More families choosing cargo bikes as a greener way to get kids to school

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CAMBRIDGE — Buckling up for the ride to school looks a bit different for the Cambridge mom Katherine and her three kids. 

Her twin preschool girls and their older brother all pile into a large bucket-like seat at the front of a bicycle. It’s called a cargo bike.

“We do errands and shopping. It’s the most convenient and fun way to get around the city,” Katherine said.

Popular bike routes around Cambridge, Somerville, Arlington, and some parts of Boston are seeing a growing number of moms and dads, transporting multiple kids on bikes.

“People see other people doing it and they say, ‘hey that might work for us,'” explained Somerville bike shop owner Carice Reddein who has seen sales of family bikes grow every year.

Her shop, Bicycle Belle, has all kinds of options for families. There is the traditional bike with child seats in the front and back, a bike that originated in California which has a long bench over the back wheel that can carry up to three kids, and the electric-assist bucket bike like Katherine’s which is imported from the Netherlands.

Reddein said families like them for environmental reasons, but that’s only part of it. “You don’t have to find parking for them, you don’t have to fill them with gas. If it wasn’t convenient, people wouldn’t do it,” she said.

Katherine does appreciate the smaller carbon footprint, but she also believes it’s better for the kids. “This is the best experience because they interact with their neighbors, they engage with their surrounds, they feel the elements.” 

And yes, they do ride in the winter unless the snow is too deep.

Steering a cargo bike does take some getting used to. With three kids in the front, it’s a different feel than a regular bike and can be tricky to steer.

This brings us to safety, as mistakes could put precious cargo in danger. “It’s a concern,” Katherine said admitting that there are some areas where she is not comfortable taking the kids. 

She tries to stick to bike paths whenever possible but does have to ride in unprotected bike lanes on the street which can be full of obstacles. When WBZ-TV watched her ride, she had to navigate around an Amazon truck parked in a bike lane on Mass. Ave. in Cambridge. 

“That is often a barrier for other people who would like to get into riding a bicycle for themselves or with their children, but they are not willing to take that risk,” Katherine said. 

She believes more protected lanes would mean more families swapping the school bus for a family bike. “It brings me joy to bring them to school in the morning.”

Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville all have bike lane projects in the works to expand and improve current lanes.

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