Monday, June 27, 2016

CycleHack Talk: Barriers to Family Cycling

Friday I had the pleasure of speaking at CycleHack Vancouver. I was invited to talk about the barriers that biking families face. The goal of the event is to bring makers & idea people together to address some of the barriers that stop people from biking.

I thought I'd share a written version of what I talked about here.

When it comes to family cycling--especially with kids under six--barrier is all the stuff they require. They need enormous amounts of stuff to leave the house: diapers, wipes, extra clothing, snacks, drinks, toys, blankets, even a potty, sometimes. So deciding to bike to your destination, rather than driving seems like a crazy idea.

I've learned that biking is often faster than driving & it's totally possible to live car free with a family. But it's still tough for families to get started--figuring out gear--front seat? Rear seat? Trailer? Cargo Bike?--feels like information overload.

 try to help people overcome these barriers in a few different ways. First is my blog: I write reviews of gear, tips & hacks, upcoming events & recaps of rides, all about how we make transportation cycling & carsharing work with two little kids, & how cycling is awesome.

Second, I organize Vancouver Family Biking group rides. I think that recreational cycling is the "gateway drug" to transportation cycling. I hope by coming on our rides & chatting with other people, families new to cycling will be inspired to get groceries or go to their next appointment by bike.

Third is listening, providing advice, & connecting people when I can't answer a question. Much of this is in the Vancouver Family Biking Facebook group. This group is a great little forum where parents ask questions & share information on things like rain gear, taking transit with bikes & little ones, cargo bikes, and so on.

Fourth, my friend Tonya & I organized the Mount Pleasant Family Biking Festival last year to celebrate family cycling & showcase real family biking setups. We had over 25 families in the show & shine, talking about their seats, trailers, & cargo bikes, as well as offering test rides. We're doing it again this year Stanley Park, bigger & better, on September 24th--stay tuned for more details!

Fifth is education: Tonya & I are providing five workshops on the ABCs of Family Biking this summer, funded by the Vancouver Foundation's Greenest City Neighbourhood Small Grant & supported by prize donations from bike shops & Modo.

There are still a lot of other barriers that I come across that I'd love to see some solutions to this weekend. Here's my list:

Obviously I talk to a lot of families with all the work that I do & the number one barrier I hear people talking about is fear. Riding in & around vehicle traffic with your baby on your bike doesn't feel safe. & when your kindergartener starts riding on their own like mine did a couple of months ago, it's a whole other level.

Another safety issue comes up when using front or rear child seats on a bike. According to my research there's a very very small chance of being injured riding in a seat on parent's bike. It's getting on & off--that's where injuries happen. When it's just one parent balancing a regular bike with one or two children on it mounting can be really difficult.

I've solved this by getting two cargo bikes that have bombproof wide double kickstands. But not everybody has the budget or the space to get a cargo bike.

Front seats don't impede rear panniers, but weight limits are lower, so around three or four years old, you'll need to move your child to a rear seat. Rear seats are often on the rear rack, not usually compatible with panniers. With the weight of groceries, or whatever else you're carrying, plus a kid on the bike, you get the balance problem I mentioned before.

This bike has some cool seats that work great for a four year old & a seven year old. But kids at top of the percentiles for weight & height don't fit seats that will hold them securely. A toddler who still falls asleep on the bike needs to be strapped in but could be past the weight limits of a baby seat. Then there are special needs kids who are older but still need more physical support or restraints--there are few options for these kids & none that are affordable.

Just like anyone who bikes, security is a big issue with family biking, Where it differs though is when you have a cargo bike with a front basket or a child seat on the front. These bikes don't fit well into many of the bike racks around the city. Then there's the issue once all the kids are riding on their own bikes. Locking up one bike not too hard, but locking up four to six bikes means that one parent might be carrying their weight in locks.

The last barrier I'll talk about is storage. When you're going from one store to another or running errands, you can't really leave stuff on the bike, like your tool kit, water bottle, coffee mug, kleenex, diaper bag, grocery bags, or purchases, so you have to drag it all inside when you lock up. My bakfiets has an accessory I can order to create a lockable trunk under the child bench, but that's not really an option on longtail cargo bike or 'normal' bikes.

That's my list! Keep in touch on social media, visit my blog for information on the family biking festival, links to the Vancouver Family Biking Facebook group, & the workshops. Thank you for listening & I look forward to hearing about the Cyclehacks inspired by tonight's talks!

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