A few days ago, Bicycle Colorado held its fourth annual Colorado Bike Summit. While I always find this event energizing and encouraging, this year I left feeling particularly motivated after one of the breakout sessions on Getting More Women Riding.
The room was full of people interested in finding more ways to get women out on bikes, and more ways to make women feel like they really belong out on the roads, paths and trails around our state.
There were many great ideas thrown around, such as all-women’s events and rides, creating more female-friendly bicycle clothing, and improving infrastructure to make riding easier and more accessible. What stuck with me most, though, was a discussion about being a mom and how that affects many women’s bike-riding habits.
There was talk about how tricky it is to actually tow your children on bikes, or the pressure of balancing with a kid on the front handlebars or on a back bike seat. It’s one thing to be on a bike yourself, but a whole other issue to bring children out into the world of cars and traffic and who knows what else. I hear this so often, both from friends and from people I have just met. We all keep making excuses about how it is just too hard.
Riding as a mom
My kids are two years old and four months old, and they are my world. I couldn’t wait to get my daughter on a bike. My friends at Bicycle Colorado even gave us a bike seat for our baby shower. Now, she is old enough to be out on a Strider, and I can’t wait for consistently warm spring days so we can get her out scooting around. It will only be a matter of months before my son can experience the freeing, happy feeling of a family bike ride.
I am also recently back to work after maternity leave. While I am eager to get back to my old commuting habits, I have to admit that I see the world a little differently when I think about commuting with two kids. I had it all figured out with one, but I now face a new logistical challenge.
Most days, I ride to my office downtown from Lakewood. The route I take to work is definitely the most efficient way, but not necessarily the route I would take with my family in tow.
Back in the saddle
My job at Bicycle Colorado is to educate more people about riding and being safe while they are on bikes. I visit schools and tell students and their parents how important it is to get out and ride together. I encourage them to be out in their neighborhoods so that people see them, so that more families will get out and ride, so that we can change the culture in their area. I help people plan safe routes to school, work and play. My job is to convince everyone how great it is to ride a bike whenever you can.
After a winter of being inside with my kids, I, too, have found myself unnecessarily timid about getting back out and riding. I am realizing that I need to practice what I preach and get back on the bike. Yes, it is hard, but it is definitely doable. It is just a matter of making the choice to get out and ride.
Be the change
Infrastructure changes take forever. Fancy clothing or scheduled women’s rides aren’t quite what I am looking for. Given limited free time in my new family of four, what I want is to spend good time with my kids doing what I love. I want to take them out to explore on bikes.
I need to get creative with finding new routes to show other moms (and dads) that this can be a way of life, even with kids. I need to be reminded that it’s not about riding your bike EVERYWHERE, EVERY TIME. It is OK to ease in and to do whatever works best for your family. And I need to show my own kids how special it is to spend time outside, feeling the breeze on your face and realizing the sheer joy that a simple bike ride brings.
How about you?
If you’re a parent, have you changed the way you ride? What obstacles have you faced in riding your bike with little kids? What advice would you share with other parents about how to incorporate riding in your family life?