The Many Benefits of Family Bikes

We just marked another Labor Day and all around the US families are settling into another school year. Homework, Halloween, and sack lunches have replaced sprinklers, ice cream, and day camp as the seasonal family priorities. There's a noticeable snap to the morning air and a noticeable increase in cargo bikes sales here at Splendid Cycles.

For many of our customers cargo bikes replace a minivan or school bus as the preferred to-school vehicle so it should be no surprise that we see a bump up in business in autumn. Six years ago when we opened Splendid Cycles this was a surprise. I certainly knew that we'd be selling family bikes but I didn't expect family bikes to be the larger share of our success.

Let me tell you, it's been one of the most pleasant of surprises. The majority, I'd guess 80-90%, of our business comes from selling family cargo bikes. After selling 100s of bikes I've become even more convinced of the benefits of family biking. Here's a short list of the advantages I've identified (in no particular order):

1. Setting a good example. Many of the parents who visit and buy a bike from Splendid Cycles are concerned about the environment. Whether concerned about air quality or climate change or other impacts of fossil fuels, these parents want to do more than just talk about being green. They want to take action and show their children how to tread more softly on our planet. Cargo bikes are the perfect way to reduce city car trips, and rely more on human power.

2. Spending quality time together. Let's face it, much of our day is spent getting to work or to school and back. The experience of traveling together by bike provides opportunity for meaningful and playful conversation which in turn means greater connection. Unlike a car where parents focus on the road, spying their wee ones in the few square inches of a rear-view mirror, biking families benefit from closer contact with each other and more direct eye contact. I had one family biking dad tell me that it is what saved his sanity during a divorce. He used an Xtracycle EdgeRunner as his primary mode of transportation and was so grateful for the good conversations he had with his son during their rides to school and errands. It gave them time together to talk and share that would not have happened in a car. It brought them closer together and helped them both adapt to the new family dynamic.

VIP Parking
VIP Parking

3. Enjoying the convenience. I like to joke that I always have VIP parking when I ride a cargo bike. In cities with good bike parking codes, it's easy and time-saving to ride a bike and I get to park right in front near the entrance! We also hear frequently from parents who are thrilled with avoiding the idling line-up of autos at the school drop off zone.

4. Saving money. According to AAA’s 2015 Your Driving Costs study, the average cost per mile of operating a car ranges from $.44 to $.71 per mile. The study factors in the cost of fuel, maintenance, tires, insurance, license, taxes, depreciation and finance charges, but not the initial cost of the vehicle (or monthly payments). For an auto traveling 5000 a year, at $.44 to $.71 per mile anticipated costs are $2200-3550 depending on your gas mileage...but remember that does NOT include car payments! To compare,  economist Todd Littman of the Victoria Transportation Policy Institute estimates the costs of operating a bicycle at about $.05/mile. Do the math and it's easy to see why investing in a cargo bike is a good long-term money-saving strategy.

5. Getting to know your neighbors. If you own a cargo bike, you meet people. Why? Even in a city like Portland, Oregon you'll stand out, especially in a Bullitt,  and that means people are curious. Curious people like to chat. Chatting leads to introductions. Even if they aren't asking questions, you're likely to become more familiar with those in your neighborhood, and they with you.

6. Having FUN! Plain and simple, bikes are fun! And, I like to say "cargo bikes are more fun than a barrel of monkeys!" I've ridden lots of bikes: old bikes, new bikes, red bikes, blue bikes, but my favorite bikes of choice these days are cargo bikes. It's fun having a big bike that can haul anything, sometimes spontaneously; let's me be a good neighbor by helping get my neighbor's kids to school; or just provides a very stable, reliable winter commuter option. With a cargo bike I ride more, drive less, enjoy the fresh air and city sights more.

7. Doing it for the kids. I am (anecdotally) of the opinion that kids who ride cargo bikes understand rules of the road better and learn to ride their own bikes more easily. Too, I think most kids prefer riding bikes around town over being in a car. I've witnessed more than a few kids who cried at the end of their parent's test ride; they didn't want the fun to end. And then there are the kids who insist that they take a cargo bike home after one test ride, then come back so excited on new bike pick-up day they can hardly stand it. OR, there was the time I stepped out on my back porch to lend my neighbor a hand with her bawling 2-year old, only to step back inside when I heard what the tantrum was about: he wanted to take the cargo bike to school, not drive in the car! It's clear, kids love riding in and on bikes.

8. Making healthier families. Yes, the exercise benefits of cycling are obvious, but bikes also get us outdoors and seeing nature - even in the city! If you haven't seen a study that touts the health benefits of connecting with nature, take a look at this list. Fresh air, exercise, and enjoying nature all add up to healthier families! What better way to get the whole family out than on a cargo bike?!


9. Slowing down and living more simply. If you recognize that you'd like to live at a slower pace, no better way than to go by bike. Certainly, I get anywhere I want in town in about the same time by bike as by auto BUT, and it's a big BUT, I am far more cheerful and relaxed when I arrive. Taking things at a bike pace gives me time to enjoy the scenery, even stopping (literally) to smell the flowers. It also helps me live more simply. When you have to decide whether to use human power to pedal a purchase home, you give more thought to what you buy. As a result, I shop smarter, think about where I shop and what I buy, and spontaneous purchases greatly decrease (perhaps this fits under saving money too).

Whatever your reasons for cargo biking know that you're part of a wonderful nationwide trend that's seeing an increase in family cycling. Know too that we are so grateful everyday for the bicycling families that visit our shop.

Happy Family Biking!