Baby on Board

Most cyclists prefer to have their children in a rear bike seat but a growing number of people are keeping their children in front, as shown. | Photo by Joanna Goddard

Kidical Mass gives families biking in Philadelphia a boost

For parents in the city who can’t drive, or avoid driving as much as possible, transportation can be tricky. How do you get your brood and all their belongings to and from places outside of your neighborhood? A growing community of families in Philadelphia are answering that question by turning to bicycles.

Dena Driscoll and Marni Duffy both bike frequently, placing their kids at the front of their family cargo bikes. Driscoll, 30, a mother of a 3-year-old son and 18-month-old daughter, commutes into Center City most days from Manayunk to her son’s preschool. Duffy, 31, a Fishtown resident, has ridden as far as Chestnut Hill with her three kids (ages 3, 6 and 8). Hauling their kids around via bike isn’t always easy, but, according to Driscoll, “If you’re in a car, you’re part of the pollution problem.” Duffy adds that for her, there’s a self-care aspect, too. “When we’re in the car, I’m miserable and the kids are miserable. I just feel so much better on the bike.”

Driscoll and Duffy are active members in the Philadelphia chapter of Kidical Mass, a grassroots group that seeks to bring awareness to family cycling through group bike rides, community building and education sessions. In September, the group hosted a free daylong “The ABCs of Family Biking” workshop at Fleisher Art Memorial, and for the Philadelphia Bicycle Expo, they’ve organized a panel titled “Family Biking 101.” The panel will be informal, focus on questions from the audience and “not be preachy,” promises Duffy. Cargo bikes will also available for test rides.

Family cargo bikes are attention magnets. While ubiquitous in a bike-friendly city such as Amsterdam, they’re a much rarer site on the Philadelphia streets. The most common questions that Driscoll and Duffy field revolve around cost (bikes like theirs start around $2,500), and safety.

Simon Firth, an owner of Firth & Wilson Transport Cycles on 9th & Spring Garden, a shop specializing in cargo bikes, echoes the statement that the safety issue is critical.

“Philadelphia is getting a lot safer to ride a bike around in,” he says.  “The more people you see riding around and doing it happily, the safer it feels for everyone.”

Duffy and Driscoll maintain that the best kind of safety is safety in numbers. It’s the main motivation for building a community around family cycling. “The best way to become a safer, confident family biker is to do it with more experienced people,” Driscoll says.

On the group’s frequent group rides, newer family bikers can feel supported and protected by the veterans, and on Kidical Mass’ Facebook group, members post questions, share good routes, vent frustrations and promote other kid-friendly bike activities in the region. “Kids are cargo” is a common slogan in the family biking community, and it’s Kidical Mass’ goal to ensure that they’re treated as the most precious cargo of all.

This story is part of Grid's 2014 Philly Bike Expo insert.