A family bike ride can be made or broken by route selection. Saturday afternoon we went for a ride to a regional fast food establishment that people are kind of crazy about. Without much thinking (on my part) we took a major arterial road, with a bike lane to the restaurant. I take this road every day as part of my commute and find it very easy to ride. But riding with a bike trailer and spouse, I found it to be quite a different experience. Not nearly as enjoyable. I could see it in my wife's eyes that my hasty route selection had made for less than idyllic ride.
Cause let's face it... when we go for family rides we're all in search of that "blissful" ride with the sunshine, birds chirping, butterflies dancing, and all other utopian notions that accompany the fun that comes when the entire family is on the bike.
After we ate - I started to rethink our route home. While we could've easily retraced our steps and hustled home... I didn't want to do that. Sure, going back down the road with a bike lane was direct, but was that how I wanted to ride home? With very little effort, I devised a route that took us through the city center, and along a residential road almost all the way home. As you can see from the picture, the residential road took us slightly further south than we wanted, but the peaceful ride more than made up for the 1/4 mile detour. George squealed in delight on the way home. My wife added her vote of approval, the ride home was "the family ride" feel we were looking for.
Some thoughts for next time and family route selection:
Bike lanes are good for individual riding, commuting, and direct trips. They are not as nice for family riding because of traffic volume, and it is difficult, if not dangerous to ride two abreast.
Residential roads are nice. The traffic is slower, and cars expect to travel at slower speeds. We had a minivan drive patiently, slowly behind us for several blocks without trying to pass us (though they could have if they were in a rush). I doubt you'd get the same offer on a major street. The less direct/detour is far worth it. Let's face it, if you are on a family ride, are you really in a rush anywhere? The residential roads allow you to ride next to your family members in a much more calm environment.
Routing has never been easier with online mapping tools like google maps, google earth, and mileage tracking sites like gmaps pedometer (our route linked) that allow you to share your routes (or record them for future use).
What are your experiences with family bike route planning?