BWK- Dana bikes with Quinn and (soon!) Daphne

Our first contributor to “Biking with Kidlets” is Dana DeMaster.  She is a married mom with two kids: Quinn age 3.5, and Daphne age 5 months.  Quinn rides a Strider and is learning to ride his Trek Jet 16.  Dana rides Euterpe, a Trek 520 touring, Circe, a Masi Speciale Commuter, Green Betty, a 1952 Schwinn Corvette, and soon she’ll be adding a Babboe City Bike to the fleet! They have two trailers – a beat up old Burley and a Schwinn. They live in the Hamline-Midway neighborhood of St. Paul.

Dana has experience biking with Quinn in a trailer, including riding in the winter, biking with cargo in utero, and will soon start Daphne in the trailer and their new cargo bike.  Read what Dana has to say about time management, safety, and how “both mothers and bicyclists are expert creative and flexible problem solvers.”  (YES!)  She would like to hear from other parents about how they bike with their families, especially parents with older children and single mothers.  After you’ve read her post, if you have questions for Dana or if you have ideas for another topic for “Biking with Kidlets,” please post in the comments section below.

April 2009. Quinn's First Bike Ride, 6 months old.

When people ask me about biking with children they always have the same concerns. What about safety? Am I not afraid of traffic? What about cold/hot/rainy weather? My kid didn’t like the trailer; how did you get Quinn to go for it? While these are considerations, they are not what I would tell bike-curious mamas about. The biggest obstacle to biking with children is time, but the greatest solutions to that problem are something that both mothers and bicyclists have to have – flexibility and creative problem solving.

This has been said before and, at the risk of sounding paternalistic, no one can even fathom what it is like to have children until you have them. Seriously. I had lots of opinions about parenting and then I became a parent and I realized it is a lot more complicated. One of the many things I couldn’t comprehend is how time is different. Running errands between naps. Getting to day care before work with a child that needs time to transition. Motivating a person with no sense of time to fit into a busy schedule. Dressing another person who inevitably requires a diaper change after winter boots, hats, coat, and so on and the bike and trailer are ready to go. Everything just takes longer and there is more to do.

Biking takes longer than driving. I know there are times in downtown during rush hour where I am faster on my bike, but the reality is that driving is easier and faster a lot of the time. There is a reason people like to drive. Sometimes the logistics of biking from work, to the co-op with a stop at Target, to day care and home before day care closes or Quinn is tired and hungry seems impossible. Time is the single biggest obstacle for me – not safety, not equipment, not weather. The time to do all that needs to be done and still do it without driving.

There is a great solution, however. Whether you are a bicyclist that later became a mother or a mother that became a bicyclist, both mothers and bicyclists are expert creative and flexible problem solvers. Bike lane ends in heavy traffic? No place to park or shower at work? Route under construction and there are no safe detours? We all know how to overcome these problems. Mothers know that children mean constant change. Once you have one thing figured out, they change and require a new way of approaching things as mundane as sleeping and eating. There is no manual and every child is different.

We have adapted by running errands as seldom as possible and doing it in a single trip. I know some people who shop for something every day. This just isn’t possible for us (nor do I think, desirable). We purposely live in a neighborhood where we are close to the things we need and our employers. We are fortunate to have a day care that is half a mile away and is loving, safe, fun, and affordable. We mix biking with walking, public transportation, and driving.

For example, the winter before last it was difficult to get a trailer through the snow and biking was really slow so we had a hard time with the timing of day care drop offs and work (day care opens at 7:30 and I had to be at work no later than 8:15). I was also concerned that the huge snow banks were bad for visibility. Car drivers aren’t expecting a bike in January, let alone a bike with a trailer! Our solution: I drove Q to day care with my bike on the rack, left the car at day care, and then busted my butt to bike to work in less than 30 minutes. My husband biked from work to day care, put his bike on the rack, and drove home.

My solutions work for us, but every family is different. I would be curious to hear from mothers with older children and single moms. Things are getting more complicated with two children and with their changing needs. I’m thinking about how we will get Q to his day camp this summer and then to day care. We want to sign him up for martial arts this coming year and we’re adding more destinations with no more time. My husband is underemployed and the only job openings are in Red Wing, Hudson, and Stillwater. How does a job 60 miles away fit into all this? How do you do it? What are your creative solutions to the parenting time crunch?


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