Transitions: from kids as cargo to kids as riders (a new series)

Like many parents around the world, we have embraced using bikes instead of cars to haul our kids around the city. It’s been 3 years since we built the Xtracycles and started using them for everyday transportation.

First Ride

First Ride, August 2007

Wow, 3 years already? How did that happen?

It’s been a great run: we’ve learned so much, met some fantastic people, laughed and smiled a lot….and developed  some beefy quads. We wouldn’t go back to our short-distance car driving ways for anything. We’re hooked on bikes.

If you read Car Free Days with any regularity, you already know that. I don’t want to talk about the benefits of cargo bikes.

I want to talk about growing kids and what to do about them. Because while we were out enjoying cargo biking, our kids have grown.

A lot.

Our youngest used to be a sweet chubby mama-kissing preschooler and our oldest a good-natured early elementary school kid. Now we have an energetic (and hilarious)  going-to-be second grader and a sometimes sweet, sometimes  eye-rolling tween.

How did that happen?

In so many ways (and especially when it comes to biking) kids are easier when they are young. You can pick them up and plop them on/in your bike and pedal away. And tell them stories and sing them songs and distract them. And ride as far as you want and go as fast as you want. And go where ever you want. And not have to worry about any one hitting a parked car.

But at a certain point they grow. And they want to ride their own bikes. And they grow and get heavy. And they want to pedal. And they eat and grow. And they want some freedom.

Bike to School Month Wrap PartyAnd one day you realize they can’t ride on the back of your bike all the time anymore. (And there is no way two of them are riding back there all the time any more).

So how do you make this transition from cool and collected kid-hauling cargo bike rider to passenger-less mom or dad pedaling alongside your still relatively young kid on their own bike? In the road. In traffic. With cars.

How do you make this transition a  smooth one?

Do you need a new bike? A couple of drinks? Group therapy?

Tim and I have been making the transition for @ a year now. Our kids still ride on the back of the Xtracycles on occasion. But mostly they pedal. We’re still learning, but we’ve also learned a lot.

We’ll be exploring our transition from full-time kid-haulers to transportation enablers in a series of posts this summer. We plan to talk about different bike set-ups for older kids, riding in traffic with kids, outfitting their bikes (Tim promises to finish his kids’ bikes that don’t suck series) among other things.

Want to know more? This should be a fun ride so stay tuned. And if you’ve already experienced this transition, and are still sane enough to talk about it, we can’t want to hear your perspective.

Next post in series: Transitions, Am I ready for my kid to ride?

– Anne

11 responses to “Transitions: from kids as cargo to kids as riders (a new series)

  1. My youngest ones are going into second grade as well so we’ll be going through that together. My eldest, however, is going into sixth grade, although she’s light enough to still ride on our trail-a-bike. Looking forward to the series.

  2. This is a very welcomed and important topic. My kids are only 6 and 3, but I’m interested in planning ahead as much as possible to keep the car driving to a minimum.

    I think in all my contemplation on this topic, the one variable I continuously neglect to include (subconsciously avoid thinking about) is the “eye-rolling tween” factor.

    I’m looking forward to it. Thanks.

  3. I can’t wait to read more- how best to transition my 10-year-old into being able to ride in traffic has been weighing on my mind for a while.

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  5. Yup, something we’ve been perplexed about. Glad you are taking on the topic.

  6. I just saw this post and I had just written a blog post on a related topic.

    This would deal with kids who are getting a little older and onto the next big step. Riding somewhere alone.

    I’d be interested in people’s thoughts.

  7. Great post and video! We live car-free in Brooklyn with three kids. It’s been that way for at least 5 years, maybe longer. Lost the car somewhere between kid #2 and kid#3 and never looked back (well, almost never) . My oldest is 15 now and family rides with the 5 of us are only recreational. Still, we bike commute everyday with our 4 yr old using one of two bikes, either an xtracycle with bobike or a hybrid with bobike maxi child seat.

    My middle girl (11 yrs old) loves riding when she can, but the subway is better for making it to school on time without the younger one and parents dragging behind. (A cool helmet a’la nutcase helps. Bike lanes help. Practicing on the same safe route and making them aware of dangers help.)

    I have to say the older kids feel like biking is “cool” though only the 15 yr old rides totally on his own. He wanted a fixie for his birthday, and though we said no, took it as a good sign for his pro-biking future!

  8. Fantastic stuff isn’t it?!
    I have been following your blog from the time you started and have taken a keen interest since I also have a child this age and for the past 2 years we have travel as often as we can on our Xtracycle.

    Just like you guys we are now making the transition to one of our kids riding a two wheeler on the road. luckily there are plenty of bike paths. The great thing about having the Xtracycle is that if we travel too far I can strap the little bike to the back…

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