What does Family Biking look like for you? Show us!

By Jeff Wetzel

I’m the official “Family Biking” person here at WABA, as the Family and Youth Education Coordinator. “How do I do this thing?” is a question I get a lot. Answers often turn into a conversation. This thing might be teaching a kid to ride, finding the best bike for a child, or  hauling kids to school by bike. There is no one-size-fits-all answer—it really depends on where you are riding, the age and ability of the child(ren), your budget, and more. 

To help illustrate the many, many great ways to bike with your family, we are curating a series of Family Bike Portraits from across the region. We want to see and hear what “Family Biking” looks like for you, whether you’re in Capitol Hill or Bowie or Herndon. Got trailers and child seats? Box bikes? Kids pedaling on their own? Mom or dad scoping out a new ebike? Whether you ride from your front door to school or hitch bikes to a car and drive to a safe trail to ride with an aunt or uncle, your story is important. 

We’d love to hear your stories and see your photos.

Below is what Family Biking looks like for me. We want to hear from and share what it looks like for you. A paragraph or two along with a few pictures won’t capture the entirety of your story, but will let people see some of your experience. If you are willing to share your Family Biking Portrait, send a brief description and a few photos to youth@waba.org. We plan to share them over the course of the next year.

I live with four girls between the ages of 6 and 11. They can all ride their bikes comfortably for 20 minutes without complaint, and do well with slow neighborhood streets in Northeast DC, but we take the sidewalk on busier roads. They all have their own bikes, but often ride in our box bike when I need to take them further, faster, or along places that I’m not comfortable having them ride. (Read about our 20×20 Campaign to bring safe places to communities across the District here)

¡Muéstranos cómo tu familia pasea en bicicleta!

Hola, soy Jeff y como el Coordinador de Educación para Familia y Juventud soy la persona oficial encargada del  “Ciclismo en Familia” en WABA. La pregunta que más recibo es “¿Cómo hago esta cosa?” y usualmente la pregunta se convierte en una larga conversación. Esta cosa va desde como enseñar a unx niñx como andar en bicicleta, preguntas sobre cuál es la mejor bicicleta para tu hijx, hasta cómo podemos irnos a la escuela en bicicleta. No hay una respuesta única y correcta para todas estas preguntas. Depende del lugar donde vayas andar en bici, la edad y capacidad de lxs niñxs, tu presupuesto y más.

Por eso, hemos decidido compilar una serie de Retratos de Ciclismo en Familia de la región de Washington, DC. Queremos ver y escuchar que es el “Ciclismo en Familia” para ti. Queremos oír de personas de toda la región, desde Capitol Hill hasta Bowie y Herndon, y más allá. Personas con remolques, asientos para niñxs, bicicletas con caja y niñxs que andan en sus propias bicis. Tu historia es importante, no importa si viajas desde la puerta de tu casa hasta la escuela o si ustedes suben las bicicletas en un coche y conducen hasta un sendero seguro para pasear. Nos encantaría escuchar tus historias y ver tus fotos. 

Abajo puedes leer cómo yo defino el ciclismo familiar para mí. Nosotrxs en WABA queremos escuchar y compartir cómo tu lo defines para tu familia. Sabemos que uno o dos párrafos junto con algunas fotos no pueden capturar la totalidad de tu historia, pero esperamos que puedan ayudar a otras personas a ver parte de tu experiencia en familia. Si estás dispuestx a compartir tu Retrato de Ciclismo en Familiaa, envíanos una breve descripción y algunas fotos a youth@waba.org. Planeamos compartirlos a lo largo del próximo año.

¿Qué es el ciclismo para ti, Jeff?

Yo vivo con cuatro niñas que tienen entre de 6 y 11 años. Todas saben andar en bicicleta cómodamente durante 20 minutos sin quejarse, y les va bien con las calles lentas y calmas en los barrios del noreste de DC. Pero también tomamos la acera en los caminos más transitados. Todas tienen sus propias bicicletas, pero a menudo viajan en nuestra bicicleta de caja cuando necesito llevarlas más lejos, más rápido, o por lugares en los que no me siento cómodo con ellas andando solas. (Lea sobre nuestra Campaña 20×20 para crear lugares seguros para andar en bici en todas las comunidades de el Distrito – enlace en inglés)

Family Confident City Cycling

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More joy, less stress! Riding your bike doesn’t have to be stressful. Join us for a morning of skills, confidence, and community building.

