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Kathleen Wilker shares how her family adds bikes to their everyday routine.
Names: Kathleen Wilker and Derek Heffernan
Occupation: Kathleen Wilker is a Transportation Demand Management Program Coordinator at EnviroCentre and Freelance Writer
Children: Anna Sierra, age 10 and Jasper, age 7
Location: Ottawa, ON
How do you fit riding into your family’s daily life?
During the winter, we parents bike to work and we walk many places around our neighborhood with the kids. But during the rest of the year, we love to ride together. If we’re riding on streets with traffic, we make kid sandwiches with parents acting as the bread on either end. But as soon as we reach the pathways, the kids take the lead.
What is your favorite place to go by bike with your family?
We love going to the local farmers’ market in the fall and seeing how many apples we can fit in our panniers.
What is your favorite piece of gear for riding with a family?
Hands down, it’s my longtail Kona Ute. That bike allows me take the kids lots of places they wouldn’t be able to ride on their own. Whether it’s streets with traffic or riding home from a friend’s after dark, we love that there’s room on my bike for a kid.
Sometimes when I bike with my son on the longtail and we come to a stop light, he asks to hold hands. Biking with your kids is full of tender, magical moments just like that.
What challenge have you overcome in adapting to riding as a family?
About a year ago, when we were crawling up a hill not far from our house, I thought the kids were too heavy for me to carry them both on the longtail. We eventually rearranged how they were sitting, so that our daughter (who’s heavier) sat next to me and our son sat behind her. By keeping our weight closer to the center of the bike, we were able to ride together again. Sometimes there’s a lot of pressure for kids to ride their own bikes instead of riding on a parent’s bike. I love the freedom and independence my kids enjoy on their own bikes, but it’s very helpful for us to have passenger options.
What one piece of advice would you give other families who are thinking about trying to ride with their children?
You will need to adapt your system as your family grows. And investing in a good quality lightweight kids’ bike at 16″, 20″, and 24″ will help you grow a young rider who feels strong, confident, and capable.