This year our family did not do any winter cycling. I am a big advocate of winter cycling — it’s an efficient, fun, and sustainable way to travel.
But since we were working and schooling from home, we didn’t bother to get our winter biking gear ready. As a result, when the kids went back to in-person schooling and we wanted to use our bikes to get there, we weren’t prepared.
Not being prepared can be a big barrier to cycling to school. At Active School Travel Peterborough, families often tell us that they don’t bike because they don’t feel ready — they don’t have the right equipment or they haven’t put the time into route planning.
After missing out on winter cycling, I am now looking ahead, determined not to miss any opportunities for my family to use our bikes this spring. I am smashing barriers by being prepared. When the day is right to ride to school, our morning will be smooth and enjoyable.
How can you prepare for those first few spring bike-to-school days?
Maintenance is often the first step. This important task can be a fun family activity. When we deliver our GreenUP and B!KE cycling programs to kids, there are always a few who are keen to become bicycle mechanics.
Getting a child involved in bike maintenance empowers them to look after their bike independently, while increasing their excitement for riding.
If your bike has been sitting idle since the fall, chances are it needs work. Start by running through an “ABC” quick check. “A” is for air; make sure your tires are inflated appropriately. “B” is for brakes; test both the front and back brakes. “C” is for chain; it should be lubricated and damage free. Visit peterboroughmoves.com for easy, family-focused instructions.
Your bike might need more maintenance than you are prepared to do at home. If you require support and the tools to do this, contact B!KE: The Peterborough Community Cycling Hub.
B!KE is a local charity with the goal of making bike maintenance accessible to all. Located downtown, B!KE has mechanic educators and a well-outfitted shop where they help members with their bicycle repair work.
While we are in the COVID-19 red zone, you have two options for using B!KE’s services: you can book an appointment to work on your bike in their workspace, or you can rent equipment from their tool library to work at home. Both of these options require membership.
Visit communitybikeshop.org for more information on B!KE’s COVID-19 procedures and membership, and to book appointments.
If dropping your bike off for a tune-up is more your style, check out one of Peterborough’s great bike shops.
All these services and shops will be in high demand due to a pandemic bike boom. Our local bike shop friends have warned us that bikes and bike parts are going to be difficult to get this year.
“We have seen the highest demand for bikes and repairs this winter, higher than we have ever seen before,” says Ben Logan, owner at Fontaine Source for Sports (384 Queen St., Peterborough, 705-742-0511).
To meet our needs, bike shops are also bringing in used bikes. Scott Murison, co-owner at Wild Rock Outfitters, wants to “help get people on bikes even if they’re not our bikes.”
Wild Rock (169 Charlotte St., Peterborough, 705-745-9133) is planning COVID-19-safe bike swaps to support the community. Watch their social media for updates.
Beyond having a working bike, being prepared means having the equipment necessary to make your ride safe and comfortable.
In Ontario, anyone who bikes a half hour before dusk or a half hour after dawn is legally required to have a bell, front white light, and a rear red light or reflectors. You should also have white reflective tape on the front forks and red reflective tape on the rear forks.
Of course, riding with a bike helmet is important. Helmets should be in good condition and fit properly. Active School Travel Peterborough teaches kids the 2V1 Helmet Check method. You can learn about it at peterboroughmoves.com.
Most helmets are single impact — that means their integrity can be compromised after one blow. Helmets also expire after five years, so that’s when you should get a new one.
A lock is a must for those planning to leave their bike unattended. Make sure your lock is of good quality.
Let kids practice locking up their bikes. This is something adults often struggle with. Remember the lock should go through both the frame and a solid rack; perhaps the wheel, too.
Consider registering your bicycle on 529 Garage, a free community-powered bike recovery service promoted by the City of Peterborough. You can find it at project529.com/cityofpeterborough.
4. Route planning
Once your equipment is ready to go, it’s time to plan your route.
If you are considering a route to school, plan one that looks fun and avoids hazards or unsafe places. A route that goes by known neighbours can provide comfort to both you and your children.
When our family is deciding on a school route, we do a practice run on the weekend when we’re not in a rush. While practicing, we time our journey, so we know how to adjust our morning routine.
5. Knowledge and skills
With your equipment ready and your route planned, it’s time to refresh your family’s knowledge of the rules of the road.
The Ontario Ministry of Transportation has developed two cycling guides (Cycling Skills: Ontario’s Guide to Safe Cycling and the Young Cyclist’s Guide) with information to help you understand the rules, where to position yourself on the road, and hand signals. These manuals and other information are available at www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/safety/
GreenUP and B!KE have an online cycling safety and skills program called Pedal Power From Home. This online course is available at peterboroughmoves.com. It has activities that you can complete with your family.
Finished with your preparation tasks? Now bring on the spring!