Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Biking with Kids in Lamorinda

With Kids Learning/ on their Own Bikes/ Trikes/ Scooters

My kids love going up and down our street.

  1. Your own street! You can even get one of those  "Slow Down" Signs if that makes you feel better, or if your street is busy.  
  2. The trail.  It has so many good sections, and runs from Lafayette to Moraga.  
  3. The stretch of trail from Olympic in Lafayette to Foye/ 4th Street is flat and full of shade, and there is a little shady park on Moraga at 4th for a break (and there is talk of putting a play structure there, too... please email the City of Lafayette Parks Director Jennifer Russell at JRussell@ci.lafayette.ca.us if you want to encourage this project!).  
  4. Speaking of the trail, there is a house with chickens in the back (and a chain link fence so you can see them) just west of Hawthorn on the trail where there are always toddlers gathering.  The owner even put a bench on the trail side of the fence, and can be found there chatting to passerby regularly.
  5. Did I mention the trail?  Just over the bridge from Stanley Middle School in Lafayette is an EBMUD set of buildings which are nice to climb on.  And a few steps further, before the big hill down, are some little dirt paths kids like climbing around on.
  6. Another good stretch of trail is from Stanley towards Moraga.  This is full of short flat straight sections with stop signs and not busy streets.  The little ones can race from stop sign to stop sign and always be within eyesight.
  7. Lafayette Elementary School is open to the public whenever school is not in session.  Their playground is flat and paved and huge.  There is an older kids' section and a younger kids' section.  You could use this as a place to bring your kids' bikes so they can learn to ride or play around.  Look around at the elementary schools in your area- my guess is that they are all similar in this regard.
With Kids in Tow

We like to bike all around the area, though we do seek out flat areas, especially as the kids are getting bigger and heavier and not yet on their own bikes all the time.  

Our bike set-up has gone from this (baby seat on bike rack):
to this (trail a bike with one kid):
to this (one kid on bike seat, other in trailer):
to this (Cargo bike for both kids on top):
to this (Cargo bike for both kids on top and their bikes aboard so they can hop on and off and ride alongside as desired):

Tips and Tricks:
  1. Choose the time of day and realize that if it is naptime your kid may fall asleep.  Just like in the car, you will need to determine if you can transfer the sleeping child or if you will need to keep riding or s/he will wake up.  
  2. I found an awesome double kickstand from Xtracycle so the bike is extremely sturdy when I am not holding it.  This is great for loading and unloading squirmy cargo and for if the kid/s fall asleep and will stay asleep on a parked bike but not stay asleep if you try and move them.
  3. Try finding a bag or pannier that will work with your bike and kid set-up so you can use the bike for errands (and for carrying a snack/ diaper bag-type gear).  We found a front handlebar bag to be great with a baby seat.  We used the trailer's trunk area with the trailer, and the cargo bike has bags that go below the seats.
  4. Keep their feet tucked away from your legs.  If their feet touch your leg every stroke, it is uncomfortable (if not unsafe).  
  5. Use a flag when the kids are in the trailer or trail-a-bike.  Motorists aren't expecting a long bike, so the flag helps keep everyone safe.
  6. Find warm gear for the kid/s for the bike.  You are working up there and stay a bit warmer in the winter, but they will need an extra layer in back.  My kids like fleece balaclavas under their helmets.
  7. In the summer, don't forget sunscreen!
  8. The trail goes so many useful places.  Google Maps has a bike icon you can click on to give you biking directions to places and makes use of the trail.  It takes longer but the isolation from cars is really nice.
  9. Map your route in advance.  Pay attention so you don't need to check your phone when you are traveling.
  10. On the weekends, the trail is PACKED.  If you actually want to get somewhere quickly, try another route.  Otherwise you will be constantly ringing your bell.  Though this could be a good job for the kids in back if I would get them their own bells back there.
  11. Consider biking instead of the car. It is often just as quick, or only a few extra minutes, especially once you and the kids have a routine established.
  12. When the kids are little, find a way for them to have a lovey (or similar object) accessible.
  13. When they are older, it is surprisingly easy to drag a kids' bike behind an adult bike.  Doing this lets the kid hop on and off your bike and his bike as he gets tired (aka meltdown avoidance).  
  14. Don't forget to bring a lock (and an extra cable if you have kids' bikes or a trailer with you).  Then you can stop if you want to explore somewhere.
  15. My kids like to hop off and walk sometimes and I can walk the bike.  I love giving them the exercise and getting them used to moving their bodies in a useful way (in addition to the fresh air!).
  16. LAYERS.  This is a bit of an obvious one for California, but sometimes a bike excursion takes a while (especially if you let it turn into an adventure), so it's always nice to keep the kids comfortable.
  17. Always keep a bike light on hand.  This is in case it gets dark when you are out.
  18. Likewise, I always keep a minimal first aid kit and baby carrier on my bike (a pouch sling for my toddler- I have had it in there since he was a baby- just in case we get stranded and need to walk home).  I also keep an allen wrench, tissues, and a packet of almonds.

My little one likes to fall asleep when we bike to pick up his brother from school.  Yes, that's a pillow in his lap.

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