The Chainlink

Hello all! I'm tired of driving my daughter to school and am thinking of biking with her once the weather warms up. She is good on her own bike, but for this I am thinking of a trail-a-bike, as she is only 4 and the distance might be a bit much. We are going from Belmont/Pulaski to Addison/Damen, which involves crossing both the double-damned Kennedy and the river. I would appreciate any tips, including route-finding, war stories, or general trail-a-bike suggestions, as I have not bought the trail-a-bike part yet.

Cheers, Jen

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h3 said:
Hi Jen,
... What do you think about creating a "biking with kids" group here? You can start threads within a group just like here on the main forum, and group members can be notified by e-mail when someone's made a new post. I have a short list of parents with similar questions who were just bouncing around the idea of a new resource last week, but I think it stalled.

I like very much the idea of a "biking with kids" group. I love biking with my kid, and would love a place to exchange tips, thoughts, ideas, etc.
Hi Jen. My sister rides her 5-year-old on a trail-a-bike in the city (not in winter). I know that she always takes the lane to force people to notice her, slow down, and pass with caution. It would take a real a-hole to honk at a woman riding with her child! She also uses a tall neon flag on the back of the bike for extra visibility. A problem with riding him to school, though, is that he's often too tired in the mornings and she doesn't want to risk putting a sleepy kid on a bike, so they usually end up on the bus.
Make sure she wears her helmet, use extra blinkie lights on her backpack and helmet. Biggest problem is the half asleep driver not seeing you. Neon safety lime color is also a nice start in the form of a safety vest. Get the ANSI Class 3 type. This is for being in areas were traffic is between 40-65 mph for visabilty. Bring the cell phone with also if you should need help. Another option also is get with other like minded parents and see what the school would suggest as a safe way to ride to school in the morning. I used to bring the neighbor kids to school in the morning after coming off 3rd shift. I had a group of 14 kids that we would ride over to school in the morning. All the kids had to have helmets and blinking lights. One person would lead, the other person would be the sweeper. We had lots of fun and the kids liked it. Leave 1-1 1/2 hour earlier than you would if your comute is more than 2-3 miles. It will depend on how fast your youngsters can ride. All of the kids I rode with were between 5-11 years old. We could keep and average speed of 10-12 when the kids wanted to move. We also brought snacks for the little ones after the ride along with locks for the bikes. After school can be a mixed bag though. Lots of traffic, dumb drivers, tired kids, varying light levals. Jen, I wish you luck, you will have a blast doing this. As she gets older she will hopefully continue to like to ride. If the trail-a-bike does not work out, the another option is xtra-cylce. This attaches to the back of the bike for hauling people or cargo. It can support a lot of weight if needed. Jim
Thanks everyone for the great responses-- Howard, I agree that a biking with kids group would be great. I will start it this evening if noone else does. Thanks also for the complements! This school driving has really been cutting into my biking time. Yes, I agree that the route is tough-- maybe I will try a couple of weekend test runs-- perhaps I can sidewalk it for some rough spots. Jim, I love the idea of a kiddie bike pool-- that sounds great. Dottie, I'm glad to hear that other parents can manage this.
Cheers, Jen
what about an xtracycle for getting around town .... see how this family does it:
Have you considered a trailer instead of a trail-a-bike? A trailer is easier to haul than a t.a.b. since you don't have to contend with your child leaning and effecting drag that way. I hauled my son in a trailer until he was 6. By the time he was 5, we would ride bikes together on a 3 1/2 mile course to his school if weather permitted. If weather was bad I would take him in the trailer. If the weather was really bad (like this winter) we would take the CTA. When he rode - he took the sidewalk and I took the street about 15 feet in front of him. I would spot him the whole way, warning about alleys and corners. It worked great. Now he is 7 and we live not quite 2 miles from his school. He rides in the street with me, or I haul him on my rack (we both wear helmets) or take the CTA.

The xtra-cycle (or Surly big dummy or other long tail cargo bike) are interesting ideas. They do cost a bit and can be difficult to store (not well suited for a 3rd floor apartment dweller) since they are rather long. Having a heavy duty stiff rack with a suitable surface for a child to sit on works rather well in my experience. Long tail cargo bikes seem well suited for this kind of application. The important thing is that the child doesn't interfere with the bikes operation.

I think you do have kind of a rough stretch to ride through for all the previously listed reasons. I would say that when going under the Kennedy or riding over bridges, ride on the sidewalk with your child. I have never been hassled by the police when riding with my son on sidewalks that were on very busy streets. We just always slowed down and yielded when meeting pedestrians. Some major streets are like crossing a roaring river, when you ride with your child. You have to find safe places to cross.

Good luck finding your way!
Go for it!

The two places you're concerned about can be dealt with. We bought a trail-a-bike for our then 4yo last yr, she loved it. I made a point to get one with gears, not that she will be shifting gears, but you can set it in a gear that makes sense for the speed you ride, so she can really pedal with you, not just spin. Also, make sure the clamp is as snug as it can be and still turn, the adapters may need additional shims to get it just right, this prevents the TAB from flopping back and forth.

Once or twice my wife even used the trail-a-bike with a burley on the back for the then 2yo.

I would cross the kenedy at Addison, not Belmont, as the Belmont/Kedzie intersection is statistically the 2nd worse in the city, ride on the sidewalk if you have to to get thru' that area (you have a <12yo. w/you after all)

Again at the river, you may be best jumping on the sidewalk for a block.



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