If your family’s spring break is a “staycation” this year, make your time feel like a bona-fide getaway by slowing down the pace and enjoying a bike ride. Many of us have developed an intense spin class or other stationary riding habit in our day-to-day, but forget that biking outside – just for family fun – can be delightful.
“You see a place in a totally different way when you ride a bike, even if you’ve lived there your entire life,” says Jen Warner, a mom of three and cycling advocate with the public health alliance My City Bikes. “Biking with kids can be especially fun because you all get to do something together instead of a class or camp where parents are on the sidelines. Parents get their workout, kids have a blast and get to let out their energy on the bike pedals. Its a real win-win, and there are more places to ride than you might realize.”
My City Bikes has created a smartphone app for Los Angeles (My City Bikes Los Angeles) in partnership with local bike shops Bike Attack and Santa Monica Bike Center. It includes information on all types of biking opportunities in the city, including those that are particularly kid friendly.
If your family prefers to own a bicycle and/or trailer or bike seat for each member, Bike Attack is a beginner-friendly bike shop that has bikes for riders of every age. Riders as young as 3 can command a balance bike. For younger kids, a bike seat or cargo bike are good options. If you prefer to rent, Santa Monica Bike Center has an excellent selection of family-friendly bicycles, bike trailers and bike seats – even lightweight cargo bikes that can safely seat two to three kids.
No matter where you get your gear, make sure that everyone has a helmet that fits properly. Nutcase is a reliable brand of helmets that are as much fashion as function, and they have sizes for young children to adults.
There are three local spring break “cruises” that are especially nice for families. Each is a separated bike path, so that you can bike with little-to-no interference from cars. Download the free app to find GPS-enabled directions to the trailhead of each ride, and plan your bike destination, yummy treat or simply a place to leave a car so you can skip the ride back if your crew gets tired.
Before you ride, be sure that you have:
- Tires inflated on all bicycles,
- Helmets for every rider and passenger,
- At least one water bottle per person and
- U-locks and cables (to secure your bike if you plan to make any stops along the way).
Santa Monica Beach & South Bay Bike Path
Distance: About 22 miles
This iconic trail runs all the way from Pacific Palisades to Torrance Beach and gives a taste of every culture and community along the way, not to mention the natural beauty of the ocean. This is a great trail to break into pieces. Choose a destination, park your car nearby and ride to and fro along the path.
Distance: About 2.8 miles
This well-maintained bike path runs in the meridian between the lanes of traffic on Chandler Boulevard from Burbank to North Hollywood. Mostly set in a residential area in Burbank, this trail is a charming connector or an out-and-back that is short enough most kids will be able to cover the distance.
Metro Orange Line Bike Path
Distance: About 18 miles
This is a great trail because its length makes it convenient to many communities. It stretches from North Hollywood to Chatsworth with landscaping, public art and easy access to Beilenson Park, where you can find a playground, picnic tables and other recreational amenities.
Distance: About 9 miles
Griffith Park is a great multi-purpose bike destination. Bike rentals are available at the park if you don’t want to bring your own. The trail itself is charming and scenic, and from the zoo to the observatory to picnic spots there are plenty of opportunities to take a break or enjoy a diversion.
Tina Schmidt is a spokesperson for My City Bikes, a public health campaign and resource for beginning cyclists across the U.S. Learn more at www.mycitybikes.org.