February 3, 2012
In anticipation for biking with an infant - I wanted to share a few thoughts.
There has been a lot of talk on G&B about biking while pregnant lately, and so far everybody has been playing nice. There are occasional comments from others, about us pregnant ladies being careful and not overexerting ourselves when we're not feeling up to the task, but otherwise, biking while pregnant seems like business as usual to those of us who do it.
I would like to add that it would appear that naysayers should be mindful that most of us pregnant ladies don't seem to seek strenuous physical activity when we're not feeling well. It doesn't seem logical to need to be reminded not to... you know... do something that makes you hurt or feel ill.
This brings me to my gripe with biking with infants. We cycling moms seem to put on a smiley face and sort of avoid the topic because it brings forth all these opinions and possible judgment. But, the fact remains that most of the moms I know, even the ones who cycle, just sort of accept that you can't easily bike with an infant. We go on walks (oftentimes just to walk, not as transportation) or we wait until there is somebody else around so we can run away for a quick ride before we have to be back and nurse the infant. Doesn't sound easy and liberating, huh? Well, if you're used to biking almost everywhere - it isn't!
I'm not talking about cycling with a 1 yr old (which seems to be the general recommendation from trailer manufacturers and helmet companies). I'm talking about infants. I've seen it done in other countries before, where putting a baby in a front mounted basket is no big thing, but riding around with an infant isn't really a socially accepted activity here in North America.
Alright, so I understand that an infant is certainly not strong enough to sit upright and their necks are really wobbly. I'm not advocating for anybody to go out there and shake their baby through the power of pot holes and off-road racing. However, securing your baby's car seat in some sort of towing device, on a familiar residential route with little traffic, shouldn't be the end of the world. Obviously there are many variables to consider, such as the condition of the pavement, how fast you're riding, the experience of the rider, etc. I just think it feels rather limiting as a cyclist to be restricted from one of the ways I get around. The only reason I survive is because I live so very close to the train, and will have twice had the luxury of giving birth in time for summer. This all makes being a transit-oriented pedestrian much friendlier.
I've seen some cycling mamas and papas out there who are back on the bike with their infants as soon as possible, but it's still the sort of thing that appears to be for "alternative" people. My point is simply this: It doesn't seem very fair that a new parent's mobility is limited to such an extent when you use cycling as transportation. If we follow the logic laid out to us by helmet companies and child-cargo manufacturers, then, if you cycle and you happen to have a baby... you're not allowed to bike again for about a year.
This line of reasoning doesn't just strike me as odd. It makes me angry!
It seems to support the notion that having a baby is somehow an illness of sorts, or a burden. I am happy to make accommodations for a little one in the family. I don't think that has to mean we can't even go see mama's friend for lunch or get some groceries sans car. Having a baby shouldn't have to mean having a sedentary lifestyle, even if it's temporary.
So I don't have some sort of ultimate solution here. I'm not saying helmets have to be made for babies that are 4 weeks old. I'm not saying that all new moms should get back in the saddle and pedal around 100% of the time. I'm just saying I wish there were more options and more tolerance for those of us who don't like to think of having a baby as automatically having a ball and chain to one's car.