as cooking over an open fire or camp stove, pitching a tent, basic care of their bicycles, gathering firewood, and roasting marshmallows.
In the same January Bicycle Times a number of tips were offered for planning a trip. First, select a route that is relatively traffic-free. Forget the miles – focus on having a good time. Factor in the terrain as a hilly route will reduce the number of miles between needed rest stops. If your child is small, ride while he or she is napping with the suggestion to limit “trailer time” to about 4 hours a day. Remember that a child will need his or her own baggage, so plan to lighten the load as much as possible leaving behind many toys, heavy books, and related items. Nevertheless, never pass up a good playground!
Stop early enough in the day so that there’s time to enjoy the campsite as a family unit. Pack delicious, nutritious food. Bring a favorite bedtime story book (but just one) to help children get to sleep. Engage children in helping out at the campsite whenever possible. One last thought is to team up with another family (or families) with children of similar ages so that there is a portable playgroup to help the success of the trip.
While some families have traveled internationally with their youngsters, a simple ride to the river, a favorite park, or Stewart’s ice cream store presents a tremendous opportunity for family growth and enjoyment.