Once upon a time, my husband and I looked forward to getting up early on the weekends and joining a group of like-minded souls for a 30- to 40-mile bicycle journey through the streets of South Florida. At the time, it seemed that bicycling was a hobby we would never give up. Then came the pregnancies and the children.
While we still participate in an occasional biking event, those long rides alongside speeding traffic no longer seem practical, with or without the kids. So these days, we are "changing gears" and downshifting to a more family-friendly style of biking that can include our two boys, ages 2 and 5.
I was thrilled to discover that there are, indeed, some wonderful biking routes throughout South Florida that families can enjoy away from the busy roads. From scenic parks to jaunts through the Everglades and beachside paths, there are biking adventures to suit every family and every skill level. There are even several popular mountain bike trails around for "extreme" families who prefer a little more action.
For maps and more detailed information on other paths and areas suitable for bike rides, consult the bicycle coordinator in your county.
And before going on any bicycle ride, make sure every member of the family is prepared. All bicycles and any children's carriers should be checked to make sure they are secure and in good working condition. Remember to bring along an extra tube and repair kit for flat tires, and a first-aid kit, as well as plenty of water and snacks. Review Florida's bicycle laws (available in most bike shops), and be aware that the bicycles are considered vehicles. That means that all of the regulations in the state's vehicular code, unless they specifically mention "motor vehicles," apply to bicycles. And finally, wear your helmet. A helmet is required for children under 16, but it's a good idea for everyone.
Palm Beach County
Palm Beach County's Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator Wendell Phillips is the first to admit that Palm Beach is a "tough county" when it comes to bicycling.
"We are a very automobile-oriented society. We have wonderful roadways with six to eight lanes and few stops, allowing people to go very fast. For bicyclists and pedestrians, the streets are inherently dangerous. There is lots of traffic, particularly in the [tourist] season," he said.
Still, there are several picturesque parks and areas that Phillips recommends for cycling. And things are improving in the county, he added, with more bike lanes being added as streets are refurbished. In addition, work has begun on the new Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail, a 110-mile paved trail that will circle the top of the dike around Lake Okeechobee. Sections of the trail are expected to open by 2005.
In the meantime, you might want to sample some of these Palm Beach County spots:
For family-style bike rides in Broward, visiting a county park may be your best bet.
"We have a lot of parks that offer good biking away from traffic," said Broward County Bicycle Coordinator Mark Horowitz. "Certain ones have more activities for children than others."