Cycling Vancouver With a Toddler
June is Bike Month, so I thought I’d share with you some things I’ve learned as a cycling parent over the last year. If you haven’t tried it yet, cycling Vancouver with babies and toddlers is a lot of fun. It’s an enjoyable way to get exercise and you’ll never have to worry about finding parking! Plus, a study recently showed that children who walk and cycle around their area have a much better sense of what’s in their neighbourhood and how to get from place to place. So, without further ado, here are my top tips:
1. The Headgear
Before you start cycling Vancouver with a toddler you’ll need to get your wee one a skid lid. Lazer makes the most reasonably priced of the smallest helmets out there (starting at 18.25″/46cm) and they’re very adjustable. One of these helmets should fit from around one to three years old. If you and your child want to have matching headgear, Nutcase makes toddler and adult helmets in the same funky prints.
2. Child seat vs. Trailer
If you plan on doing mainly short rides or you don’t have a lot of space in your home to store a trailer, consider a front-mounted child seat. The front-mounted ones offer a great view for the little passenger. They’re also easier to balance, so you’re less likely to fall over when getting on and off the bike.
When you’re choosing a seat for cycling Vancouver, do a test drive! Go to the store and try riding around a bit with your kid in the child seat before you buy. The front-mounted ones are all slightly different. The one I thought was great online hit me in the chest and restricted my turning radius when I tried it in person. We bought the iBert Safe-T seat and have been very happy with it.
Bike trailers are great for longer trips, or when you’re going to a place where a stroller would be handy to carry your toddler and gear. Pretty much all trailers easily convert to a stroller, and they’ll carry older/heavier children than a front seat will. Plus, you don’t have to worry about balance and fit as you do with a child seat. They are generally large, however, so it’s not ideal for shopping at stores–better for strolling around parks and outdoor markets.
3. Save Money with Used
You don’t have to spend $300+ on a trailer or $150 on a child seat for cycling Vancouver with your toddler–you can get great deals on used ones on Craigslist. Always make sure all the parts are there, then check for damage and wear before you buy. I’d advise staying away from used helmets as the foam degrades over time. If there’s been one good fall on the helmet, the integrity could be compromised. When you’re cycling Vancouver with a toddler, safety comes first!
4. Mechanical Inspection
Speaking of safety, be sure to get your bike checked out and tuned up before you start riding to make sure the brake cables, rims and frame are all sound. Or, even better, learn how to maintain it yourself! HUB (formerly Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition) runs low-cost courses on basic and advanced bike maintenance.
5. Find the Road Less Travelled
If you’re worried about riding in traffic, plan your trip using bike routes (Google Maps shows them) and try a few rides on an off-road path like the seawall first. To brush up on your urban cycling skills, you can take a HUB Streetwise Cycling course. The City of Vancouver is subsidizing the courses during the summer of 2012 so they cost only $10! It’s the perfect way to get prepared for cycling Vancouver with a toddler.
Lisa Corriveau is our East Side Contributor. When not writing, she can often be found at the park chasing her little boy, sewing clothing, cycling, reading just about anything, performing on stilts, eating chocolate or drinking craft beer. (Sometimes several of the above simultaneously.) Lisa lives car-free in East Van, with toddler, husband and a few bikes. You can also find her on her blog, The Sprog.