Commuting by Bike With Kids 101
The old adage “getting there is half the fun” rarely applies to a daily commute by car. Cycling with your child to school or daycare can be efficient, enjoyable, and environmentally friendly, while also adding a beneficial daily dose of exercise and outdoor time to your routine.
Looking for where to start? Let’s ride!
Commit to Commuting by Bike.
When you’re rolling out of bed and deciding between bike and car, think of these incentives:
-You’ll save gas, and those miles that could have gone on your car’s odometer will go into your legs! Take a 180-day school year and a 1-mile commute—round trip every day would mean a total of 360 miles for your child, and probably 720 miles for you! The fitness and fun adds up quickly.
-What you do now will matter even more later. You’re establishing a healthy, active lifestyle for your child.
-Time your commute by car, including time spent in traffic and walking to and from parking. Often cycling is about the same duration or even faster.
Plan Your Route Carefully.
The shortest route isn’t always the best. Look for quiet, low-traffic residential streets; cycling or multi-use paths; and/or good sidewalks. Google Maps’ cycling routes and STRAVA heatmaps can be good resources, but it’s better to actually ride your planned route beforehand, preferably at the times of day you’ll be commuting.
Intersections are one of the most important considerations about your route. Spend some time thinking about where and how you’ll cross streets with your child.
One of the best safety tips for commuting with young riders is to keep your rider close—riding right in front of, behind, or beside you. This increases visibility and your ability to communicate with your child.
Make sure your child listens to and follows verbal commands, and stay alert to potential dangers on your route. Keeping your route the same can make problem areas easy to predict.
If in doubt about a situation, have your child stop and walk their bike: this gives you much greater control. This is an especially good rule of thumb for intersections where you might need to worry about cars yielding for pedestrians. Pay especially close attention to drivers making right and left turns, and make eye contact with the drivers when possible before crossing.
Commuting means lots of extra miles. Do an “ABC” check before you head out to make sure your child’s bike is working correctly, and take it to a bike shop for regular tune-ups. To avoid punctures, replace tires when they’re looking worn.
Invest in high-quality, easy-to-charge bike lights, reflectors (woom bikes come with reflectors on the front wheel, pedals, seatpost, and handlebars), and other wearable or attachable gear that increases visibility, especially if you ride during low-light conditions. (The woom kids helmet, in addition to many other important safety features, has visibility-enhancing reflective accents—the woom logo is made of a special reflective adhesive film.)
And finally, remember to always follow the rules of the road, and never ride without a good quality, properly adjusted helmet!
Making It Fun.
Here’s the hardest part: your child may not always go the same speed or have the same enthusiasm level for the ride. Or they may see something cool along the way and want to stop and check it out. Leave some wiggle room so you don’t have to be Drill Sergeant Mom/Dad to get to school on time.
Pack emergency snacks and always carry a water bottle. Play games—bike bells can add an element of fun, and with a little imagination your woom bike can become a spaceship, motorcycle, or flying T-Rex.
Ride in Groups.
Few things are more fun than kids riding bikes with other kids. Coordinate your ride with parents who live in your neighborhood or along your route. Set stopping points and times to meet, forming a “bike bus” or “bike train.” Often you’ll find that your child will be faster and more focused when riding with their peers. Another bonus is that you’ll get to meet and socialize with other bike-minded parents!
Have a Younger Child?
Commuting by bike with big brother or sister is still an option! Try running with a jogging stroller or riding with a bike trailer, child seat, or other add-on for your little one.
What to Bring With You.
You’ll probably be locking your child’s bike to a rack, so you’ll want to find a lock that’s convenient and easy to carry but also substantial enough to intimidate a would-be thief. We recommend a code lock, which can help you avoid any frantic “uh-oh-where’s-the-key” moments, especially if different adults are responsible for drop-off and pickup. (woom sells a steel, 4-digit code lock that comes in bright red.)
You also might want to pack a waterproof bag, rain jacket, or light sweater for those days when the weather doesn’t match the forecast.
What to Wear.
You can cycle year-round in almost any conditions. If you’re seeking inspiration, pull up city scenes from Copenhagen—in this Viking land of very frequent cold and rain, 41% of Copenhageners’ trips to work or school are made by bike, and many people don’t even own a car (there are 5.6 bikes for every car in the city, translating to roughly 675,000 bikes and 120,000 cars).
The key to commuting in less-than-ideal conditions is having the gear that will keep you comfortable.
Winter - In some places, winter means snow drifts. In others, it may mean wearing a thicker pair of socks with your cargo shorts. What’s key anywhere is close-fitting layers that can be added or removed as needed, and an outer layer that serves as a windbreak. You’ll also want to give some thought to the extremities, adding to your riding wardrobe a thin hat, ear covers, or balaclava; gloves (woom offers full-fingered gloves that are well-suited for milder temps); and wool socks.
Summer - Again, climates vary widely. If you live in a particularly hot climate, a few tips: seek out routes with shade, avoid commuting in the hottest times of day if possible, bring ice water, apply sunscreen, and get a well-ventilated helmet (the woom kids helmet has 24 holes and internal air channels).
Spring/Fall - In shoulder seasons, carry additional thin layers of clothing in a backpack or panniers.
Rainy Weather - Light rain is no reason to hang the bike up in the garage! A waterproof jacket and waterproof pants worn over regular clothing often do the trick.
At woom bikes USA, we offer lightweight, high-quality woom bikes for children of all ages, starting at one and half and going up to 14-year-olds. View all of our bikes and accessories here.