On Writing & Riding: Family Ride

Not having much familiarity with family biking (except for my own family bicycling tales growing up), I wanted to see how others made transportation cycling with kids work. Through last year’s Errandonnee I caught a glimpse into how Family Ride out in Seattle, Washington, does it.

Filled with stories that make it seem as though anyone can do transportation cycling with their kids, Family Ride has given me a front seat to seeing how family biking happens in an urban area and how it changes as kids get older. As time has passed, it’s been exciting to watch Family Ride’s children transition from spending their time on the back of the bike to riding independently. And, most exciting,  I also see the next generation of cyclists in action.

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1. If you were to write a Tweet summarizing your blog, what would it say?

Is it cheating to just steal my Twitter bio? “Promoting everyday family biking by biking every day with two small passengers.”

2. What prompted you to start your blog and why did you choose to write about bicycling?

This is kind of a silly. I missed the announcements of a couple early Seattle Kidical Mass rides. I didn’t notice the signup form until much later, but in clicking around the site, I discovered details were being shared by Julian Davies, Seattle Kidical Mass founder, via his @totcycle twitter.

All the profiles I looked at on Twitter had a URL so I mistakenly thought that was a requirement and quickly started the blog (borrowing older content from my now-defunct baby blog) so I could start a Twitter and not miss any more rides.

3. How did you come up with your blog’s name?

Nearly six years ago, when my first son turned one, we put a Bobike Mini baby seat on my husband’s beach cruiser and took our first ride. My husband declared “Family ride!” as we set off. And, more importantly, the Twitter handle was available.

4. Who are you writing for? Do you have a particular audience in mind?

I think most readers of Family Ride are either at a similar stage in family biking as I, or are interested in becoming family bikers with small children. I aim to share tips and tricks with both subsets. I’ve led some people to opt for similar set-ups having “seen” me in action, so it seems to be working.

And, of course, my dad finds it useful for keeping up on our activities, though he claims most of it is “too technical” for him to understand.

5. What aspects of bicycling do you enjoy writing about?

I love recapping family-friendly group rides–I get to describe different family biking rigs, share a local route, and showcase part of Seattle all in one post.

I also try to check out new local infrastructure as it’s added so I can share pictures and thoughts with readers. The same goes for family-friendly (or slow-/heavy-bike-friendly) routes I find around town. I figure a route that works well for me will appeal to other family bikers, those riding with bigger kids on their own bikes, new commuters, or just anyone who likes a quieter option.

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6. What are your favorite parts of being a blogger?

The family biking blogging tribe! Nowadays there are quite a few family bikers in Seattle, but it’s taken time to connect with them and virtual peers have filled the gap. We’re all eager to help and learn from one another and the collective knowledge, woes-in-common, and kinship is truly heartwarming.

7. What I like about reading your blog is that you make it seem like cycling for transportation with your kids is totally doable. What parts of Seattle’s infrastructure as well as what lifestyle choices have you made that allow transportation cycling with kids to be a reality for you?

Good! I aim to make it look doable, if not easy and FUN. As for lifestyle choices, mainly we’ve made location decisions based on where I can bike. I find the hills to be the biggest deterrent so certain neighborhoods are off limits. My husband was disappointed I wouldn’t consider the cute place he found on Queen Anne as we researched rentals and neighborhoods five years ago, but I probably would have given up on family biking had we lived atop a mountain.

Sadly, I think the most important bike-related infrastructure in Seattle is RCW 46.61.755 which allows bicyclists to ride on the sidewalk. For the most part I feel safe on the road, but there are certain areas–like uphill shoulderless roads downtown–where I slow to pedestrian speed and negotiate a couple blocks off the street. However, more and more bicycle facilities are being installed that work for, or come close to working for, all ages and abilities.

And I’ll admit I worry that I sugarcoat things. I don’t want to scare newcomers off so I don’t document all the on-bike sibling fights or my daily despair over cars running stop signs. A local mom quit her job because of me so she can ride around with her girls all day. I keep expecting her to accuse me of having led her into making a terrible mistake. Of course 95% of the ride is more fun than one can imagine so I’m 95% OK with my sugarcoating.

