Not Just Greasy Kid Stuff: Active Trans Hosting Family Biking Series

Rebecca Resman
Rebecca Resman bikes with her daughter Sloane. Photo: Oren Miller

As dozens of my friends with young kids demonstrate, becoming a parent doesn’t mean you have to give up your car-free or car-lite lifestyle. An upcoming three-part series on family biking presented by the Active Transportation Alliance and Chicago Kidical Mass aims to provide families with the info and encouragement they need to keep pedaling through pregnancy, infancy, and childhood.

“Ultimately, we want to normalize cycling, and one of the best ways to do that is getting more women, children and families on bikes,” explains Active Trans’s Rebecca Resman. “We’re confident that this series is going to lead to more biking families.” Here’s the schedule for the free seminars:

Resman and her husband Zeb regularly transport their two-year-old daughter Sloane and two-month-old son Max via a Dutch-style bakfiets (“box bike”) cargo cycle. “That always yields a lot of looks, a lot of smiles, and a lot of questions,” she said. “I get a ton of questions from people who are interested in taking the plunge and bike with their kids, but don’t know where to start.”

Each of the educational sessions will focus on a different phase of family cycling, with a 30-40 minute presentation, followed by breakout sessions for Q & A. Besides Resman, presenters will include Active Trans’ Jason Jenkins, plus parents Anika Byrley, Jennifer Wilson, Kevin Womac, Emily Ransom, Jane Healy, and Julie Caddick Kaufield.

The seminar on biking while pregnant will help future moms decide whether cycling during pregnancy is right for them, including an examination of different opinions from experts and parents. The session will also cover different styles of bikes (step-through frames can be helpful), riding positions, and saddles. “Like many things when you’re pregnant – sleeping, eating, and walking – it’s all about making you feel comfortable, emotionally and physically,” Resman said.

She kept biking until the 21st week of her pregnancy with Sloane, and cycled until two days before Max was born. “For me, biking was absolutely more comfortable than walking with my stomach bouncing around.” Getting fresh air while cycling can also be helpful for women experiencing morning sickness, she said. “And, unlike on the CTA, it’s nice to know that there’s always going to be a seat available for you on your bike.”

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Balancing on a bike with the pedals removed. Photo: Oren Miller

The session on transporting small kids by bike will cover options for hauling precious cargo, including baby seats, trailers, bakfiets, and “longtail” cycles like Xtracycles. “People sometimes get upset about how old a kid should be before you can bike with them,” she said, noting that bakfiets are the only safe option for carrying infants. “But when Max is in a car seat that’s secured within a cargo bike, it’s essentially like being in a car.”

Of course, carrying your child in a box bike isn’t the same as transporting them inside a steel-and-glass motor vehicle, but you’re traveling at much slower speeds, often on quiet streets. “When you’re a parent, you ride where you feel comfortable, bike slower and more defensively, and wave cars on at intersections,” Resman said.

The seminar will also cover good destinations for trips with small kids, and good things to bring along for the trip. “It’s important to have a back-up plan, and then another back-up plan,” Resman said. “If parents walk away from this with nothing else, my advice is to always pack a ton of snacks.”

The seminar on biking with independent riders will include tips for helping children learn to how to bike, including a discussion of the relative merits of training wheels and pedal-less “balance bikes.” They’ll also talk about some of the successful strategies from Active Trans’ Kids on Wheels program, which brought a trailer full of cycles to suburban elementary schools for bike safety classes. “It’s hugely important for kids to learn the rules of the road,” Resman said.

She added that the organizers are trying to provide a wide range of presenters, representing many different perspectives. “Everyone has their own parenting philosophy and everyone has different needs, so nothing is going to be a mandate,” she said. “This is about arming people with the info they need to feel comfortable making decisions for their families.”

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