08 January 2019

Biking with Tiny Kids

This post is for parents with babies around one year old that are trying to figure out how to bring their precious cargo along for the ride. Obviously, this is just what worked for me and what I was willing to do. Consider your skill level, equipment, road conditions, etc., before attempting any of this at your own risk. In Tacoma, we also have a helmet law that applies to all riders, so you may have to deal with that in your area, too.

I've personally had success with two methods when my kids were tiny. The key was neck strength: kids need to be strong enough to hold their head up firmly when helmeted in order to handle the acceleration/braking force. Keep in mind that the helmet makes their head more top-heavy, so this is a bit different than kids riding without a helmet in a jogger stroller.

My Kid #2 was a slow grower and, early on, couldn't keep her head up comfortably with the helmet in the bike trailer. When she was about 11 months old, I would put her carrier carseat in the bike trailer facing forward. I lap-buckled the carseat in the trailer (Burley d'Lite) and left the carrier handle up like a roll bar. She was then buckled into the 5 point carseat harness as usual and did not wear a helmet. This was good for slow riding (maybe 10mph) with gentle acceleration and braking (barely faster than a jogger stroller). She would often fall asleep and I could slow pedal the neighborhood for an hour on quiet streets. Some additional visuals here.

My Kid #3 was small but very strong. He started riding in a Yepp Mini stem-mounted kid seat at age 8 months, with a helmet. It was awesome: he was perched right in front of me and could see what I could see. I could see him point at things and tell him what they were called. I think this led to him speaking well at an early age. The downside is that those seats are hard to get fitted properly so that the parent rider isn't pedaling knees-out to avoid hitting the seat. They don't fit perfectly on every bike. I purchased my Yepp seat (and a larger one later on) from G & O Family Cyclery in Seattle, which is the go-to place to find a wide assortment of family bikes in the greater Tacoma area. Here is my son on one of his first rides. That Lazer helmet was the smallest I could find and he still needed the hat to make it snug.

There are also cargobikes/boxbikes with boxes or buckets on the front or back that are perfect for carrying small kids or carrier carseats. We had a Madsen "bucket bike" when Kid #2 was 14 months and she sat in it with a lap buckle and helmet, along with her 3yo sis and 3yo cousin. I've seen other parents buckle carseats into the bucket and still have room for another small kid or groceries.

This is certainly not an all-inclusive post, just a summary of my experience with my own children. The one thing I will add pertains to the upfront cost of family bikes, trailers, kid seats, etc. Most of the name-brand gear holds up well and retains its value over time. The bucket bike was a about $1200 new, and we used it 5 days a week for 2 years, then sold it for $600. That was an excellent value to me (both physically, mentally, emotionally!) and just part of our transportation budget during that time.

24 September 2018

Mile after Mile at Swan Creek Park

What a day at Swan Creek Park! We rolled in at sun-up to setup for Century Swan, an attempt at 100 one-mile laps on the paved roads of the Lister Uplands. About ten riders set off around 8:30am. Not all of us we're aiming for 100, but we all needed an early start.

It was pretty cool. There were riders on road bikes, city bikes, kid bikes, mountain bikes, and even one fixed gear bike. One friend came out to take photos and others brought kids and dogs to just hang-out and cheer us on. With the support tent fully stocked, we rolled on into the afternoon with plenty of breaks.

The miles started taking their toll around 2pm. Some folks had reached their goals, some were adding a few bonus miles, and others were trying to dig deep to find a second wind. We were still smiling though! At lap 54, I hooked up the trailer and took my kindergartner for a few slow laps and somehow that helped get my legs ready for another 10 laps on my own.

By 4pm the little kids had all gone home, our fixed gear rider finally threw in the towel at lap 81, and only one person could still pull off the century. Jeremy rode the last two laps on his own and completed the first ever Century Swan! 

It was rad. We each set our own goal, we each set our own pace, but we all still rode together on this tiny course. 

Here are some take-aways:
  1. If you bring a pop-up tent, it's officially a major event.
  2. Daniel can carry that pop-up tent on his road bike handlebars.
  3. Invite everyone.
  4. Figure out who you didn't invite so you can invite them next time.
  5. There will be another Century Swan!

06 August 2018

Century Swan

You all want to ride bikes on Sunday September 23rd? I found a one mile paved loop at Swan Creek Park and I'm going to attempt 100 laps. It's nearly flat, closed to cars, and mostly wooded - the perfect Century Swan! I'll be there at 8am by the pump track with a pop-up tent, chairs, water, tools, tubes, snacks, and hopefully a bunch of you to share the day with. Ride as much or as little as you want - it's not a race - just a reason to show Swan Creek Park some extra love. 

