Whether you’re passionate about preserving our precious planet, or looking for a more cost effective way to wheel around town, biking is an excellent form of transportation that is easily achieved in Eugene. “Not only does biking as a family create one less machine burning fossil fuel out there, but it teaches kids to participate in a healthy lifestyle option that is good for them. It sets a great example early on,” says Arriving By Bike employee Elliott Fromm.
Emily Swenson and her husband, Austin, got serious about bike commuting when their children (Max, now 10, and Oliver, now 8) turned 2 and 4, selling Austin’s car to purchase a family bike. “One morning, I was driving Max to preschool. I felt exhausted, but somehow sluggish at the same time,” says Emily. Wanting to incorporate more exercise into her daily routine, she had an idea: “What if all these trips I had to make around town became my exercise class? I liked the idea of getting out of my car, getting fresh air, spending more time on the bike paths along the river.”
Today, Emily rides a Workcycles Fr8, which can carry three kids and lots of extra stuff. Austin and the boys commute 3 miles every day to school on their own bikes outfitted with racks and attached panniers. “Whether you choose a milk crate, panniers, a trailer, or a cargo bike, it’s good to figure out how to carry stuff on your bike,” says Emily. “You can’t really do very much of your life with a bicycle before you make a plan for this.” Emily also suggests re-organizing your storage space so that bikes are easy to get out on a moment’s notice. Also, make a designated spot for all your family’s layers, helmets, and lights.
For the rainy season, Paul Khoury outfits his electric-assist Yuba Mundo cargo bike with a homemade rain canopy. Khoury, his wife, Katrina Mertz, and their two daughters, Ella (11) and Uma (6), have been riding together since 2013. Their original setup was a cruiser bike with a metal rack on the back, where Ella and Uma would ride. “It was not couth with my wife, and, in hindsight, not with me either,” says Khoury. “That Christmas, my wife upgraded me to a cargo bike, for which I thanked her, but promptly returned to the bike shop, and got the model with the electric assist.” Today, the electric-assist Yuba Mundo fits Paul, with the two girls on the back—“just too darn convenient and sweet to be riding altogether versus separately.”
If you’re interested in becoming a biking family, the gear you need will largely depend on how many kids you are traveling with and their ages. Here are some options for you to ponder, and remember that the experts at local bike stores are more than happy to help answer your questions.
Burley offers a variety of bike trailers, from the Bee to Cub. Trailers fit 1 or 2 kids, are easy to hitch up, and include a five-point harness system, water-resistant cover and seat fabric, UV protection windows, and a rear cargo area. If traveling with babies, a Baby Snuggler is available for 3-12 month olds. The seat attaches into the trailer and keeps them safely in place with a five-point harness. For older kids, the Kazoo single-speed trailercycle attaches to your own bikes, allowing kiddos 4-10 years old the freedom to ride safely while still staying attached to you. For a speedier ride, the seven-Speed Piccolo trailercycle has a rapid-fire-style thumb shifter. The Piccolo is also recommended for children 4 to 10 years old.
At Arriving By Bike, cargo bikes are available in a variety of styles and capacities. Haul your kids, groceries, and work gear with these cargo bikes. Electric versions are also available for hill-riding or child-hauling. Arriving By Bike also carries balance bikes (for ages 1-5), as well as the WeehooiGo bike trailer, which attaches on to the back of the bike.
Another option for hauling kids is a bike seat. REI carries front and rear child carriers for kiddos 9 months to 3 years. Many have five-point harnesses, a sturdy steel frame, and adjustable foot rests.
“When you pass another bike family on the street or on a trail, there is a lot of waving, knowing smiles, and bell-ringing that is exchanged between folks,” commuter bicyclist Kyle Jackson says. Jackson is a Eugenean by way of Montana, whose family has made a point to commute by bike as often as possible. He affectionately refers to his bike trailer as “the minivan.”
Jackson and his wife, Lindsay Selser, were avid bikers who chose to pass that legacy onto their daughter Willa (age 3) and their son Boone (11 months). Taking the extra time to load up and bike out fulfills a larger purpose for their family. The Jackson-Selser family uses a Bike Friday Haul-a-Day with a Yepp seat and a Burley trailer when they want to take both kids on one bike. The Yepp seat can go on any rack and the trailer can be pulled behind any bike.
“Biking lets you move through your environment in a way that increases your awareness of the world,” Jackson says. “Lindsay and I wanted our kids to grow up with that awareness and understanding of mobility.”
And when it comes to the family biking community of Eugene, not only does Eugene have a large amount of families participating, but there is a well-established infrastructure to support those families as well.
“We’re lucky that we have such a great family biking community here in Eugene,” Shane MacRhodes, cofounder of Kidical Mass says. “The local stores, as well as the families themselves, are very interconnected.”
Kidical Mass is a community of family bicyclists who meet, plan, and participate in family-oriented bike rides throughout the year. They typically gather at neighborhood parks, and embark upon bike paths or backstreets to places that families frequent, such as pumpkin patches or ice cream shops. Kidical Mass even organizes an annual family bike camping event at Armitage Park, where families camp overnight and dine potluck-style while the kids bike and play together. The overnight trip is capped off by a communal family breakfast, followed by a bike ride back to town.
Eugene is also fortunate enough to have the Safe Routes to School program. This program helps families and schoolchildren find safe ways to navigate Eugene and Springfield. Safe Routes to School offers online maps and resources, and even a free “Confident Cycling for Families” class to further assist Eugene’s bike broods. A classroom session, a skills and drills section, as well as a trial family bike ride are all components of the class.
When it comes to the nuts and bolts of a family safely traversing through town, Eugene also has a great bike and pedestrian map that can be found on the City of Eugene website or picked up at most local bike stores.
Now with map in hand, round up the family and grab your helmets, cause it’s time to put your feet the pedals! Life’s a journey, enjoy the ride.
Arriving by Bike
2705 Willamette St.
3364 W 11th Ave.
1500 Westec Dr.
Paul’s Bicycle Way of Life
2480 Alder St.
556 Charnelton St.
Safe Routes to School