First of all let me say that this post is not meant to come across as a sanctimonious brag about how wonderful we are as a family that bikes. Sure, we are wonderful but we also have a lot of factors working in our favor that make getting around by bike an easy choice lots of the time. For example we live within a block of an excellent, flat bike path. I hate hills so I can guarantee that if our rides involved any kind of incline, I'd be a lot less inclined to bike. So while I'd encourage everyone to bike more and car less, I know it's not always easy. And before I polish my halo too brightly, I cannot begin to pretend that we are giving up our vehicle. We're not that hardcore! But we are trying to make a conscious choice bike as often as we can and for trips that we might not typically have thought of as bike trips (we biked to the movies the other day for example).
Finding parking is easy
In all honesty, the choice to bike is often easy as it allows me to avoid two of my biggest annoyances. The first is finding/paying for parking. The second is getting in our gas guzzling, AC busted, squeaky, messy van. An outing that allows me to avoid both is a total win in my book. And frankly for a lot of trips in the city, biking is by far faster than driving. By the time I factor in traffic and dealing with parking, biking often turns out to be the more efficient choice even for longer rides. And showing up some place, and watching the cars queue and pay for parking while we cruise up, lock the bikes and go is a special, special feeling.
And that's just the beginning of why we love to bike. Obviously it's healthier for us and better for the environment than driving. For me, biking is about the only actual exercise I get. But I figure hauling all 36.4 lbs of my daughter , plus bike seat plus my heavy-ass bike is a pretty damn good work out. I watch my son when he's riding and I can see some pretty good muscle development in those skinny little legs. Sometimes I worried we were pushing him too hard on our longer rides, but you know what, he rises to the occasion every time. Sometimes we have to turn the ride home into a race to keep him moving but he always gets there. And that's another rewarding discovery I've made biking; that my kid is tougher than I give him credit for. He's playing soccer this summer and every Monday night we bike there. That's about a 20 minute ride each way plus an hour of soccer and he can totally do it. Many rides I've been amazed how far we can go without him tiring. At 6 he can navigate tricky turns and work the gears on his bike. Biking develops a lot more than his leg muscles. It's his balance, fine motor skills and mental quickness that are also being tested.
Discovery, freedom and imagination
Another surprising reward of biking is watching and listening for what happens while we ride. Sometimes we chat. Molly particularly is super chatty and spends a lot to time yammering on about this that and everything. And if I slow down I get a rousing chorus of "go mama go" from my "co-pilot". But sometimes she just chats to herself. She makes up little songs. She comments on what she sees. And I realize that this perfect mental "downtime" for her to be in her own little world (and as passenger, it's also physical downtime for her too - wait 'til next year girly!). Gabriel too gets a bit lost in his own world when we ride. I often hear him talking and singing to himself. Of course, he's got to ride and watch what he's doing but he's an accomplished enough rider that he can relax his brain a little and just be in his own world. Watching and listening to my kids I remember what my bike meant to me when I was a kid. It was freedom both literally to make journeys on my own, but also mentally to let my mind wander, to indulge my imagination. I remember fondly each and every one of the bikes I had growing up (hello purple cruiser with the awesome handle bars and the flowered banana seat). I always rode a lot but of course that was in a different time and place. I was a rural kid so biking was a safer, easier proposition than it is for my urban babies. And that's another reason I'm so glad we bike places as a family; if we didn't, I don't think my kids would really get to ride their bikes very far or for very long.
On all our travels down the bike paths we pass lots of other riders and it always makes me feel good when people smile at our little team. For some reason people love to see kids on bikes and Gabriel gets lots of positive feedback which I know makes me feel good too. Yet another reason I love to ride. And as a Torontonian, a side benefit of every bike ride is the opportunity to be one more "bike riding left wing pinko" sticking it to our bike hating mayor. An opportunity to claim our share of these city streets. And that makes it all worthwhile on the days when hauling 36.4 lbs of preschooler etc. while riding into the wind doesn't feel so rewarding.
Elizabeth lives in Toronto with family and kids. Read more post by Elizabeth over at her blog "milllion dollar bloggey"
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