ABOUT | BLOG | PRESS | CONTACT888-450-0123Items: 0

Dad, Let’s Hit the Road.

Kids & BikesKids & BikesKids & BikesKids & BikesKids & BikesKids & BikesKids & Bikes

Put yourself in the position of a young child. You are given the choice of how to get to school, or to the store, with one of your parents on any given day. Do you want to go:

  • Buckled up or strapped down in the rear seat of a car with a view of the back of a seat and someone’s head? or
  • Sitting in front of a bicycle cart with the wind blowing in your face, fresh air, and a 360-degree view of the world with your parent behind, at the helm

This would be an easy choice for most kids. It would be like asking a dog if he would rather have his car window rolled up or down. But kids and dogs do not get to make these decisions on their own. Parents decide these things, based mostly on convenience, safety, or on fear. And thus we have major differences in various countries and cultures.

One of the most visible differences between US cities and cities like Copenhagen and Amsterdam is that kids and parents are both highly visible on the streets in those foreign cities. They are everywhere omnipresent. I saw so many young parents with children on the streets on bikes that I actually asked one mother if the birth rate was especially high in Denmark. She laughed and replied: “No, our birth rate is actually one of the lowest in Europe. But the government makes it so easy for us to take our kids out on trips that you just see more of us in Public.”

Almost 50% of young children get around Copenhagen on bikes with their parents. It looked like these percentages were higher in Amsterdam. One in four parents in Copenhagen have a specially designed bicycle rig – cycle carts – for hauling their kids around town and are given special bike storage spaces on their neighborhood streets.

I have to believe that this bodes well for a child’s development. What is the lifetime value of experiencing the world from the front of a bike versus the rear seat of a car in early youth? What is it worth to learn to approach the world with a sense of adventure instead of fear? From where do we get our sense of confidence, independence and social connection? How cool is it to spend time with your parents doing something physical and fun everyday?

These thoughts were on mind as I watched so many parents pedaling their kids around the city. My Mom did not pedal me around in Pasadena where I grew up – we rode bikes ourselves, but I do remember how cool it was when my Mom got a convertible car. What is the value of fresh air and wind alone?

I cannot advocate the Amsterdam/Copenhagen bike mode for parents in many US cities that are not very bike family-friendly at this time. But I wish I could. What would it take to make more of those Danish kidmobiles common on our streets? It will take governmental policy, community leadership, courageous smart Mayors, separated lanes for bicycles, and a lot more people riding and having fun on their bikes. Let’s get there.

- Rob Forbes

Photos taken in Amsterdam and Copenhagen


Kids & BikesKids & BikesKids & BikesKids & BikesKids & BikesKids & Bikes

Tags: , , , ,

7 Responses to “Dad, Let’s Hit the Road.”

  1. patrick Says:

    hi rob, check out http://boxcycles.com... part of what it will take to get Danish kidmobiles on our streets. my family has owned one of these bikes for six years and pushed our daughter around in it for two of those years. also see http://totcycle.com

    I don’t think it’s irresponsible to advocate for pedal-powered parenting in the US at this time. In fact I think the time is now… or you’ve got to start somewhere… or something like that.

    all best to you


  2. Ian Says:

    These are Dutch bikes. They are sold in the US and are appropriate for our more bike-friendly cities and neighborhoods. I would be perfectly comfortable putting the kids in one of these machines for a short jaunt (with a helmet). It’s clearly a different machine than Public, but may be worthy of a partnership! http://www.defietsfabriek-usa.com/

  3. Laura Says:

    I noticed they don’t have a hard hat. I wonder if its so safe to bike that they don’t need the hard hat.

  4. Julian Says:

    I’m with Patrick … the time is now. You can find tamer-traffic routes in many US cities and neighborhoods, and the safety concern is complex, but there’s an interplay between subjective and objective safety. As we see more and more families going by bike, the feeling of subjective safety increases, more join them, and objective safety tends to increase as well. Families on bikes are an indicator species for healthy neighborhoods.

    For a slideshow of people cycling a la familia right here on the West Coast, see this:

  5. sara Says:

    It’s happening. Little by little but it IS happening here in the States.
    Three kids and we are a bike commuting family in a U.S. city (New Haven, CT). We loved, loved our Dutch-built bakfiets and now as our boys have grown, we have moved into long-tailed cargo bikes: an Xtracycle Radish and a Yuba Mundo.
    Yes, we do need much advocacy to make my city (& likely many others) truly bike friendly but the more families that ride, the safer it is for all.

  6. Bibi Says:

    Being from the Netherlands and living in the States this is a very welcome Blog. Thank you Rob Forbes.
    To Laura, everyone in the Netherlands learns to ride a bike at a early age. Bicycles are part of the daily life and part of the traffic. Nowadays little kids wear sometimes helmets when they are learning how to ride their bicycle also people on (faster) road bikes wear helmets. In primary school you have to do an exam riding your bike through town and a written test about traffic rules etc. All city bike must have lights (white in front and red rear). Riding without light can result in a ticket if police sees you. Cars and bicycles have the same rules and everyone knows. Where I live Louisiana, it seems that cars don’t respect the rights of a bicycle, it almost seems they hate bicycles. Here I wear my helmet because I don’t trust the cars sharing the road with me.
    A bicycle is a mean of transportation, like walking. Also a difference is that not all people have a car like they have in the US. There ‘re also no schoolbuses except for disabled kids. There are regular busses though , but with a bicycle it takes less time in the cities to go somewhere, also you are able to take your bike in the train on some trajects. My mom brought me to school and activities, so did I with my own kids, I never had something happening to us and I never felt unsafe. At 6 years they would ride with their own bike to school, first accompanied by me, later by them self. Imagen how they felt when we first moved to America and they12yrs and 14yrs) had to take the bus and had to depend on me for rides to friends etc. They lost their independence because it was not safe to ride their bike! Another thing; In the Netherlands you have to be 18 to get you drivers licence. The lessons (are manditory), test and licence are pretty expensive. The whole country is also very dense populated so traffic is very busy. Also driving a car for short hops is considered very environmental unconscious.
    Ok, I mad my point. sorry for the lenghty rambling, but this is something that lays close to my heart.
    Thanks again Rob.
    Great pictures by the way!

  7. From the Public Bikes Blog – Dad, Let’s Hit the Road. | tea collection blog Says:

    [...] The Public Blog» Blog Archive » Dad, Let’s Hit the Road.. [...]

Terms of Use | Privacy Policy   Copyright 2010 Public Bikes, Inc.