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Do you feel safe biking with your kids on Vancouver's streets?
I’ve never been the most confident urban cyclist. I grew up biking on wide and quiet Vancouver Island streets, and during my second year of adjusting to Vancouver’s traffic I caught a door-prize that resulted in a lengthy hospital stay. Despite those injuries, I’ve been been happily car-less more often than I’ve been car-with, and over the years I’ve biked through most of the city’s ‘burbs, both as a commuter and for pleasure.
When Maia came along, it seemed natural to keep biking as a family, and so one of our first purchases was a bike trailer. I loved the idea of biking with her to the beach for play dates, or on errands, or just for a ride around the block to lull her out of a bad mood.
What I didn’t expect was how vulnerable I would feel while towing my little girl behind me. Suddenly, I wasn’t interested in the shortest or least hilly route from A to B, I was interested in the safest route with the least car traffic—a bike route.
Bike routes, and the importance of bike routes, became something I thought about much more when I became a parent. It’s pretty clear that kids who bike are more likely to grow into adults who bike, but kids have a tough go of biking in the city—unlike those of us who grew up on quiet country lanes. Maia and her friends need to develop safe and savvy cycling skills almost before the training wheels come off.
The best way we discovered for this to happen was to progress from the trailer to a trail-a-bike and then for her to attend Pedalheads bike camps.
The other thing we needed, as a family that cycles, were safe bike routes that went where we wanted to go.
We found lots of routes that went different places, but eventually we’d need to choose between riding a less safe street or not going somewhere—the main destination that left us in this quandary? Downtown. Downtown, with the library, Stanley Park, the Sea Bus and numerous other family-friendly places, was unwelcoming to biking families.
The newest downtown bike route, running along Dunsmuir, adds to our city experience though—and each time a route is added or an existing one is made safer, it makes it easier for parents to bring their kids along for the ride. A goal we all should have.