Not all of us live in a cycling utopia like Colorado, Japan, or Denmark.
In those places, seeing whole families on bikes is a common occurrence, and is sometimes even more preferred than driving.
But what if you don’t live in a bike-friendly area?
I lived in a heavily-trafficked area of New Jersey right next to the George Washington Bridge for four years with my family. Through lots of creatively mapping out routes to our favorite destinations, I’ve learned a great deal about how to navigate un-bikeable areas with a bike trailer.
If you’re wondering how feasible it is to ride with a bike trailer in the area where you live, I have four suggestions for you.
How to ride with a bike trailer in an area that is not bike-friendly
Riders can find safe routes to their destination by finding alternative routes with Google Map’s biking directions feature. Riders can find backroads, sidewalks, and even consider driving partway to their destination and then biking the rest of the way.
1. Ride on sidewalks—NOT on the road
It is recommended to just ride with a bike trailer to sidewalks and bike paths.
If your area is not well-connected by sidewalks and paths, then be sure to look around for local backroads to your most frequented destinations before writing it off as impossible.
Since we are so used to taking the same routes by car to our more frequented places, we are usually unaware of other routes to get to the same destination. For example, the route you take when driving the kids to school likely has smaller backroads that are not as congested by cars the usual route is.
Avoid riding on the road
Since the bike trailer is significantly wider than your bike, riding on the shoulder of the road may be dangerous, as the bike trailer will stick out a bit onto the road.
Cars pose the greatest threat to bike trailers, especially since the bike trailer is close to the ground and not as visible to drivers. You can reduce the risk of not being seen with a flag and flashing lights. Here’s a guide I wrote on how to ride safely with a bike trailer.
2. Look for backroads
Unless you take the time to look around your area for smaller backroads, then all we usually see is the traffic on main roads.
Be sure to explore your area more to look for backroads and ways around the main roads. Google Maps can be a very handy tool to find the safest routes, and it will even recommend the safest bike route for you if you select the biking icon.
Even better than using an app is to just bike around by yourself to scout out any possible new routes to your favorite destinations. Park, schools, and libraries commonly have sidewalks or bike paths nearby.
3. Drive partway to your destination
If you happen to live in an area with no sidewalks or bike paths in sight, then you can map out a route that takes you part of the way to your destination and then ride the rest of the way.
You can park the car in a public parking lot on the way, and then hitch up the bike trailer and start riding on a nearby sidewalk.
This may take a little creativity and planning, but you will reap all the benefits of bike trailers.
4. Consider moving
If you’re reading this article, chances are that you value using your own two legs as transportation whenever possible. If so, then it’s important to honestly evaluate whether the area you currently live in suits your lifestyle needs and desires.
If you follow the above three suggestions and still find that you live in a truly unbikeable area, I would strongly suggest that you consider moving to a more bike-friendly area.
Perhaps the next town over or a neighborhood closer to your work or your child’s school is connected to sidewalks and bike paths that you never knew about. You never know until you take a look.
I am constantly amazed by how many beautiful, affordable houses are for rent ($1400/month for a 3-bedroom) in my own area of North Carolina. This town is an extremely bike-friendly and family-oriented little town with fantastic schools and parks.
Just open up Zillow and take a look, or better yet, bike around your town to find the most bikeable neighborhoods.
If there is something that is heavily tying you down to your current location (e.g. relatives, work, finances), then at the very least you can make plans for the sometime in the future to move to a bike-friendly are when things settle down a bit. Hopefully sooner than later 🙂
At the end of the day, the area in which you live will heavily influence how frequently you use choose to bike as a means of transportation. In places like Denmark, Japan, Boulder, and many European countries, it is much more common to see people riding together with kids to get around.
In fact, in many cities, it is much easier to get around with kids by bike than by car or public transit.
However, it doesn’t mean you can’t make biking part of your daily life. When we were living in New Jersey, we had to be very creative to find ways to get to the libraries, parks, and grocery stores by bike with the kids. In the end, I’m glad we did because it was very good for our health, stress levels, and finances.
Need help finding the right bike trailer?
If you need help finding the right bike trailer for you, my recommended trailer for most people is the Swhinn Joyrider, which is an affordable double-seater that converts beautifully to a stroller. Check out my full review with photos here.
Check out the Ultimate Guide to Buying a Bike Trailer for more help with choosing a trailer. I also have compiled a list of the top bike trailers for every common situation, which you can check out here.