It’s one thing to get yourself going with a bike commuting habit. What if you have two kids you need to get to two separate schools each morning, too?
Here’s what Anne Goodchild wanted:
A secure, car-free way to get her children to school and then travel to her job as Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Washington.
She needed to transport school bags and lunches, plus her own work and gym bags. Her youngest was too young to bike safely to school under his own power, and Anne’s husband, who picks the kids up after school, didn’t have room enough in his small, fuel-efficient car for two child’s bicycles anyways.
Anne tried everything:
- A bicycle trailer — handy in terms of carrying capacity but difficult to park, not to mention keep covered and dry.
- A bicycle seat for her youngest — “It just felt too unstable.”
- A trailer bike — not enough room for the family’s many bags.
Then, for her birthday in the fall of 2009, Anne’s husband got her an Xtracycle. If you’re not familiar with the Xtracycle, this is how the product website describes it:
“a hitchless trailer that evolves the bike rack, bike bag (or pannier or basket), bike trailer, passenger seat, and baby seat into one cargo bike or sport utility bicycle system.”
The Xtracycle was the non-motorized transportation solution Anne had been looking for. It’s stable. It’s easy to store and locks up well on a regular bike rack. It’s even easy to pedal up the big hill to Anne’s daughter’s elementary school. Not only do Anne and her kids ride the Xtracycle for the morning commute; they also climb aboard to go grocery shopping or to soccer games (the Xtracycle has plenty of room for the soccer balls they like to bring along).
“It’s heavy, for sure,” Anne says, “But I need exercise and by riding the Xtracycle, I can cut out half an hour of gym time.”
It takes an extra ten minutes on the Xtracycle to complete the approximately three-mile commute, but the mental health benefits make up for that. Anne reports being much happier on a bike compared to being cooped up in a car. And that happiness rubs off on the kids.
“They love it,” Anne says.
Sibling squabbles have never been an issue on the back of the Xtracycle. In fact, Anne says the kids are always quite calm, looking around at all there is to see. She’s even been able to talk to her son and daughter about the environmental benefits of bicycle commuting in a way that the four- and seven-and-a-half-year-old can understand.
“What they sometimes don’t understand is why we’d ever NOT bike. Sometimes they ask, ‘Why aren’t we riding?’”
To other parents considering the Xtracycle, Anne recommends keeping the bike in good working order, with the tires filled and chains lubricated. She also emphasizes pre-planning: getting the bike ready the night before with helmets, bags, snacks and anything else she and the kids might need. Even more important is having the right clothes to keep the kids warm, dry and comfortable, especially in rainy conditions.
Anne is thankful for living right along the Burke-Gilman Trail, which makes her commute and Xtracycle errands feel safe and convenient. And she consciously chooses destinations that are easy to get to by bike.
Such is the simplicity of the Xtracycle that Anne contributed handily to her workplace team’s third place finish last November in the Ride in the Rain commute challenge put on by the University of Washington.
As a final recommendation to parents, Anne offers this:
“Enjoy bike commuting. Be a good example for your kids. You’ll find they take pride in cycling.”