As it turns out, bikes are great parenting tools. Abbie Donoghue, Bike New York intern extraordinaire, spoke to three moms who bike with their families in NYC—and all agree that biking is an efficient way to get around town, gives kids a unique vantage point of their city, and is a whole lot of fun.
Megan Roberts lives in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn with her husband, Mark, and two sons, Ryan and Drew, where they bike around as a family on a vintage purple Schwinn tandem.
Abbie Donoghue: What’s the story behind this bike?
Megan Roberts: The tandem belonged to my Mark’s grandmother. When our first son, who is now 3, was old enough to be on a bike seat, we put him on the bike, on the front. We had our second kid, Drew, who’s now 18 months old, and thought, how are we going to do this? We put another seat behind me so now we can bike around as a family.
AD: Does biking add another dimension to your family activities?
MR: 100%. You’re always looking for fun things to do with the kids and ways to expand their horizons. It gives them a way to experience the city in a different way and also allows us to get to cool places a lot faster, which, with kids, is super important.
“It gives them a way to experience the city in a different way and also allows us to get to cool places a lot faster.”
AD: What are your favorite places to ride?
MR: We go to the Prospect Park Zoo a lot, lots of parks, and it’s so easy to go down to the Brooklyn waterfront. There’s a bunch of really cool art installations and the kids love it.
AD: What’s your advice to families thinking about getting out on the bike together?
MR: Do a little bit at a time. Get out on rentals or a CitiBike—it’s a good way to dip your feet in the water. Hopefully you’ll get the bug. New York is also lucky: In all of the different boroughs, there are great, knowledgeable people. Our favorite bike shop is 718 Cyclery.
AD: Tell me about your TD Five Boro Bike Tour experience.
MR: It was right after we got engaged. It was such a fun way to experience the city together. We rode the tandem, which doesn’t have gears. The Verrazano Bridge was a bit of a challenge! We are close to doing a chunk of the Tour with the kids.
Marixsa Rodriguez puts the “Mama” in the parenting blog Mama Boricua en Brooklyn and lives with her husband Francisco and two kids, Taína and Tenoch, in East Flatbush, Brooklyn. Here, she talks about how commuting by bike can be easier than taking the train or bus, how to make bike errands fun, and how biking can help kids get to know their city.
Abbie Donoghue: Tell me about you, your family, and how you started biking together.
Marixsa Rodriguez: I used to commute to work before having children. Three summers ago, I decided to buy my bike and trailer. That summer we were living in Bed-Stuy and my son was in camp in Clinton Hill, and transportation was easier with a bike than taking the train or a bus. It surprised me. I was able to enjoy riding with them and we were able to do more in less time. Cycling gives you control of your transportation.
AD: How do you plan rides with your kids?
MR: I always check Google Maps and a bike map. I want to make sure I know the route and that I’m going to have bike lanes, or be on local streets that I feel safe on.
AD: Has it helped your family explore different parts of the city?
MR: Yes, definitely. My husband got a bike as well and we started doing long weekends trips to the beach and Coney Island. It was more convenient for the whole family to go by bicycle and carry our things in the trailer.
“It was more convenient for the whole family to go by bicycle and carry our things in the trailer.”
AD: Do your kids enjoy it?
MR: They like it because they know we are going to go somewhere fun. I try to combine fun with errands and just getting around. We’ll ride to the farmers market in Prospect Park and go to the playground before I pick up groceries.
AD: Advice to new families? How did you get your start?
MR: It’s so important to take it slow in the beginning. I did my first trip on a hot July day and I got dehydrated and had to stop. It’s perfect though—exercise for you and a way to take the kids to new places and have fun!
For Andree Sanders, otherwise known as the “Bike Whisperer”, cycling has truly become a family affair. Sanders, Executive Director of Trips For Kids, lives on the Upper West Side with her family of four. Here, she talks about how riding keeps her family close, and how it can do the same for yours.
AD: Tell me a bit about your involvement with Trips for Kids.
AS: Trips for Kids is a non-profit that teaches mountain biking to urban youth. I fell in love with teaching these kids. It’s sort of this vision of “how do you better your life through biking?” I’ve been the director for 10 years now and have taught over 1,000 kids how to mountain bike.
AD: How does your family play a role at Trips for Kids?
AS: The family works as a unit for Trips for Kids. Because I run it, that means my husband is chief schlepper. He’s also on the board, and both of my children, Campbell, 16, and Louisa, 9, are key volunteers. I didn’t realize until recently that it’s really empowering for both of the kids.
We also started the first New York City mountain bike team for middle school and high school students. Campbell races on the team and next year Louisa will as well.
“Families that bike together and build a passion together, stay close.”
AD: How has riding together and working together at Trips for Kids impacted your family?
AS: Families that bike together and build a passion together stay close. And in this day and age, I think it’s really important to have that shared passion. Campbell is 16 and we are still so close. We still go biking every weekend.
AD: What advice would you give to families just starting out:
AS: Start with shorter trips. Make it fun for the kids. Because if the kids enjoy it, you can expand and expand. We would have these great adventures around New York City. We would pack a picnic and go playground hopping.
For the parents in the beginning, it’s not as much fun. It’s kind of hard, but it’s so fabulous because it’s ultimately all about your kids, and keeping that bond—having that shared experience.
Get your family in on the fun with our Family Cycling 101 class! This is a free evening presentation and discussion for parents/guardians who want to learn how to ride with children. Topics covered include equipment and gear, bike safety, carriers and trailers, kid-friendly bike routes, what to pack, and more.
Want your kids to experience the joys of biking? Check out our After School program! This free program for after-school groups teaches students the mechanics of riding a bike, the rules of the road, best practices for riding in a group and on the streets, and–of course–the joy and freedom of riding. To bring this program to your school, talk to administrators and ask about requesting a session.