Bike to School Week : Ride with your Family

Published: May 8, 2020

“When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking.” – Arthur Conan Doyle

 In my opinion, there is no more apt quote about riding a bicycle and the freedom it can bring. In this time when spirits can be low and the day can appear dark, the bicycle is the perfect way to escape the monotony of being at home in a safe and healthy way. I started off riding my bike in college as a way to get around campus, and after college as a form of physical activity. I quickly fell in love with how clear my mind felt after spending a few hours on the road not looking at screens, and how my body felt as I got stronger and could ride further and faster.  I started racing my bike in local road races, and enjoyed the social aspect of cycling and the sense of community I felt. I have been a professional cyclist for the last two years, and I am lucky to be able to ride my bike everyday as a profession and travel the world (in normal times) to race with my team, Rally Cycling.

In my work as a postdoctoral research fellow at the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living, I am a part of the STREETS Study, which focuses on looking at how environments affect active commuting to school. This week is National Bike to School week, and though students are not in the classrooms, it is still a great moment to promote and encourage cycling as both a form of transportation and a form of leisure physical activity.

Cycling is a great family activity, and whether you are already an active cyclist or pulling out a bike that has long sat idle in the garage, I have a few tips to get you and your family ready to go.

  1. Make sure your family’s bikes are in good working order and safe to ride. An easy way to ensure your bike is in good shape is the ABC Quick Check below from the League of American Bicyclists. Bike shops in many parts of the country, including here in Austin, are considered essential services, and can help.
    • Air: Be sure you have enough air in your tires
    • Brakes:Look to see that your brake pads are not worn
    • Chain and Cranks: Pull on your cranks to see that they are not loose and look to see that the chain is not rusted and it is free of gunk
    • Quick Release:Make sure all quick releases on your wheels are closed
    • Check: Take a slow brief ride to check that your bike is working properly
  2. Always wear a helmet, and always put helmets on children. Helmets can reduce head injuries by almost 50%, and should be worn on every ride. Yes, that even includes the short rides around the block or around a parking lot.
  3. Know the current local regulations around outdoor exercise, and maintain a safe social distance from others. Give other cyclists plenty of space and don’t follow too closely. With an increased volume of pedestrians and cyclists right now using the roads and trails, it is important to alert as you are passing others. For younger children, riding on the sidewalk is a safe option, as they may not be developmentally ready to ride on the roads. For older children who ride on the roads, obey all traffic laws and ride as far to the right of the road as possible.

 For more resources on smart cycling, you can visit https://bikeleague.org/content/smart-cycling-tips-0.

See you on the road (from a safe distance), and happy cycling!

Written by Leigh Ann Ganzar

Leigh Ann Ganzar is currently a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow with the Michael and Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living. She graduated in December 2019 from the UTHealth School of Public Health in Austin with a DrPH from the Health Promotion and Behavioral Science Department. During her doctorate program, she worked as a research assistant on the STREETS Study and as a Dell Health Scholar. She has also been a Fulbright Scholar in Brazil and worked in local health departments. She completed her MPH and BS from Baylor University. She is also a professional cyclist, and competes for the Rally Cycling team all over the world