Even in Portland, riding with infants and small children on your bike often elicits stares, questions, and comments.
At what age can we start biking with our baby? Which bike set-ups work best for toddlers? Is it better to use a tag-along or encourage kids to ride their own bike? These are just some of the myriad questions anyone who bikes with kids is used to getting. Now there’s a helpful guide from the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) that aims to answer those questions.
Portland’s Family Biking Guide (PDF) is a new, 16-page booklet created by PBOT’s Active Transportation Division. The new guide will be distributed through the city’s “SmartTrips Welcome” marketing program that targets new residents and encourages them to bike, walk, and take transit.
According to PBOT’s Active Transportation Division Manager Linda Ginenthal, the new guide fills a gap in the city’s available suite of bicycling information. “We have a tremendous amount of bike information on our website and in printed materials,” she shared with us today, “but we had nothing for families.”
The guide covers all stages of biking with kids; from riding while pregnant and taking babies along, to biking to school. It even offers advice on how to navigate the decisions around when to let children ride alone. Ginenthal said the tone of the guide is open and friendly. “It’s instructive, but not pointed,” she said.
When it comes to biking with babies — a topic that can set off heated discussions — the youngest age the guide mentions is nine months. That’s when infants usually have the adequate neck strength required to hold their head up in an upright seat. Before that age, the guide urges people to ask friends or look up options and advice online.
In addition to an explanation of the myriad gear options available at different ages, the guide also offers insights like this one on getting your kid to wear a helmet:
There’s also a nice endorsement of balance bikes (and from local company Islabikes no less) as the perfect first set of wheels (there’s even a smart suggestion to make your own balance bike by simply removing the pedals and lowering the seat of a standard bike):
Abra McNair, the PBOT staffer who created and wrote most of the guide, says she modeled Portland’s guide after a similar guide created by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. McNair said as the city’s Safe Routes to School program has expanded into new areas, she hears from many people how aren’t even aware of child trailers and other options. “There are a lot of people that can use either an affirmation that it’s a safe thing to do or that there are options,” she said, “And that it doesn’t have to be an expensive option like a bakfiets. You can do it by buying a trailer off Craigslist.”
For Ginenthal, the new guide is simply the city’s response to a growing demand. “A lot of people really want to do biking, walking, and transit and if they have the tools and information, and feel confident, they’re going to make that choice… Nobody wants to drive everywhere they go… It’s a huge constituency that we, as a city government, have to serve.”
— PBOT says this is just the first draft and they’re open to feedback on potential changes to the next print run. Download a PDF of the guide here.