Biking with Kids: Terror and Triumph

Every Thursday, it’s bike-to-school day. Every Thursday, I’m terrified of what might happen. Every Thursday, we triumph upon arrival at our charter school, 2.5 miles from my house.

We started out in bike lanes. They stretch over most of the route, although there’s one block where we go in the left lane to continue straight. Frequently, we get screamed at by motorists at this spot.

“That’s not safe!” they scream out their car windows, even though we are cycling legally and have a bright orange flag for visibility. One time a school bus driver even weighed in.

So, all this verbal pressure pushed us to start riding on the sidewalks. Now we startle pedestrians with our bells, and wait (impatiently) at crosswalks.

But to be honest, another thing pushed us up on the sidewalks: I stumbled across news of this pregnant mom who died during a bicycle accident. She had an empty kids’ bike attached to hers, because she was on her way to pick up her son from kindergarten. Jack up the Terror-ometer. My daughter’s bike is attached to mine, too, with a great “Trail Gator” device that lifts and stabilizes her front wheel.

I don’t want to stop bike commuting. So what do we do about it?

  • If drivers all cycled now and then, we would be better drivers.
  • We all have to brush up on the rules of the road, and cyclists need to follow them, as well (I’m textbook with the kids but often skirt the rules alone)
  • Let’s keep pushing for better bike infrastructure—bike lanes & bike racks, for starters. Why are these still seen as “extras” in most parts of the U.S.?

Look forward to hearing your stories and seeing more families biking legally and safely out there.


Published on: January 19, 2012
About the Author
Photo of Susan Comfort

Susan Comfort spent two decades working for environmental groups like EWG and 1% for the Planet, trying not to let all the bad news get her down. She now promotes the cause of play as the VP for Philanthropy with KaBOOM!, for which she has personal trainers in-house: her 7-year-old boy and 5-year-old girl.

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