A lot of people assume we’re car-free (which I would love!), but we still have a car. We ditched our second car as soon as I started biking regularly four years ago, but I use the car about once a month. My husband doesn’t have a family biking rig yet so he’s stuck with the car if he wants to transport the kids somewhere out of the immediate area.

One lifestyle choice I didn’t make is a nearby dentist/orthodontist. Our dentist is 20 miles away in Issaquah and sometimes I drive, but most often it’s a bike + bus multimodal adventure. I’d love to bike alone to my own cleaning when I’m next due, but I’m not sure I could make it all the way there and back with the kids. Maybe in the summer with playground stops along the way.

8. What role do photos play in your blogging?

I primarily use photos to jazz up the adventure I’m recapping, but some posts are a little more tutorial-like and I include close-ups or various angles to illustrate a technique for carrying kid bikes on a cargo bike or creative rain-resisting tricks. And I find it important to include picturesque shots of Seattle–in the absence of world-class bicycle facilities, I try to make people jealous with our beautiful scenery and impressive public art.

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9. Was there anything about maintaining a blog that surprised you?

It can get a bit stressful! There are a lot things I need to write about that I just haven’t had the time for lately. I want to write up my thoughts on the Xtracycle EdgeRunner I borrowed for two days, our two-bikes-on-the-bus adventure, and several other things.

And I’m always surprised when someone tells me they’ve read my blog. I guess I shouldn’t be–we watch YouTube videos of people holding wooden toy trains [badly] reenacting Thomas the Train episodes that have hundreds of thousands of views.

10. Do you have any favorite posts?

This certainly isn’t my favorite post, but Box spring cargo fiasco really seems to resonate with people. It’s my white whale.

In the successful cargo-hauling department, Hauling two (and three!) bikes is a good post. Someday my kids will ride everywhere, too, but for now I often carry their bikes and when we’re somewhere safe enough, I let them loose. Carrying bikes with a bike is fun.

A great family ride I led recently was the Second Annual Thanksgiving Family Group Ride. Nothing spectacular–yet spectacularly fun all at the same time–just a bunch of families on bikes sharing a few hours of the day.

And the most fun I’ve had was in Portland for the Disaster Relief Trials last summer. A lot of it isn’t family biking, but my years of family biking prepared me to help save the world.

11. What did I forget to ask you that I should have?

Yes! “What should people interested in getting into family biking do?”

See if your city has a Kidical Mass or something similar. If there’s no program, consider starting one. There’s plenty of online support to be had while you gather your peloton. I’ve found a great community on Twitter, but there are also numerous Facebook groups, both local and global. If you’re interested in utilizing a cargo bike to meet your family biking needs, (R)Evolutions per Minute: Cargo Bikes in the US, the Facebook group supporting the Less Car More Go documentary is a terrific place–I’ve seen countless people connect with others in their areas through the group. Feel free to contact me for more ideas.

8 thoughts on “On Writing & Riding: Family Ride

  1. Really love this latest series. Great stuff, and leading me to some new blogs. Like I need to read more cycling blogs, but it’s addicting!!

    What is really cool for me is the last two featured Xtracycles! I FINALLY, after years of pondering and agonizeing over it, finally converted my Surlyized (long story) bike to an Xtracycle! I just got it last Friday. Very psyched to start living as car free as possible.

    Slight wrinkle: I did this in secret. Wife doesn’t know, as I come and go with my bikes through the back of the house, so the Xtracycle is hiding for now… My thought was best just do it, and beg forgiveness later, rather than ask for permission and be denied… 😉

    So my secret evil plan is to get the dogs set up to go for a ride in their trailer this weekend, weather permitting, then announce, “Honey, I’m ready to go!” and ask her to come out front and see us off.

    My thought is she will see dogs will be in the trailer, notice the Xtracycle right away (she has been bored with my pining over it for years, so will recognize.) I’ll have a small helmet for her, and invite her to come along. I’ve got the mini-magic carpet ride, stoker bar, and foot rests all ready to go, so off we go… hopefully!

    Did I mention our dogs look super-cute in the trailer?

    Ty

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