By Nicole Vermeer
In many countries, it is common for families to use a bicycle as the household vehicle. Parents ride their kids around in seats on the back of the bike, young children pedal behind on tagalong bikes, and whole families bike to the grocery store together.
A growing number of families in San Francisco are opting to use the family bike over the family car for more and more trips. This year’s Bike to School Day in April attracted more than 2,000 participants. Sunday brings another kid-focused event: Family Biking Day in Golden Gate Park.
The daylong event, organized by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and now in its fifth year, takes place in front of the 14th Avenue Picnic Area from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. It features the Freedom From Training Wheels program, which teaches kids to ride on balance bikes, as well as a bike safety “Road-eo,” bicycle scavenger hunt, pedal parade and a Parents Mixer, where caregivers can form bike to school groups and get to know other families who use two-wheel transit.
The event will also feature the release of the coalition’s first Family Biking Guide, a free comprehensive resource with step-by-step instruction on a full range of issues from biking pregnant to finding the right family bike gear to riding safely through the city with your child. It will also be available at www.sfbike.org/familybiking.
“I was frustrated by a lack of information,” says Kit Hodge, the coalition’s deputy director. “There wasn’t any real guide for how to bike with my child.”
Hodge, who has a toddler and is pregnant, uses her Dutch-style bicycle with child seat to commute to work, and to take her kid to day care and around town. Hodge said many coalition members and supporters had complained there were no guides on family biking in San Francisco, so she decided to write one.
The pregnancy section explains the differences in pedaling through each trimester. While studies have shown that exercise can prevent common pregnancy complications, such as gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia, the benefits of biking while pregnant range from alleviating morning sickness and nausea to improving energy and staying fit.
Hodge says that biking can improve family life. Children get fresh air before and after school or day care, and if they bike independently, they reap the benefits of daily exercise. Biking is often much more interactive for kids than being stuck in a car seat, making every commute an adventure for infants and toddlers.
Hodge says she’s heard from many parents that “if your kids bike, they’re better sleepers, and it keeps them focused in school.”
And for those who are still unsure about the safety or feasibility of family biking, Hodge tells them to come to the Family Biking Day. The car-free environment makes it a great place for first-timers to give it a try.
Bike About Town is presented by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, a 12,000-member nonprofit dedicated to creating safer streets and more livable communities by promoting the bicycle for everyday transportation. For more biking resources, go to www.sfbike.org.