Two-wheeled winter: CBC Edmonton producer takes on winter cycling with kids

It's Radio Active producer Isabelle Gallant's first winter commuting by bike. Every two weeks, she'll be sharing some of her adventures and lessons learned along the way. This time: commuting with kids.

Lesson 3: how to winter commute with your kids

Commuter Kid

7 years ago
Duration 1:18
Winter doesn't stop this family from getting around by bicycle.

WATCH THIS: CBC Edmonton video producer Rick Bremness follows parents Sarah Cooper and Doug Wylie on their winter commute with their daughter, Scarlett, age 2. The couple says the weekday winter bike rides save them time and money. Check out the bike-level perspective as Scarlett cruises through Edmonton. 

I can clearly remember last winter, what it was like to take my daughter Lucie to daycare in the morning, back when I wasn't biking throughout the season. 

It was painful. I waited in the cold for the bus, twice because I transferred, and then it was a six-block walk during which my two-year old walked very slowly (as two-year-olds do). She whined and refused to hold my hand, and eventually I would have to drag her along. 

By the time we arrived at daycare, I was stressed out and frustrated. Not a great way to start the day, for me, or for her.

Other options were limited since we don't own a car, and she didn't like staying in her stroller anymore. 

But when I started winter biking, things changed. 
Every other week, intrepid Radio Active producer Isabelle Gallant shares lessons learned through winter cycling. (Isabelle Gallant/CBC)

This winter, when I strap her into the bike seat behind me, we roll along peacefully. The commute we take is a quick 10-minute ride. I can count on one hand the number of mornings she has whined or cried in that seat.

Now on our rides, she will look around at the houses, or the cars and the people going by, and she often asks questions about what she sees.

On a bicycle, I am in control of how fast we go, but unlike in a car, I'm exercising and we're both getting fresh air.

I find it's a wonderful way to start our day.

Doug and Sarah

Parents Doug Wylie and Sarah Cooper agree.

The couple commutes by bike every day with their almost-two-year-old daughter Scarlett. 

"We're swearing less, for sure," said Wylie.

"Both of us suffer from road rage," said Cooper, "so it helps that we both commute on bike through winter. I think she gets more of our undivided attention and I think she certainly gets me definitely in a more pleasant demeanour than if I was in a car. I'm relaxed."
Scarlett gets comfortable in her bike trailer and snacks during a commute with her parents (Rick Bremness)

Sarah and Doug were already in the habit of biking, so adding their daughter to the mix was something that happened naturally.

We're swearing less.- parent Doug Wylie on the psychological advantages of winter cycling

On weekdays, Scarlett takes the 10-minute trip to daycare in a bike trailer behind them. 

The two share the drop-off and pick-up duties. 

The benefits of winter biking with kids

"The traffic around daycare is horrendous, especially at pick-up." said Wylie. "I can't imagine not being on the bike to pick her up. It's just so pleasant. I can leave the trailer at the daycare, get to work myself. It makes everything so much quicker."

Wylie and Cooper noticed they now have moments with Scarlett they feel they wouldn't have had in a car. 

"I think she first discovered airplanes biking," said Cooper.  "I don't think she understood the concept of them being up in the sky until she could see them from a bike perspective."

But the two-year-old is still working out her understanding of physics. 

"She thinks we go faster than an airplane, which is pretty cool."

Safety first

Biking with kids in the summer is becoming common in Edmonton, but in the winter, it's still rare.

Some parents might hold back on winter biking with their kids because of safety concerns. I did too.

When I first considered biking with Lucie, one technician at a bike shop told me that a seat is dangerous because if you fall, the kid falls too. I was also told that a trailer is dangerous because it's hard for cars to see it on the road. 

I was intimidated, so I put off biking with her for a year. But then this winter I figured I'd try it.

I have only fallen once with the seat and we were going so slowly that Lucie wasn't hurt at all. 

Wylie said his experience has been similar. 

"It's certainly not too dangerous," he said. "If you look at the statistics it's far more dangerous to put them in a car.

"And if you're looking to get the slightest bit of exercise, it's a great way to do it and the kids will enjoy it too." 
Sarah Cooper and Doug Wylie zipping through Edmonton streets with their daughter Scarlett. The parents say winter biking is faster than commuting by car for the family. (Rick Bremness)

And as a bonus, the secret of winter biking with your kid: it's easy. 

"There are no challenges to this, honestly," said Wylie. "If you're putting your kid into a bike trailer it's the same as struggling to get them in a car seat. Maybe even less so because you have a little more elbow room.

"Especially in the winter, it's not any more arduous than getting into a car. There's no such thing as bad weather, just bad equipment."

His impression echoed my own winter of family biking so far. 

And Cooper challenges all parents to try doing it once and see if they like it. 

"If they go in one day without cursing at a (traffic) light, or being cut off, or sitting in traffic for an extra half hour, I think that would be convincing enough, because it's not hard." 

Would you consider trying a winter bike commute with your kid? Leave your comments in the section below. 

Isabelle Gallant is a chase producer with Radio Active. When she's not tracking down stories or teaching herself how to stay on her bike in all kinds of weather, she can be found playing with her three-year-old daughter or trying out new cookie recipes.

Every two weeks, Isabelle will share some of her winter cycling adventures and lessons learned along the way.