Riding with kids can be a lot of fun, but it comes with some extra considerations. This February, join us for a City Cycling class that’s specifically focused on riding with kids!

We’ll spend some time on a few specific bike handling skills, then go for a short ride and talk about strategies for riding in different road, bike lane, and trail situations. Bring questions!

We’ll help you ride more comfortably and confidently without getting something sticky all over your brake levers. No matter your skill level, you’ll improve your abilities on two (or more) wheels!

This is going to be fun!

This two and a half hour class is specifically for adults that ride a bicycle with at least one child on their bike or pulled in a trailer or if you ride with a child riding their own bicycle.

We’ll explore the unique challenges of riding a bike in the region with a child on board, from choosing equipment to avoiding hazards.

The first part of the class will take place in a car free environment (an indoor gym), and after practicing some drills, we’ll go out on a ride on the local trail and roads. 

By the time you head home, you’ll feel more confident, comfortable, and happy on your bike. Plus it’s a blast.

Kids are of course welcome, but childcare will not be provided. In an effort to create an ideal learning environment, please maintain a 1:1 adult to child ratio for children on their own bikes, and 1:2 adult to child ratio for children riding on the same bike as their adult.

Is this class right for you?

  • Do you know how to ride a bicycle?
  • Are you comfortable riding a bike for at least 30 minutes?
  • Are you able to start and stop your bike in a controlled manner?

If you answered “no” to any of the above questions, then a Learn to Ride or a Basic Skills Clinic is best for you.

For this specific Family Confident City Cycling class, we will be focused on people that do one or more of the following

  • You power a bicycle that is carrying or pulling a child.
  • You power a bicycle while a youth (age 6 and older) is powering their own bicycle (i.e. no tag-alongs, trailers, etc.).
  • You want to speak to other parents about their experiences and want to share some of your own.

What to bring:

  • Questions! We love them! Do you have a particular bike situation you’ve always wondered about? That’s what we’re here for.
  • A bike, helmet, water and a snack.
  • Flat pedals. Toe clips, clipless pedals, or other gizmos that attach your feet to your pedals aren’t recommended. If you don’t know what this means, your pedals will work fine.

What does it cost?

Ten bucks! What a deal!

But space is limited, so we recommend you register below ahead of time to hold your spot!

Are you a WABA or Capital Bikeshare member? Then the class is free. Email or call 202-518-0524 x222 for a coupon.

Class Location

Rita Bright Family and Youth Center

2500 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009

Please meet inside in the gym.

Getting There
Street parking in the area is limited and there is no off-street parking available.

The 52 and 54 buses serve 14th St in front of Rita Bright.

Rita Bright is about 6 blocks from both the Columbia Heights and U St-Cardozo metro stations on the Green and Yellow line.

Register

Celebrate the Jones Point Park Bike Campus

We are celebrating the completion of the Alexandria Bike Campus, a major milestone for the region’s commitment to safe bicycling! WABA will host a ribbon cutting on Saturday, December 7 at 11:00 a.m. at Jones Point Park in Alexandria.

We are inviting community members and families to come use the bike campus for the first time! WABA bicycle education instructors will be demonstrating how to use the bicycle campus to teach students of all ages how to ride and how to ride safely and confidently. Looking to learn a new skill? Our instructors are here to help you!

Who should come?

Everyone! And bring your friends and family. All bicycles are welcome, whether you are on a balance bike, a family cargo bike, or your commuter. Join us for a morning of skills, fun and joy, and community building!

What’s a bike campus?

The bicycle campus is a paved space created expressly to teach people of all ages how to ride safely, comfortably and confidently. The Alexandria bike campus has two major elements. It has a small-scale, six-block model of “city” streets. Each block has a different street design, allowing bicyclists of all ages to learn how to maneuver and what to expect in different “real world” scenarios. Additionally, the design includes a training course that allows for distraction-free learning for basic skills such as riding in straight lines, turns, starting and stopping, and bike handling. The facility is open to the public for self-learning and will be used to host WABA bicycle education classes. 

What should I bring?

Bring your bike, bring your helmet, and bring your family and friends!

Where are we meeting?

Great question! Look for the paved sections underneath the Wilson Bridge at Jones Point Park. We’ll be just east of where the Mt. Vernon Trail crosses under the bridge and where the bathrooms are. Look for the mini-street scape!

Riding with younger folks

Looking to inspire the next generation of bicyclists? Or just get the next generation of bicyclists to dance class without having to hunt for a parking space? We’ve got a number of youth and family biking events coming up, check them out!

