The benefits of transporting kids by bike are numerous, but barriers still prevent more families from jumping on the bike. Karen Gee, from kids’ bike website Cycle Sprog, explores the potential of micromobility for households
This piece first appeared in the May edition of BikeBiz magazine – get your free subscription here
If you’re a regular commuter you can’t help but notice the reduction in traffic volumes during the school holidays.
There are over 10.6 million school age children in the UK so encouraging parents to switch from driving to active travel opens up a huge market for the micromobility and cycling industries. However, the considerations around family transportation can be complex. There is a lot the industry can do to ease the transition.
If you’re a parent weighing up the options as to how to transport your child there are five key decision-making factors: safety, convenience, affordability, scalability, and speed.
You would think that safety is obvious. You’re going to be putting the most precious things in your universe into or onto something. You need to make sure they arrive safely.
But, despite all the stats showing that cycling is safer than driving, it is a huge step to strap your child onto your bike and start mixing it with motorised traffic.
This is why campaigning for school streets, 20mph speed limits, protected active travel infrastructure and quiet streets is so vital.
But so is safety in numbers. Normalising active travel and micromobility solutions will start to diminish some of the fear factors (although we do risk media hysteria over occasional accidents or ‘bad’ behaviour).
However, it doesn’t matter how safe cycling is. If it makes the school run more complex, then it’s going to be difficult to convert families.
Anyone who has tried to get small children and all the paraphernalia they need to school will know how fraught this is!
Sadly, cycling is usually seen as adding even more complexity into the process.
This usually starts with getting the right equipment. Whilst things are slowly improving we need to ask, ‘is the industry doing all it can to make it easy for hassled parents to ditch their cars?’
Do bike brands advise what family cycling accessories are compatible with each model? Do bike shops have stock to test? Is assembly and maintenance easy? Are accessories to keep children dry and warm readily available? How easy is it to get spare parts? What about regular servicing? Does cycling to school feature in adverts?
Thankfully, affordability is improving as more varied options come to market, especially in the cargo bike space.
But perceptions vary. Some folks view cycling as a poor person’s transport and will find it hard to eschew their car. Yet there’s others shouting about cargo bikes being for the woke, tofu-eating middle classes and out of reach to cash strapped families.
Lease and rental options will help to remove cost barriers to entry, as will economics of fuel and running costs.
Scalability is key when you have a growing family. What is the pathway from one baby to several teens? Having to find a new solution every couple of years is exhausting, and many parents will pay for modular or upgradeable products and services to remove the hassle.
Finally, one of the biggest selling points around ditching the car for short journeys is speed. Whizzing past queues of traffic is great, but if you have to spend ages fiddling with poorly designed locks, covers and levers at either end of your journey these time savings are quickly eroded.
There’s a huge appetite for change amongst the current generation of parents, and it’s incumbent upon the micromobility industry to make this change happen.
Karen Gee founded Cycle Sprog in 2012 when she was fed up with the lack of advice on cycling with her small children. The website now helps over a million parents a year find kids’ bikes and other family cycling solutions. λ