Family Biking Tips to Keep Your Rides Safe and Sound

Jostling for space on busy streets can be scary, but with the right know-how, it doesn't have to be.

Watching kids whizz by on bikes is fun until a parked car’s door swings open unexpectedly. 

Thankfully, navigating safe biking is something parents can learn and pass onto their kids. With the correct gear, knowledge and training, biking with little ones doesn’t have to feel scary, says Ted Sliwinski, the owner of the Ferndale location of Metropolis Cycles

Sliwinski opened the shop last year and services all riders, from racers looking for a top of the line speedster to little ones and their first bikes. 

When starting to ride with kids for the first time, it’s best to start simple, he says. 

“I’m fortunate to live right off the Dequindre Cut, so when I was getting my little guy into it, I just jumped on the Cut where there’s no traffic and I could turn back around,” he says. “Go to the place where you feel the safest and start there.”

For those looking to bike with kids this summer, read on for safety tips and resources. 

Choose the right gear for safe riding 

“Helmets, helmets, helmets–can I say helmets again?” says Sliwinski. “It blows my mind that parents let their kids ride without helmets.” 

Lights for added visibility (even during the day) are always a good idea, too, he says. 

While there are many ways to safely bike with kids who can’t ride on their own yet, the three most common ways are with a baby seat, trailer or cargo bike. 

“I personally like the baby seat, because I like having my guy close and trailers in the city of Detroit are a little bit harder because they’re so low, but trailers are amazing at parks,” he says. 

“E-Cargo bikes are getting more popular,” he adds. “A kid as little as 1 year old to a teenager can ride on the back of a cargo bike and it can hold multiple kids, so lots more options for age and weight.”

Common mistakes to avoid 

“Road safety is the biggest one,” Sliwinski says. “Not only making sure you’re in the right place and you’re doing what you should be doing, safety wise, but also how to be defensive.” 

Defensive biking mostly includes watching out for and reacting to common mistakes made by drivers. 

“As for the bike lanes, cars don’t respect them,” he says. “In intersections, cars roll through the bike lane, and you have to be alert in cross traffic.”

One tip from Sliwinski for bikers is to try to get eye contact from the driver and an acknowledgement. If that doesn’t work, it’s safer to stop than to take the chance the driver saw you.

Riding the wrong way on a one way is another safety mistake, as is letting kids ride in front of parents. 

“The biggest thing I see all the time is that the kids are in front of their parents,” he says. “As soon as you get to an intersection, they might not be visible and they might not be able to brake.” 

“It sounds scary, but we suggest adults in front because it’s by far the safest–just look in nature, mama duck is always in front of the baby duck.” 

How to become more comfortable biking as a family

Parents who want a refresher on biking laws or safety tips can find resources from the League of Michigan Bicyclists online.

Becoming comfortable with biking safety rules is easier when riding and learning with other families. 

Sliwinski’s Riding with Kids events put on by Metropolis Cycles and the League of Michigan Bicyclists are a way for families to attend clinics to learn everything from the rules of the road to how to correctly attach a baby seat. Some events are family rides, too, and attendance at past road safety clinics is not a requirement. 

For parents who are feeling lost or for those with simple questions, Sliwinski says heading into your local bike shop ready to learn is a great first step.

They will have the knowledge to help you,” he says. “A trained bike shop employee, that’s the first thing I would recommend.”


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Amanda Rahn
Amanda Rahn
Amanda Rahn is a freelance journalist, copy editor and proud Detroiter. She is a graduate of Wayne State University’s journalism school and of the Columbia Publishing Course at Oxford University. Amanda is a lover of translated contemporary fiction, wines from Jura and her dog, Lottie.

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