Some Details
Swan Creek Park is the second largest in Tacoma. It's enormous. There was a housing project here in the 1940s, which was razed in the 1950s. The roads remain and the housing blocks are filled with trees. Mountain bike trails have been built in recent years, but the roads are great for folks trying to put in some saddle time without getting too far from their home in Tacoma.

One perimeter lap of the purple area shown above is a nearly perfect mile and there's only 25 feet of elevation gain/drop per lap. There's just enough downhill to coast a bit and just enough uphill that you may want to shift once or twice. 

The best part is that, for now, the park is closed to motorized vehicle traffic. For folks who are new to cycling, especially families that want their youngsters to work on handling and learning some Rules of the Road, this space is perfect.

Access to the park is somewhat limited. You can enter around a gate by the Lister Elementary parking lot or from a paved path at the Swan Creek Community Garden parking lot (porta-potty at this entrance also). The dot on the map above is by the pump track and the mtb trailhead (also a porta-potty location.) You can also reach Swan Creek Park on Pierce Transit Route 41.

Leave a comment if you think you can join me!

17 November 2017

It's Time to Fund and Implement our Safe Routes to School Plan: An Open Letter to the Tacoma City Council

[I emailed this letter on 17 November, 2017, but felt it was worth sharing publicly here. To find out more about how you can advocate for better Safe Routes to School programming in Tacoma, visit Puyallup Watershed Initiative's website. -Matt]

Subject: Please support funding for a full-time Safe Routes to School Coordinator

Dear Mayor Strickland, Tacoma City Council, and City Manager Pauli,

My family and I request that you please fund a full-time Safe Routes to School Coordinator position in 2018 as part of the mid-biennium budget process. 

As a parent of three children, I've been walking and biking to our neighborhood schools, Grant Elementary and Jason Lee Middle School, nearly every day for 8 years. We prefer using active transportation for our school commute for many reasons: fun, exercise, fresh air, less pollution, and the chance meet and know the neighbors in our community. However, even as some of the the fortunate few in Tacoma who don't leave our neighborhood, we still struggle daily with traffic dangers around the schools. 

As a ride leader for Kidical Mass Tacoma, I have coached kids and their families on bike safety and the Rules of the Road. Our public family bike rides have happened all over Tacoma, including many areas that are underserved by bicycle infrastructure. By using school playgrounds as stopping points on our rides, I've noticed the safety challenges that many Tacoma children face when walking or biking to school. I've also talked to many parents who want to walk and bike to school with their children, but don't feel it's safe. Their concerns are valid: there is a child hit by a car every eight days in the City of Tacoma while walking or biking, with crashes concentrated in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color.

Over the past two years, the community came together with the City of Tacoma, Tacoma Public Schools, the Puyallup Watershed Initiative Active Transportation COI, and countless partners, to develop the Safe Routes to School Action Plan, outlining what’s needed to address this safety crisis.

The top recommendation in the plan is for the City of Tacoma to fund and hire a full-time Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Coordinator. Without this position, there will be no one to work with the community to identify where safety improvements are needed, develop and distribute maps highlighting safe walking and bicycling routes to schools, support parents and school staff to organize SRTS programs and events, or implement the other action items outlined in the plan.

Again, on behalf of my family and the many pedal parents I have met through Kidical Mass Tacoma, please fund the Safe Routes to School Coordinator position so students and their families can get the resources and support they need and deserve.

With sincere thanks,

Matt Newport
Ride Leader/Pedal Parent
Kidical Mass Tacoma

Bike Rodeo Skills Course sponsored by Grant PTA

We should not need to depend on signs like this one. 

Even middle schoolers can enjoy riding to school!

5th graders at Grant can volunteer as crossing guards.

SRTS events can boost active transportation involvement and reduce car traffic

The City of Tacoma did include the funding necessary for the SRTS Coordinator in the proposed adjusted mid-biennium budget. Below is a screen shot of the presentation slide shown at the Nov. 28, 2017, City Council meeting.

24 January 2017

You'll Bike Tacoma Patches

In case you missed out last time, I ordered more You'll Bike Tacoma patches. 

Second verse, same as the first: 1"x4" iron-on, glow-in-the dark letters, made by Falls Creek Outfitters in the USA, five dollars each. Proceeds will go to local charities that help kids. Stop me on the sidewalk or drop me a line if you need this.

Thanks again to Joe Korbuszewski for collaborating!

#Cascadia #Bike253