Green Commuting with a Toddler

Editor’s Note

By Diane Rudholm

Photo at right: The author and her son take silly selfies while they wait for the bus.

There’s a woman who lives near me who commutes with her bike via bus with a baby strapped to her chest and her four- or five-year-old son by her side. She tosses her bike on the rack at the front of the bus with ease.

Her son listens obediently when she asks him to wait for her, and the baby sleeps soundly. She drops them off at daycare or school and she rides her bike to work. It looks easy.

Yeah, it looks easy

My attempt at doing the same thing started off OK. My three-year-old son was excited that we were bringing the bike with us to his daycare. He played with the pedals while we waited for the bus, and he talked about how good his bike is. (He was referring, of course, to my bike.)

When the bus arrived, I ask him to stay on the sidewalk. He floated toward the curb. The bike rack on the bus was different than ones I’ve used before. People were waiting. I picked up my wiggly son with one arm, balanced the bike against my hip and mouthed the word “help” to the bus driver who, thankfully, obliged.

Seated safely on the bus, my son and I talked about giants and clouds, and the bike. My optimism skyrocketed. This is going really well.

That is, until, we got off the bus and tried to walk the bike to his school. Remember, it’s his really good bike. He wanted to ride it.

“Sorry,” I said. “This bike is a little too big for you.”

He howled and collapsed on the concrete in the ragdoll fashion that young children have perfected.

In one arm, I carried my screaming, kicking, entirely-disappointed kid, and with my other arm, I dragged along my bike, which could not have felt heavier or clunkier.

He arrived to school in tears. I arrived to work later than planned.

Serendipity, sort of

That night, I began an online search for an inexpensive bike trailer to tote my son to school. Most of the used ones I found would cost almost as much as new ones. I gave up.

One day, though, on our bus ride home, my son went into howling ragdoll mode again because I wouldn’t let him somersault across a row of bus seats.

Both miserable, we got off the bus, even though we were still two miles from home. We sat on the ground. We looked at ants for what felt like an hour. Finally, my son decided he wanted to see sea turtles. I’m not sure where we might have seen sea turtles, but he led the way—which thankfully went toward home.

That’s when we saw it. The bike trailer. It was the brand I had wanted. It had been well-loved, but all of the pieces were intact and sturdy. And, it had a neon “FREE” sign on it.

My son hopped into the trailer’s pint-sized seats and announced that it’s his car. Of course it is. Relieved to not have to coax him onto another bus and happy to find something I’d wanted, I pushed his “car” home.

The trouble now is figuring out how to attach it to my—I mean his—really good bike.

Advise us, dear readers

So far, I wouldn’t really call our green commuting efforts a success. Some mornings go well enough—we get where we are going without much fuss; other mornings continue to be filled with delays and tears.

Please write us and let us know how you get around with your little ones.

Diane Rudholm is the managing editor and social media manager of OutdoorsNW. Even when it’s challenging, she loves the time spent commuting with her son. Send your best commuting-with-kids advice (photos welcomed) via email or @OutdoorsNWmag

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