It’s been a while since I had the sensation of wind blowing on my cheeks as I pedal down our street.  Tess was quite young last summer, and demanding feeding schedules meant that I only had a chance to hop on my beautiful road bike once or twice.  And I spent the year prior to that pregnant and, on doctor’s advice, far away from cycling.

So as warmer weather approaches and Tess’ first birthday draws near I have been pondering how I might take Tess along for the ride.  After carefully considering the pros and cons associated with trailers and bike mounted seats, I’ve decided on front mounted bike seat.  Though I understand that many advocate the safety and stability of trailers, I feel more comfortable having Tess up front with me and away from exhaust fumes.  Plus having Tess up front seems more fun: she can see what’s going on and we can chat all the way home.  After a little research on front mounted seats I’ve decided to go with the iBert safe T seat.

As I wait for the seat to arrive in the mail I figured I’d better get to work on finding a helmet that is small enough for Tess.  After a few trips to Canadian Tire and other big box stores I’ve decided to shell out the extra money and play it safe by having her properly fitted at our local bike shop.  We’re headed there this afternoon and I’m hoping a solid nap, some fun finger foods and her favourite toys will help her endure thirty minutes of helmet fittings.

Once the seat arrives and Tess has a helmet I’ll go for a pre-season tune up and we should be ready to hit the road.  But despite my diligence and careful attention to safety, I am dismayed by judgment from those who feel young children are better off traveling in cars.  When I read reviews about seats and helmets, the sites are laced with opinions from scornful parents who have gone out of their way to share their disapproval of a lifestyle based on cycling with your kids.

I am struck by the controversy surrounding an issue as seemingly harmless as sharing a bike ride with your child.  Granted, I understand that children should be old enough to sit up and strong enough to support a helmet (which is why I have waited this long to introduce Tess to cycling) but beyond that the issue boils down to an argument that cyclists have been struggling with since the advent of the Model T Ford: bikes don’t belong because roads are built exclusively for cars.

Unless you are fortunate enough to live in bike-friendly communities like Copenhagen or Seattle, you may identify with tell-tale signs of bike hostility.  A motorist honking at a cyclist despite his strict adherence to the rules of the road.  Lack of suitable bicycle parking at markets, recreational venues and other hot spots.  Families packing up their cars and driving 30 minutes so they can go for a safe bike ride together in a designated area alienated from their local community.

Cyclists everywhere are starting to take a stand.  Campaigns like Share the Road and Car Free Days are raising awareness that cycling is a viable form of transportation that needs to be accommodated within our communities.  Many employers are recognizing the economic and environmental benefits of alternative commuting by participating in programs like the Commuter Challenge.  Cyclists are asserting the right to bike without ostracism.  And because cyclists have families, this stance necessarily includes the right to bike with your kids.

I am well aware of the risks involved in taking Tess on a bike ride and will do everything within my power to prepare for and avoid dangerous situations.  However, I am also aware of the risks involved in confining her to a car seat when we could be enjoying fresh air and outdoor adventures together.  Childhood obesity, juvenile diabetes and other consequences of sedentary lifestyles are dangers that seem far more prevalent in our society than serious spills on bikes.  And by teaching Tess the rules of the road at an early age I will be far more comfortable when the time comes for her to venture out on two wheels on her own.

Maybe our neighbourhoods aren’t the best places for bikes.  But unless we get out and start pedaling cars will never learn to move aside.

I thought I would share a video I found on Totcycle produced by the folks at peopleforbikes.org.  It is sure to inspire you to drag your old wheels out of storage, dust off that helmet and pump those tires.  Enjoy!

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