The Art of Scheduling the Bicycle Family

Melissa Bruntlett reflects on the patience and planning that was needed to manage a busy family’s schedules by bike.

Life with children is rewarding and it is also filled with activities from a very early age. Since our eldest was just one month old, I have been traveling from program to play date and everything in between. Skip ahead another four years, and add another child, and our family went car-free making getting from point A to B suddenly a bit trickier. My husband and I realized that we would have to think about what programs were important for our children, and how to make it work with our schedules. It took patience and planning but we have found a solution that works for our cycling family.

Location, Location, Location – Location has been very important when it comes to scheduling our children’s activities. Everything we choose, from sports to dance and art classes, all have to be a bikeable distance from our home with a safe route to get there. We also have our routes to and from work in mind. For example, dance class is the midway point between my daughter’s school and my son’s day care, and music class is on the bikeway my husband takes home from work, making pick up after work easy. Similar programs may be available further away from home, but because our time as a family is so precious, often we will stick to something closer to home.

Timing is Everything – As important as location is for scheduling our lives as a biking family, it only works with good timing. My son participates in a youth soccer league each spring, involving weekday practices and weekend games. On top of that, my husband helps to coach the team. In order for this to work, timing had to be almost perfect. Practices are held just after dinner at a park near our home, giving my husband enough time to pick up our son on his way home from work, have a proper dinner, and then head out again without feeling rushed. Programs beginning too soon after school, or too early on the weekends are generally passed up for others starting later or closer to home. We live in a world constantly rushing from one place to another, and by managing the location and timing of each activity, we allow ourselves some time to breathe.

Find Their Passion – Finally, but almost most importantly, choosing which programs to enroll your children in only matters if your children are passionate about them. Kids can be fickle and their interests will change. What we have found helps us get around with ease is figuring out what our kids really want to do. Otherwise, getting them on their bikes and pedaling from one program to the next would be a struggle. Forcing them to participate in activities they do not enjoy can lead to frustration and anger for everyone, feeling like everyone is wasting time. We have made a rule in our house – the kids will only be in two programs maximum, and they have to really want to do it. For our daughter, that means weekly dance classes for almost six years. Our son, still finding his passion, it has meant recognizing when he has lost interest and moving on without being disappointed in the lack of progress.

Scheduling our lives is not easy, and it only gets harder once you add children to the mix. It is important to understand our limitations and work with them, regardless of our means of getting from point A to B. For families that get around by bike, distances between activities may be limited, and timing may not always work in our favor, but it is achievable with a little patience and planning. Find a routine that makes everyone happy and keeps children in activities that enrich their lives and foster growth and passion for their future.


  • Liz

    I agree, location is everything, and you do have to be choosy. However, ultimately biking has made my children much more independent. When they became street-worthy, they realized pretty quickly that they didn’t need mom to get around anymore, and anything within 2-3 miles is pretty much fair game. My oldest bikes 7 miles each way to school every day, and likes to explore further away (20 miles or so). As long as he has a parent-approved game plan for how to get himself home in the event of a bicycle malfunction that far away (it has happened), he is good to go.

  • Robert Johnson

    Good article! Accurately represents exactly what we are doing with a 6 yr in Kindergarten and a 4 yr old finishing at pre-school in Nashville, TN, USA.

  • Ellen Thomas

    Our kids are now 18 and almost 20. We are car-lite, rather than car-free, and made changes gradually, from a 2 car family when they were in preschool, to now 4 drivers and one car which is often parked in the garage (our oldest is away at college, car-free, much of the year). One thing we found we had to accept was that our kids couldn’t do every single thing, and we also had to be very thoughtful about what was important to us. Although this meant missing some things that felt disappointing at the time, in fact, it became a very helpful way to decide how much was enough. Was it worth another bike trip to do a particular activity? In today’s world of over-scheduled children, this helped us slow down a bit. And even when we did decide to use the car for an activity, we were glad it was the closer dance studio or Boy Scout troop or whatever. Thanks for sharing what you have learned!

  • Scott Jenkins

    How old were your kids when you started biking with them and what did you use to haul them around safely? My wife and I are about to have a baby and will need to be able to find a safe way to get around with our baby as early as possible and safe.

    • Melissa

      I started biking with our youngest when he was about 9 months old. We had a trailer system for him, and out daughter we had been hauling since she was about a year but less frequent. Knowing what I know now, while the trailer worked well for us, I would recommend researching cargo bikes. You child will be safely up front and as they grow the space won’t get too small for them as quickly as a trailer. As for age, so long as you secure their head from flopping you can start riding with them at any age!

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