Searching for positives during these challenging times — there’s never been a better time to go for a family bike ride!
To quote a New York Times headline, “Coronavirus ended the screen-time debate. Screens Won.”
While we're not quite willing to accept defeat, it is certainly a challenging time for parents to limit screen time when everyone's encouraged to stay at home.
But amidst the plethora of coping strategies for house-bound families published in the news lately, it is important to remember screen time alone is not the main danger here. It is what that screen time is replacing… physical activity.
With the latest lockdown measures also closing schools, gyms, swimming pools, sports clubs and public gathering places, getting the required 60 minutes of exercise per day has never been more important for kids, and never been more difficult.
Enter the bike.
Going on a bike ride with the family is often reserved for holiday parks and camping grounds, but it could be the answer for maintaining your family’s health and sanity during lockdown.
In fact, many cities are the world are seeing massive booms in cycling and adapting their streets to promote bike riding as a healthy transportation method that adheres to physical distancing requirements.
With public health experts urging governments to not discourage walking and cycling, here in Australia we are encouraging solo bike rides and rides that include members from the same household.
Read more: Can I still ride my bike outside? Short answer, YES. But click here for more information.
We also know that vitamin D helps keep your immune system healthy and protects you against illnesses, and that the average Australian will get a lot less vitamin D per day from the sun during lockdown.
Again, getting the family off the couch and into some sunshine has never been more important.
Tips for riding with the family
It’s about the journey
Kids aren’t measuring kilometers or tracking cadence. It’s all about the journey for them. Getting your family excited about the daily ride is easy — incorporate a tunnel, a bumpy off-road track, or a challenging climb followed by a thrilling descent. You don’t have to look far from home to find these things, it just takes a bit of planning.
The socially distant bear hunt trend makes this easier!
Know the rules on footpath riding
In Victoria the footpath is reserved for kids under 13-years-old, but kids over 13 can accompany younger riders on the footpath. In New South Wales, only children up to 16-years-old can ride on the footpath.
Bicycle Network has long been campaigning for VIC and NSW to catch up with the rest of the country and allow people of all ages to ride on the footpath, but until then, we advise checking out the laws in your state before jumping on the bike.
With a lot less cars on the road at the moment, and less commuters on our paths and trails, now is a great time to familiarise your family with navigating the neighborhood by bike.
Practice bike manners
Just like at home, school and the playground, manners are important on the bike. From an early age you should be teaching your kids to respect other road users and understand how to share space. This includes travelling along the left-hand-side of a road or path and passing others on their right.
Teaching your family the basics of signalling and calling will make riding safer and more fun for everyone.
Learn more: Bike riding hand signals and calls
Keep track to keep on track
One of the fundamental strategies used by Bicycle Network’s Ride2School team to encourage kids to ride is actively tracking progress. By asking schools to count who rode to school each day, kids naturally want to be counted and keep up their tally.
You can do this at home with a gold star on your calendar or by finding another fun way to keep track of your riding habits.
The good news for all of us is that if we do the right thing, this won’t last forever. It won’t be long until we’re back to our normal routines, and if you’ve abandoned your routine completely during lockdown, you’re going to be all out of sorts.
We’re encouraging everyone to keep their commute during lockdown. This means taking the time out of your days at home to go for a ride, walk to the station and back, or just listen to music for 30 minutes to start the day like you normally would.
The best part about bike riding is also the easiest part of bike advocacy… it’s bloody good fun! Try it and you’ll almost certainly agree. Keep this in mind when taking your family out for a bike ride over the coming weeks. We could all use a good laugh.