How to Teach a Youth Learn to Ride Class

May 8, 6:00 PM WABA Offices. Have you wanted to teach your PE class or Girl Scout Troop how to ride bikes safely and confidently in the city? Come join members of WABAs education team for a two hour course on what you need to know to teach a group of young people how to ride. We will cover curriculum, common challenges, and provide you with the information you need to succeed. Join Us

Be a Bike Camp! Counselor

WABA is looking for 2 Camp Counselors and 1 Lead Camp Counselor with a love of riding bikes, experience with youth, and exuberance to spare. Apply Now And we’ve got just a few camper spots left in the July sessions of Bike Camp! July 10-14 and July 17-21 KIPP DC Shaw Campus, 421 P St NW. Skills, confidence, and the freedom of two wheels. Only two weeks in July still available, register now! Details

Bike to School Day

May 10 Your school! It’s time again for the annual Bike To School Day Competition. National Bike to School Day is Wednesday, May 10th.  For the last four years, DDOT and DCPS have sponsored a competition: the school with the highest percentage of students riding to school on that day wins the coveted golden bicycle trophy to proudly display for a year. Register

Family City Cycling

Riding with kids can be a lot of fun, but it comes with some extra considerations. Join us for a City Cycling class that’s specifically focused on riding with kids! We’ll help you ride more comfortably and confidently without getting melted popsicle goop all over your brake levers. No matter your skill level, you’ll improve your abilities on two (or more) wheels. First ride in a trailer

Parent Powered Family Bicycling Class

May 7, 9:30 AM Anacostia Park 1500 Anacostia Dr. SE, Washington, DC This class is designed for parents carrying kids on a bike or in a trailer. Register here learning bike handling skills

Youth Powered Family Bicycling Class

May 27, 9:30 AM Anacostia Park 1500 Anacostia Dr. SE, Washington, DC This class is designed for parents riding with kids who are pedaling their own bikes. Register here

DC Public Schools Rolling into Year Two of Biking Program

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Sterling Stone of Gearin’ Up Bicycles shows DCPS teachers how to check and maintain the kids’ bikes.

It’s not every day that you get to indirectly teach more than 4,000 public school students how to ride bikes safely, but last week, WABA’s youth education staff was lucky enough to do it for the second time. Youth & Family Education Coordinator Jeff Wetzel and Programs Director Daniel Hoagland were part of the team that trained and prepared more than 75 DCPS Physical Education teachers last week. For the DC Public School system, the Biking in the Park program was something of a risk. But Director of Health and Physical Education Miriam Kenyon was unfazed. Here’s the recipe: Take six dozen teachers, every last second grader, 1,000 bright blue bikes, over 100 volunteers, and add wary administrators, warier parents, and the wildly unpredictable state of DC’s street and sidewalk infrastructure. Then shake it all together for a year, and see what happens. The result? Kids rode bikes. A lot. Some learned how to ride for the first time in their lives. Others learned how to ride in a group, how to ride on sidewalks or streets, and how to look after one another on a bike ride. In short, the program was an overwhelming success. So when WABA was asked to help get the DCPS teachers ready for year two, we jumped at the chance. We shared our best helmet-fitting and obstacle-course tips, and demonstrated how to arrange and manage a youth group ride. We helped them find the answers to each other’s questions, and we encouraged them to share the things they learned over the course of the first year. The teachers–some of whom hadn’t been on a bike in decades prior to the program–were eager to get back to work. They told us about kids who said the bike riding lesson was their favorite school experience ever, and about parents who have dug their own bikes out of garages and basements after their kids came home full of enthusiasm for riding. DC Public Schools’ Biking in the Park program is ongoing during the school year. Every second grader will get a chance to participate in five lessons that build skills and confidence before going on a half-day field trip by bike. Schools throughout the District are looking for volunteers to help ride with the kids all year long. If you’re interested, please contact Elizabeth Pandaya with DCPS.

Meet Jeff, our new Youth & Family Education Coordinator

Jeff Wetzel Staff Photo

Hi! I’m Jeff, your new Youth & Family Education Coordinator.  I’m super excited to be working to educate children, adults, and motorists about safe bicycling to create a healthy, more livable region.  (Sound familiar? It’s part of WABA’s mission statement!) 

I’m looking forward to being an advocate for families here at WABA. From planning parent and child classes about how to ride together safely in the city to providing resources to new parents on riding with their children, I’m eager to help get things rolling.

