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Who Needs a Stinkin' Car? 

Four ways to cruise around town with the kiddos, sans internal combustion

Willow Hamilton rides Aidan Miller around in a Bakfiets-style bike in the parking lot of Bend Electric Bikes. - CHRIS MILLER
  • Chris Miller
  • Willow Hamilton rides Aidan Miller around in a Bakfiets-style bike in the parking lot of Bend Electric Bikes.

If you thought the only way to tote your kids around town was by car, it's time to branch out. In honor of the Bike Issue, we tested out four ways to commute with kids, with some help from Bend Electric Bikes. The staff there knows what's possible—many of them rarely, if ever, drive cars... and they have plenty of kids between them.

We also tried each of these options with our own kids, offering our own ratings for things including safety, convenience and comfort.

Bike Trailer

The Burley-style trailer is still a decent way to get young kids around town. They're covered—many come with optional rain covers—low to the ground and have good straps to keep kids in place. Parents can tow them behind basically any bike and they're often found used on sites like Craigslist or even in bike shops that sell used gear. According to Burley's website, "To ride in a Burley trailer behind a bicycle, the industry standard is to wait until a child is one year old. While each child's physical development is unique, we recommend that a child should be able to sit upright unattended and hold his or her head up while wearing a bicycle helmet."

While there's no real age limit for kids in the trailers, it does get a touch hard to get them in and out when they get too tall. And if you're traveling, the trailer can be a bulky item to take with you.

Our overall rating: B

Safety grade: B

Comfort grade: B

Convenience grade: C+ – hard to get kids in and out sometimes

Front Cargo

There are a few different options in this category. There's the "Bakfiets" or a front-loading option that places the front wheel well in front of the rider. It takes a bit of time to get used to riding, but most bike shop employees give the advice to look past the wheel, instead of focusing on it. This option generally has enough room for two small children, or a combo of kid plus groceries. You can use your imagination to build your own front cargo-style bike—once you get the frame—or many shops around town can build you a turn-key bike.

Our overall rating: A

Safety grade: A

Comfort grade: A

Convenience grade: B – at times difficult to maneuver the long bike

Rear Cargo

For riding kiddos around, parents can get a traditional-type seat, like the Thule Yepp, which places the child in a car-seat like structure that attaches directly to most bike frames. Or, you can get a fancier setup with an extended rear cargo area, with the option of adding a railing system around the child's seat, with footrests and handlebars for older kids.

The DIY set can construct virtually any type of cargo trailer off the rear end of bikes like the Yuba Spicy Curry Bosch Electric, which is a Type1 e-assist bike with rear cargo space. If you don't need e-assist, there's the Yuba Boda Boda, which has an easy step-over frame.

Our overall rating: B+

Safety grade: B+ - Doesn't feel quite as safe as a bakefiets.

Comfort grade: B+ - These are the shortest-length bikes of the set.

Convenience grade: B- - Slight concern about bike tipping as you mount the bike

Trailer Bike

If your child can already pedal but lacks the stamina for long rides, hook them up to your bike with trailers such as the Burley Piccolo trailercycle, sold at REI. These allow larger kids the freedom of their own seat, but you can still take over in the horsepower realm when kids get tired.

Our overall rating: C

Safety grade: C – trailercycle can wobble from side to side

Comfort grade: C

Convenience grade: B – the only option of the set in which kids can actually pedal and contribute horsepower

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