It’s been two years since our family embarked on this biking life adventure. I’m savoring the joy, happy memories, and growth that biking has brought into our lives. I’m smiling at the photos of our first early, nervous, excited rides around town. And to my husband, I’m adding a wink and a happy jab of “I told you so!” (since he didn’t think I’d actually ride a cargo bike with kids).
Biking with my kids has been the most fun life-change that I’ve made since facing down the challenges of motherhood. Being a stay-at-home parent can magnify the challenges, and it’s easy to feel stuck. Some parents find a way to refresh themselves by carving out “me-time,” but I have found it nearly impossible to do so consistently. What I really need is a consistent way to spend time with my children in a way that refreshes me. Think of it as, ”me-time” but with the kids in tow.
Exercise, fresh air, and park visits have always provided that to some degree. But after four kids, walking to parks with a stroller and little legs is more of a drag, and loading kids into car seats is a least-favorite chore. While my older kids crave adventures on scooters or bikes, my younger kids still need to be carried.
That’s about where things stood two years ago, when I was fishing around the internet late one night, apparently feeling exactly like Emily Finch did, when she looked up “family bike” and famously found a bakfiets. When I searched how to bike with kids, BikePortland’s article on the amazing Finch mama popped up on my screen. Finch biked everywhere with her six young children. Re-reading that post today, I see how much I share in Emily’s experience, and I am filled with gratitude for BikePortland’s article on the mom who inspired me and showed me how it’s possible to bike as a family, even with many little ones. As Jonathan wrote in that piece:
A switch had flipped for Emily, and you could blame it on a bakfiets. “I was at a time in my life when something had to change,” she said, “When I saw that bike, I knew it. I said, ‘This is it. This is going to change my life.’” And it did.
Yes! That’s exactly it! Two years later, I still feel that way, every day I get on the bike. This bike has changed my life. I feel closer to my neighborhood and community. I have something I am looking forward to every day: a bike ride with my children. Or, as Emily explained to BikePortland:
Emily bikes for a simple and somewhat corny reason. It makes her happy….“I love my bike,” she insisted repeatedly during our conversation, “I really do. Because it’s changed my life. I can’t really explain it. In the end, my bike just brings me happiness.”
Yep. That’s it. It’s happy. Simple, joyful, happy.
So if you are the mama surfing the internet late at night, needing a change, and dreaming about biking with your children, or getting outside more, or spending less time in minivan prison, and you are wondering if the investment in a cargo bike is worth it: the answer is yes! I whole-heartedly encourage you to give it a try. A beautiful journey awaits. I do hope you’ll find a bike and start to ride with your children. I know it’s bold to say it, but it really might change your life. Or at least make it a little bit more fun, especially with the kids along for the ride.
Shannon, I’m so happy to have found this article. I read all of your previous ones as well. You’re exactly the kind of person/bike rider that adds richness to Bike Portland.
Not everyone in this community is super experienced at the bicycle lifestyle.
I’m 63 and and have been bike commuting for decades. Three years ago I sold my car and haven’t looked back.
Thank you for the positive words and encouragement. I’m just having so much fun. I can’t believe it’s been two years! I still often feel like a beginner. I’ve started to wonder when/if I will ever feel experienced at biking, funny as that sounds. But what a joy to learn and grow in unexpected ways. Glad to hear you are enjoying the car-free life!
Shannon, Happy Anniversary! Congrats, especially as your live load looks to be getting larger and heavier each year.
…So for year #2…is that latex, paper or X bike anniversary gift? ‘-)
Congrats and thank you for the continued inspiration. Riding my kiddo around town brings me so much joy as well.
Thank you so much for sharing your experiences biking with your family! I also am a bakfiets mama, and it has brought so much joy and freedom and connection into our family’s life. We upgraded to an Urban Arrow last year after the kids got too heavy for me to bike them around in a non e-bike, and we put 3,000 miles on it in one year.
I wish I could convince more folks to join us; the most common thing other parents tell me when I start singing the gospel of family biking is that they feel unsafe on the roads. And sadly, given our absolute lack of protected bike infrastructure, I don’t have a great answer to assuage their fears.