 I’m already digging into how I can bring quality experiences teaching bike handling and safety skills to youth across the metro area.  I’ve worked with youth as a teacher, mentor, employer, and robotics team coach and thrive on watching young people grow and develop; I’m excited now to be able to do that through bicycles. From learn to ride classes to bike safety rodeos to advocating for themselves, these are important skills for our youth, who will soon be young adults.

Do you have great ideas for youth (particularly if you are youth!) or family biking needs?  You can email me at jeff.wetzel@waba.org

 To see some of the upcoming programming, check out our summer Bike Camp!

What we learned at the Family Biking Town Hall

WABA's Family Biking Town Hall  (8) Back in December we took small steps toward something big. We hosted our first-ever Family Biking Town Hall where we met with parents, members of youth-serving organizations, WABA members, and community stakeholders. We talked about making our work serve youth and families better, and we learned a lot. The meeting resulted in the following recommendations to make our programming more inclusive. In all our programming, we’ll cultivate more consciousness around scheduling at family-friendly times and choosing routes and event spaces that are appropriate for children.

In our outreach:

We’re pleased to offer more Family Biking Workshops with Kidical Mass this spring. The first one is this Saturday, May 2, at 10:30 a.m. at the Watha T. Daniel/Shaw Neighborhood Library. Click here for more info. See you there? With additional funding, ideas for future programming include:
  • Creating a neighborhood family bike ambassador program
  • Family-friendly community nights
  • Roundtable discussions with youth and family biking groups around the region to share best practices and develop ideas

In education, we learned that our stakeholders are interested in:

  • Afterschool bike clubs for youth
  • Classes where parents can learn how to ride with and alongside their kids
  • More ABCs of Family Biking events throughout the region
  • Summer Bike Camp
We’re happy to be implementing a number of those suggestions this spring. We’re leading an afterschool Bike Club at Benning Park Recreation Center through the month of May, and we’re partnering up with Gearin’ Up Bicycles to hold our first-ever summer camp in July. We hope that the summer and fall will bring more opportunities to plan ABCs of Family Biking events and to schedule inclusive biking classes for youth and families.

In planning large-scale events, we learned:

  • We should work toward including shorter, family-friendly ride routes as part of our large ride events.
  • We should work on diversifying our ride themes — think Tour de Playground and Cargo Bike Race. Youth and family-friendly theme ideas, anyone?
  • Making events accessible to all makes the world go around! More snack breaks, family-friendly start times, teen rides, off-bike activities, and childcare at events.

In advocacy we’re working on:

Teaching advocacy at schools and in afterschool programs
  • Creating traffic gardens and bike schools
  • Creating more bike parking at schools, libraries, and other institutions used by youth and families
With additional funding and resources, we learned that we should tackle:
  • Consistent wayfinding that highlights comfortable routes that are ideal for families
  • Trail advocacy that focuses on amenities for families
  • Holding advocacy meetings at local high schools
  • Including youth perspectives in testimony
  • Securing subsidized Capital Bikeshare memberships for high school students

And, we learned about all the existing Family Biking groups:

  • Black Women Bike DC: Workshops, rides, forum all year long
  • Kidical Mass Arlington: Family-friendly group rides monthly
  • Kidical Mass DC: Family-friendly group rides monthly
  • Kidical Mass Falls Church: Family-friendly group rides monthly
  • Kidical Mass Gaithersburg: Family-friendly group rides monthly
  • Kidical Mass Rockville: Family-friendly group rides monthly
We owe a big thank you to all the folks who participated in our Town Hall in December, and to those who filled out our Family Biking Survey. Because of your dedication, we were able to open an important discussion. And don’t forget, next Wednesday is Bike to School Day! You can check here to see if your school is participating. If they aren’t you can still ride by yourself or with friends and neighbors. Join the conversation by coming out to our Family Biking Workshop with DCPL this Saturday. Or sign up here to join our Youth & Family Biking email list. You can always drop us a line at outreach@waba.org. There are so many ways to be involved, and we’d love to have you on board.  

Our Family Biking Town Hall in Photos

Sunday’s Family Biking Town Hall provided us with lots of important feedback on how WABA can better integrate family biking priorities in our events, outreach, education, and advocacy work. Thanks so much to the WABA supporters and family biking aficionados who were able to join us! If you have suggestions on how WABA can make our region a better place for families to ride, please click here to complete our short survey by January 1st.