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Barracking for bikes

7 June, 2011

This is an edited extract from a Catherine Deveny column, Cycling, that appears in the current June–July issue of Ride On.

The only people that you will find outdoors at the moment are prostitutes, smokers and cyclists. And it seems in many circles that is how their social desirability is currently rated, in descending order.

Future commuter

I’ve had a gutful of “cyclists are a menace” comments. A car cuts them off? The driver is an idiot. A cyclist cuts them off? ALL cyclists are menaces and they should ALL be off the road and NONE OF THEM should be allowed to breed. Here’s the truth: cars kill, injure, annoy, abuse, cut off and hassle far more cyclists than vice versa. And if you don’t believe me, get on a bike.

There are thugs, lunatics, idiots and morons in all areas of life, and cycling is no exception. So why is the odd maverick lycra lout not simply viewed as an exception rather than an accurate representation of the entire cycling community?

I want to say thank you. To all the cyclists getting out there in the wind, and the cold, and the rain and pedalling to work, to school, to get about their daily business. They are cutting down on road congestion, helping the environment, freeing up parking spots and reducing their stress levels through both exercise and the financial bonus of a cheaper form of transport.

Many households could (and do) solve the “no time to exercise, can’t afford a second car and no parking at work” equation with a bicycle. Others solve it by buying a second car that they can’t afford; which contributes to the national debt and in turn inflation and then up goes the interest rates as well as our carbon emissions.

Lay off the cyclists. They should be paid for commuting. We should be standing at the traffic lights handing them drinks and giving them towels when they arrive at work. The Government should be doing everything in its power to encourage and facilitate safe cycling in our glorious city.

Good news. Cycling is not just the new golf. Bicycles are the new cars. Australians have been buying more bicycles than cars for the past seven years. More good news. The British Medical Association found that the risk of inactivity is 20 times greater than the health risk posed by a potential accident on a bike.

Between 1974 and 2003, travel to school by car rose from 22.6 per cent to 70 per cent. Children being driven to school accounts for 18 per cent of peak hour traffic in Melbourne. We are constantly being told that children are getting fatter, and driving cars is now the environmental equivalent to piping cigarette smoke into humidicribs.

Yet there are still plenty of people who could easily walk or ride their children to school at least a couple of times a week who don’t simply because they can’t be bothered. The most effective way parents can encourage children to ride bikes is by riding bikes themselves.

The Japanese believe that by carrying their babies on their back it teaches the child when to bow. I suggest that parents riding with their children in baby seats and on tagalongs gives them an instinctive understanding of the flow of traffic. Children should be encouraged to think of their bike not just as fun and exercise, but transport.

Read the full column at

Tip – Kiddie carrying options abound

For carting little kids you can choose from front mounted and rear mounted seats, double and single trailers, family bikes and cargo bikes with kiddie harnesses.

Child seats are the less-expensive option. Carrying your young one in a child seat keeps them close and makes talking and interaction easy.  Getting your child in the seat can be tricky – as can mounting yourself. Child seats affect the balance of a bike and riding can be a meandering experience when a child plays wobblies. Front-mounted seats have better dynamics but still have an effect. Bear in mind that kids in front can wave their hands in front of your face. A benefit of a child seat over a trailer is that while a seat makes your bike a bit bigger it isn’t another object to park somewhere. Read a Ride On review of child seats.

Child trailers don’t fall over, track really well, provide a smoother ride for the rider and the child, protect the child from the elements and have substantial rollover protection. They don’t compromise the handling of the towing bike. Most child trailers can also handle up to 45kg (gross weight), so that’s much more luggage carrying capacity. Trailers are great if you have two children and they also offer options that convert them into three-wheel prams. They seem wide but you can squeeze through most bollards. Read a Ride On review of child trailers.

Family bikes and cargo bikes are utility vehicles that transport kids and parent and a load of gear as well. They are the most expensive option but they offer a change of lifestyle because they are so useful. There’s a wide variety of types available, all with different strengths. Check out a selection.

CHOICE members will also find reviews of bike options for kids on their member website.

This post is for day eight of Ride On‘s June riding challenge.

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