BICYCLE RAMBLING WITH KIDS
For cyclists used to taking week long arduous bike trips whenever we wanted, it was a big change to ride with our daughter, rather than sleeping bags and tents, seated on the rear rack. We've learned to modify our expectations. As our world became smaller—limited by the need to stop at playgrounds and romping areas every hour or two–it also became larger. The journey has become much more important than the destination. Constant chatter back and forth pointing out flowers, creeks, bridges, and trolley cars to a delighted two year old, and then hearing her observations on it all, has made an adventure out of a simple ride through Golden Gate Park to the 46th Avenue playground or Ocean Beach.
Helpful Hints for Biking with Kids So far into the journey we've discovered a few things that help when cycling with a child.
• First, of course, is safety. If you are not thoroughly confident in your bike riding skills in general and your defensive bike riding skills in particular don't take a child on your bike. Helmets are a must for children, as is observing all traffic laws.
• If two adults are out on bikes, carrying diapers, food, clothes, and toys is simple. The adult not carrying the child carries everything else.
• A solo trip requires more attention to packing: diaper bags can be hung from the back of the child seat and prevented from swinging with a strap; soy milk in 8-ounce boxes eliminates the need for ice and cooling; low-rider front racks allow you to bring front panniers; a good sized handlebar bag can keep milk quickly available for when it is desperately needed; and peanut butter soothes all hunger pangs.
• Keep your first few trips short while you get the hang of things. If you plan your trip home around nap time you may be able to take advantage of the soporific effect of bicycling and transfer a dreamy child from bike to bed without awakening.
Two Rides to Try: Millennium Playground One of our favorite rides is to catch an early morning Larkspur Ferry at the Embarcadero. Larkspur bound you have the ferry to yourself in the morning. Little kids love exploring the boat and watching the water churned up by the big engines. Once in Larkspur we head straight for the Corte Madera Creek bike path and a couple of miles of flat car-less cycling. Once the path ends you continue on through Ross and San Anselmo to Millennium Playground. This incredible community built playground has everything—chutes, slides, swings, rocking horses, ladders, bridges, waterspouts, mist machines, and a sandbox. (Join other parents and kids on a ride to the Millennium Playground on March 29. See page 4 for details.)
Coming home on the Ferry presents the problem of getting away from the Embarcadero without a decent west-bound bike route. We're not willing to ride on Market Street with a child on the back. BART solves this problem. Simply put your bike on the elevator at Embarcadero BART, wheel onto the train and get off somewhere beyond downtown such as 16th Street.
Amtrak to Davis Another great rambling ride with kids is to take the Amtrak Capitol train to Davis. You can catch an Amtrak connector bus at the Ferry Building and load your bike unboxed into the cargo bays. At the Emeryville Station you can load the bike into the train's built-in bike racks. (Or you can take BART to the Richmond station and meet the same Amtrak right there, no bus required.) The hour-and-a-half train ride is a good length for impatient toddlers and features bridges, the Delta, the mothball fleet, and the huge overworked fields of the Central Valley. On clear days you can see both the Coast Ranges and the Sierras as you roar up the Valley.
The Amtrak Station in Davis is a short ten-minute ride from the UC campus. The neighborhood between the campus and Amtrak has coffee shops, bike stores, a Farmers Market (Wednesday and Saturday at 4th and C streets) and fountains to splash in on hot summer days. The campus itself has a large swimming pool and a smaller kid's pool (open spring and summer only. Phone ((530) 752-2695). Pedal about ten minutes north of Amtrak on the F Street bicycle lane and you will get to a big playground at Community Park. If you catch the early morning Capitol Corridor train you will have plenty of time to enjoy this bicycle friendly town and still get home in time for dinner.
By Deirdre Weinberg and Dan Merer