Bicycling With Kids in SF: How-To Book Leaves Fears Undiminished by Karen Franklin

When I was asked to read and write a review of the new book "Bicycling with Children," I was excited, hoping it would make be feel better about letting Theo, my 8-month-old son, ride on the back of my husband's bicycle. Theo had already participated in the July Critical Mass. His car seat securely attached to the inside of our Burley bicycle trailer, he seemed warm and comfortable, and I felt he was safe among the hundreds of cyclists surrounding us. Though our ride home was uneventful, I felt frightened and vulnerable to the whims of the speeding vehicles.

Bicycle commuters Karen, Jon, and Theo
So I read with great interest "Bicycling with Children: A Complete How-To Guide" by Trudy Bell, which includes information on choosing good bikes for riding with children, comparisons between types of kids' seats, teaching your child how to care for her bike, and how to teach a child how to ride. All valuable information, though still not what I was looking for.

Finally, I got to the "Teaching Traffic Safety to Children" chapter. This is it, I thought. All my fears will be allayed. Perhaps it was my level of anticipation that proved to be my undoing, or perhaps it is the cycling environment in San Francisco: the excessive number of cars, the rage of impatient drivers, all things that go beyond a simplistic chapter telling me to pretend that I, too, am a 4-wheeled vehicle. It left me feeling not only betrayed but even more frightened and vulnerable.

Then I realized that there probably isn't a book that will make me feel better about letting Theo out in traffic. Part of that fear comes from the overwhelming sense of responsibility one has to one's child. It's in my job description to worry. But the other part comes from the understanding that until bicycles are recognized as a legitimate form of transportation with all the rights and privileges accorded other vehicles, none of us traveling on two wheels will feel as safe as we should.