The thought of cycling around any city with kids in tow can be a daunting prospect for parents. However, by planning a trip at quieter times of the week and by doing a little research into traffic-free cycle ways it is entirely possible! The main thing that concerns me as parent when out cycling with my children is not their ability, but their safety. That is paramount at all times!
Today, I used the Sustrans website ( http://www.sustrans.org.uk ) to plot out a safe route for a family cycle from Belfast to the Lough Shore Park in Whiteabbey and off we headed to see if it really was suitable for a safe, stress-free family bike-ride.
We are planning to take the kids on a cycle touring holiday next year because being active as a family is something we are passionate about. We are therefore attempting to increase the whole family’s stamina over the next while. The route we took today was perfect for this, it was a 20-mile round trip on a fairly flat surface with a play park at the destination point to give the children a goal to focus on.
Some of the paths we used were for cyclists only and some were shared paths for pedestrians and cyclists, and even though the paths were busy with lots of people enjoying a dry Sunday it wasn’t at all stressful cycling with 3 children.
We have taught the kids to be courteous, to slow down when passing people walking and to try and cycle in a straight line when we see other path users approaching and they were great at following these few simple guidelines so making the journey enjoyable for all. It actually was a lot of fun and everyone was proud of their achievement. It was great to hear the children encouraging one another too when the going got tough.
Belfast is a city that is seeing some good improvements being made to cycling infrastructure. There is a battle being fought for safer, segregated cycle lanes and I personally am seeing more and more people cycling as part of their everyday lives. There is certainly a long way to go in terms of making Belfast into a completely safe cycling city but it is exciting to witness the changes occurring, both in the urban landscape and in attitudes towards cycling.
It is a dream of mine to see more and more families out cycling together in Belfast and for more and more cycle paths to be introduced across the city. However, in the meantime I plan to make the most of the cycle routes that are already in place – some of them are pretty great!