Back before Megan Odett was married and had a baby, one of her favorite things to do was ride her bike around Washington. Today? One of her favorite things to do is ride her bike around Washington — with her toddler.
“I think biking is so great for kids,” says the 33-year-old, whose nearly 3-year-old son prefers the view from the seat attached to his mom’s bike to the one from a car seat. “On a bike, we can stop for stuff. If he wants to talk to a dog, we can stop. We can put a mitten back on.”
They can also get funny looks, because a child on a bike is still a rare sight in the city. It doesn’t have to be, as Odett explained at last week’s National Women’s Biking Forum, where she was featured on a panel discussing community-based bike advocacy.
Odett’s story: After hearing about the Kidical Mass rides that had started in Eugene, Ore., she decided to create a D.C. chapter. Since April 2011, she’s been organizing similar outings suitable for families in our area. Last year, she helped launch The ABC’s of Family Biking, an annual educational event that showcases kid-friendly bike gear and explains safe riding techniques. (It’s happening again at 11 a.m. April 28 at Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan, 215 G St. NE.)
She’s happy to speak from experience — and regards her giant orange cargo bike as a moving billboard promoting family cycling — but for the forum, Odett wanted to make sure she was representing a range of views. So she sent out a survey to collect opinions from other moms and dads who cycle with their kids and wound up with nearly 100 responses.
When she shared her results at the forum, Odett singled out the obstacles parents cited as the reason they don’t bike more with their kids. The No. 1 response from men was safety. For women, the biggest problem is distance.
This wasn’t much of a shocker for Odett, who acknowledges her physical limitations when it comes to being a cycling mom. Biking several miles is tough enough when she’s on her own, and when she’s hauling extra weight, she’s going to go slower — and need a shower. (“We live on top of one of the tallest hills in Northeast. I get really sweaty in the summer,” the Bloomingdale resident says.)
With another future cyclist due to arrive in June, Odett hopes to get an electric assist for her bike. It won’t be “cheating,” which she says is the view of much of the Lycra-wearing world.
It will be a way to keep biking a viable option for her family. And as other parents see her taking to the streets on two wheels, maybe they’ll be convinced they could be just as comfortable in the bike lane as in an SUV.
The Right Lane: Megan Odett applauds D.C.’s new bike lanes. But for these lanes to be more appealing to families, she says, they need to be wider to accommodate bulkier bikes, and traffic laws need to be enforced to maintain safety.