Seattle has resources to get you started.
Biking is fun, especially with kids! It’s also a practical and safe way to get around town. But sometimes real or perceived barriers can keep families off bikes. Imagine, though, if every family in Seattle had the resources, knowledge and support it needs to make bicycling an easy option. What if, instead of feeling fear, we all felt empowered to bike ourselves and our children around town?
It’s a beautiful vision and the research is clear: If we biked more we would be happier, live longer, save money, slow global climate change, and create safer and more enjoyable communities. And the biggie that motivates my family to bike is that we have more fun!
From behind the handlebars we notice the first buds of spring and the V’s of migrating geese in the fall; we sing as we slowly wind up a hill; wave to drivers sitting in traffic; stop for errands on the way home (none of which requires a stressful parking experience); enjoy the architecture of the buildings around us and count gargoyles; and much more.
So why don’t more families bike? The answer is rooted in history. For almost a century we have linked The American Dream to the automobile. When our cities develop around the car, so does transportation infrastructure, such as streets and highways, which don’t necessarily support safe cycling. These challenges worry parents because they want to keep their children safe, and biking around traffic often feels dangerous.
Thankfully, things are changing. While cycling has some risks, the benefits are much greater — biking can add up to 10 years of health and longevity! With the addition of good infrastructure that increases safety and ease in getting around by bike, we can increase the health benefits even more. Vision Zero, Seattle’s plan to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries by 2030, is developing well-connected Greenway routes and bike lanes all across the city to support this improved life style goal.
Granted, biking as a family can be logistically complicated. Trailers, bike seats, longtails, midtails, dropping off and picking up, groceries, multiple children, parents of different heights, electric assist – that’s a lot to navigate. Luckily, Seattle is home to a community of people and resources that can help. In addition to some excellent family-friendly bike shops, FamilyBike Seattle, a local non-profit, helps increase access to bicycling for families of all income levels.
Five ways FamilyBike helps get you started:
Family Bike Expos: Free “bike tasting” events where people can look, ask questions, and try different kinds of family biking setups, from trailers and bike seats to electric longtails and bucket bikes.
Kidical Mass Rides: Free — and fun — monthly rides that build community.
Getting Started Workshops:
Parents can learn the fundamentals of equipment choices, route planning and safety, and discuss their hopes and concerns.
Bike Rentals: A fleet of family bikes is available for rent on an affordable, sliding-scale fee.
Advocacy: FamilyBike partners with other groups such as Seattle Neighborhood Greenways to advocate for safe, high-quality infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians.
While biking with our kids can seem intimidating, it can be done. Perhaps tune up an old mountain bike and add a child seat on the back. Then start small, perhaps riding to the library once a week, or school, or join a Kidical Mass ride. And then, over time and with the support of Seattle’s fabulous biking community, more families will join in, bringing hope to the world and creating a happier, healthier future.