Bicycle Commuting Mama: Bike Commuting, Kids, and Daycare — an Update

Last time I wrote specifically about bicycle commuting and daycare, I was pretty anxious about it.  I’m still doing it, though, so I thought I’d better write an update on how our commute is going.

Transporting Kids by Bike

At one point, I was dithering about how to transport my youngest (three years old).  Fellow blogger Sarah Gilbert helped me out with a child seat.  She had one in her backyard that wasn’t being used, so we’ve borrowed it.  I’ve got one kid on her own bike, one on a scooter, and one in the backseat of my bike.

Bike Commuting + Daycare = Scheduling Nightmares?

I started off taking all three kids to our daycare provider Kris’s house, half a mile away.  We were trying to arrive by 7:45 so that I could make it to work around 8:00, but we were late more often than not.

Kris would then take the two older kids to school and pick them up afterward.  I rode down to her house after work to pick up all three.

That routine was pretty rough.  The morning just wasn’t working at all, and I was dead tired by the time I got home.

We had an opportunity to change things up, however.  The kids’ school has a free afterschool program, which started on September 29, so we needed to change the daycare schedule anyway.  Now, I’m taking all three girls down to the school by 8:15 (still by bike), and meeting Kris there (she still takes other kids to school).  Kris takes our youngest back to her house.  The older two go to the afterschool program, and I pick them up there around 5:00-5:15.  We go directly home, and my husband picks up our youngest on his way home, around 5:15-5:30.  This routine has been much less stressful and tiring so far.

Not a Fair-Weather Bike Commuter

I had also been worried about fall and winter weather.  We had some rain gear, but no lights, and certainly no specialized cycling rain gear.  I’ve since picked up a set of lights for myself (still gonna need some for kids).  If I can just remember to turn them OFF when I’m finished riding, I should be fine after dark and in the fog.

The rain is another story, though.  A little rain is fine, but the other day my legs got thoroughly soaked.  If I can’t find an old pair of rain pants that fit, I’ll have to buy some of those too.  I’m also thinking ahead to needing long, wool underwear.  And finally, a hat or helmet with a brim to keep the rain out of my eyes.  I wasn’t sure I really needed it, but it turns out that I do.  For now, I’m planning to try a ball cap under the helmet.

I’m a Commuter, Not a Mechanic

With the rough routine and rainy weather, I was getting pretty frustrated with bike commuting.  But the schedule’s gotten better, and I think I can manage the rain.  The one problem remaining was the bike itself.  It’s an ancient J.C. Penney 3-speed, and I’ve been having problems with the brakes.  It also seemed like it kept getting harder to ride instead of easier.

I tinkered with the brakes as much as I could, but ended up taking it to the Bike Gallery this weekend.  They replaced all four brake pads, replaced a wire in the front, and completely adjusted both front and rear brakes so that they work properly now.  That is a big relief.  I also had the bike shop replace the bolt on the seat-post, because it had been stuck for a while and I couldn’t adjust the seat at all.  The seat is now a little lower, and it feels so much better.  I had a much easier time riding today than I have in weeks.

Tips for Bike Commuters Heading to Daycare and School

So, if you are going to be bike commuting and transporting kids to daycare/school:

Create a schedule that works for you. This includes bedtime and waking up time.  If the kids need to be up by 6:30, they are probably going to have to be in bed by 7:30 or 8:00.  If that doesn’t work for you, perhaps you can talk to your boss about an alternate work schedule.

Make sure you have a reliable form of transportation for each person involved. Walking counts, too!  Be sure to check bikes and scooters to make sure all parts are in working order.  Check tire pressure as part of your daily routine.  If it needs more than you can handle, take it to the shop.  Make sure each person is equipped with helmets, lights, and any other appropriate safety gear.

Be ready for the weather. If they don’t have to go too far, the kids can probably get by with their normal rain gear and winter coats.  For you, a raincoat/poncho and rain pants will probably be necessary.  Other items might include a helmet cover, waterproof booties, gloves, and leg or knee warmers.  I’m also carrying a rag to wipe off the saddle, and a plastic bag to cover the child seat while parked (haven’t figured out a way to secure a bag to it if I’m riding with an empty seat in the rain).

Prepare for each day. I carry a fanny pack with my purse items, a multi-tool, and a patch kit in it.  I also carry a backpack with my laptop, lunch, and a change of shirt.  We are all supposed to prepare everything the night before, so that we won’t have to look for things in the morning.

Pamper yourself. Make sure you have time for a few minutes to yourself when you arrive at work.  Take time to refresh yourself.  I don’t take a shower when I get there, and I don’t wear special cycling clothes that I have to change out of, but I do take time to sponge off and change from a t-shirt into a work shirt.  I keep a bottle of post-ride body spray at work.  I’ll usually get myself a hot or cold drink, depending on how I feel, before I settle in to check my work e-mail.  Ahhhh!

Home pampering is good, too.  I’ve started showering at night instead of in the morning, and it’s a great way to relax either at the beginning or end of the evening.

Above all, give it some time to work! Everything will not work perfectly the first week you try bike commuting.  You can work it out in time, though.