Sunday, March 10, 2013

A Dream Deferred

True confession: I do not own a bike. Yes, I know. There is really no excuse for not having a working bike, especially when one is living car-free. To be fair, in the DC metro area where we lived for over five years with no car, we never had a need for bikes. We always lived within a 10- to 15-minute walk of a metro station, and we could get anyplace we needed to go on foot, by bus, by metro, or some combination thereof. As struggling grad students and then struggling "aw geez, we graduated in the middle of a recession" underemployed people, we never seemed to have the money to make such a purchase. Add to those factors small apartment living, with no storage space indoors for a bike, and here we are.

However, since moving back to the Pacific time zone late last year and eyeing the brand new, adorably optimistic bike lane painted on the local main road, I have been dreaming about how easily I could get from place to place, wind in my hair, on my very own grown-up two-wheeler. It has been a while, perhaps 15 years, since I sat on a bike, but I'm hoping it will come back to me like... well, you know.

Of course, the image in my mind of riding around town happily running errands has often included my two munchkins in tow, my two-year-old in a rear bike seat and my almost-two-month-old in a trailer in her car seat. Unfortunately, after a bit of Real Actual Research, I discovered that there doesn't seem to be a way to transport a baby under 9 or 12 months safely via bicycle in this country. To begin with, they don't make helmets sized for little babies, and besides, wearing a helmet in a car seat pushes the baby's neck into an awkward position and may restrict airflow. There is always the option of skipping the helmet, but ugh, that doesn't seem right either and may be illegal. This is not the Netherlands, or even Portland or San Francisco, where I would trust motorists not to injure us.  These are the real, honest-to-goodness exurbs here, after all. The shock value of seeing humans on a human-powered machine might offer some protection from the automobiles, but I'm not going to count on it.

So, my dream of transporting both babes via bike will have to wait. In the meantime, I'll work on getting myself onto my very own bike and building up the leg muscles and confidence to carry them with me soon enough.  Spokane Bike Swap, anyone?


  1. I actually have found one company that produces a trailer with a "baby supporter" that pushes the timeline of being able to haul around a kid to 6 months. Check out the "baby supporter" on the second page of accessories on this trailer: You can also get a two-kid version of that trailer. Unfortunately, their trailers are substantially more expensive than Burley, which is the other major manufacturer.

    As our kid won't be big enough to put in any bike trailer until next spring anyway, I'm probably going to go with the Burley. I know originally I told you that I felt like they were less safe than bike seats, but I've talked to a number of people who have changed my mind.

    - Shannon

  2. Thanks for the tip, Shannon! Do you know if the trailer leaves room for a helmet on the 6-month-old? I know helmets are not the be-all and end-all of bike safety, and that there are very few instances where a helmet would help prevent injury. I know it, but I don't *feel* it.

    For myself, a relatively inexperienced cyclist, I'm realizing that I'm not sure I feel comfortable just yet with a child bike seat. A trailer has its risks as well, but I think me falling over is more likely than someone hitting us at this point, especially if we make the trailer as visible as possible. When our second is old enough, maybe I will have my bike legs and will feel more comfortable with the seat option.