This post isn't about carrying computers, groceries, speakers or projectors, all of which I have trekked across town by bike. This is about something much more valuable--my daughter.
About 5.5 years ago my husband and I bought a Topeak child bike carrier. I went back and forth between a trailer and a seat that sits on the parents rear rack. When it came down to it I decided to get the seat for two reasons, one being money. We had about $100 to spend, I had been looking for used trailers for months to no avail. Reason number two was the bus. Thankfully I had the foresight to work that into the equation. The bike with the rear seat fit nicely on the bus rack, a trailer does not.
I happened to be at REI one day and saw the Topeak seat. I had a 20% off coupon and decided to go for it. It was $125, we eventually bought an additional rear rack for my husband's bike at Fairhaven Bike and Ski for $40. We used that seat for 3 years, riding to daycare, the park, the store, and friends houses. Then one day a friend of mine said he'd sell me his Adams Trail a Bike.
I was ecstatic! I had been wanting to buy one for awhile, but couldn't afford it. The timing was perfect as Bike to Work and School Day was the following week. Izzie would often tell me how excited she was to be able to pedal with me. It wasn't all fun and games though, we lived in a second story apartment so every morning and evening I had to haul both my bike and the trail a bike up and down the stairs. It was hard work, but worth it!!
The trail a bike worked great for us, we ended up using it through this spring. Even though Izzie could ride her own bike just fine, because she went to after school day care we couldn't leave her bike at school.
One of the reasons I chose the YMCA summer camp is that the drop off location is only a few blocks from my work. I knew we'd be able to easily bike there. I was ready to take the leap and have her ride her own bike along side me to downtown Bellingham.
This is scary even for a seasoned commuter/bike advocate. She rides her bike around the neighborhood all the time, and has ridden to school, I knew she'd be fine. It would be about a 2 mile ride, partly on trails, partly with bike lanes, and one questionable spot. I planned out the route and we did it. It was great, and we ended up walking our bikes on the sidewalk for a short section
I often have parents ask me what age children can/should ride on their own bikes. Honestly the answer really depends on the kid. Parents know their kids best. How well can they handle their bikes, are they very comfortable and in control, or nervous and wobbly? Do they know the rules of the road? Some bicycle educators recommend that kids start riding on the street around age 8, others say 10. My daughter is 7 (8 in September). Depending on the street she is either on the sidewalk, with me riding to her left, in front of me, or we ride two abreast, with her to my right.
As hard as it is to see her grow up so fast, I am excited for this new phase in our bike commuting lives.