You can go further than you might believe with kids on bikes. Think in terms of miles, not blocks.
Even a baby or toddler can go into a kiddie seat on your bike. A little later, consider a tag-along - the third wheel with seat, handlebars and pedals that adults haul behind their bikes. Or try tandems. Both give kids ages 3 to 7 or so a way to keep up, and they allow kids to contribute to the biking power when they have the energy, and relax when they don't. You can do miles right in your own community.
"The cycling we end up doing is definitely more local," said Linwood resident Mitch Rovins, of his family. He uses a tandem to allow his youngest son to keep up. Even though he is a serious distance biker, and the owner of Beacon Cycling in Northfield, he doesn't get a lot of time on bikes with his wife and three kids. They have so many activities to do, they usually can't fit in anything more than a bike-path ride from Linwood to a nearby town. But that's OK, he said.
"We go maybe three to five miles (each way). It's not a big deal. But the kids love it," he said of rides to Somers Point or Northfield that include stops for ice cream and at a natural area for some family time. "You can find little fun activities, going to a park like Birch Grove and back."
Bike paths are perfect for building endurance and confidence in children, since they are mostly paved surfaces that follow former railroad tracks, and are protected from traffic. But there are cross streets, and children must be taught to always be on the lookout for crossing traffic. Bike paths go through communities with restaurants, parks and shops, so provide ample opportunity for rest and fun.
One of the region's first bike paths, which runs from Somers Point to Pleasantville, is chock full of people much of the time, so don't expect to be able to ride at top speed. It's better for a leisurely ride, with stops at parks and playgrounds, and for refreshments at neighborhood stores. Faster riding is possible on the Atlantic County Bikeway, which runs from Egg Harbor Township to Hamilton Township. Its crossroads, while relatively few, are busy and traffic is fast, however.
If you're up for something a bit wilder, look to trail rides in the county and state park systems. They are off-road and generally unpaved, so are more demanding and will use up more energy per mile ridden. They will also challenge with tighter turns, impediments to get over, and sand or mud to get through.
Contact Michelle Brunetti Post:
Atlantic County Bikeway
7.56 miles from the Shore Mall in Egg Harbor Township to the Atlantic County Institute of Technology in Hamilton Township. Park in lots at the mall or school, or at English Creek Avenue, near the midpoint. At the ACIT, you can continue on Atlantic Avenue into downtown Mays Landing for a meal, ice cream or leisurely stroll.
Somers Point to Pleasantville:
6 miles from W. New Jersey Avenue in Somers Point, through Linwood, Northfield, and ends in downtown Pleasantville. Park anywhere along the path, which mostly runs along Wabash Avenue. There are plenty of stores and restaurants nearby.
Seashore Trail Line:
10-mile gravel path from Belleplain State Forest to the paved Woodbine Bikeway on Route 550.
3 miles along Route 550 in Woodbine. Easy access to quiet country roads for longer ride. Ice cream stand and other refreshment stops nearby.
Ocean City Bikeway:
More than a mile, from 9th Street to 34th Street along Haven Avenue. There is a designated bike lane on West Avenue from 32nd Street south.
Barnegat Branch Trail:
Ongoing project eventually will be a 15-mile path from Barnegat to Toms River. Three miles have been completed, from Burr Street in Barnegat to Route 532 (Wells Mills Road) in Ocean Township.
For information on official bike paths, visit ww.traillink.com
Estell Manor Park: 10 miles of multi-use trails throughout the park, on Route 50 about three miles south of Mays Landing. Some are paved, others not. There's also a 6-mile mountain biking loop trail at the north end of the park, a single-lane trail through forest, with some opportunities to jump logs and for technical riding. Considered easy to moderate in difficulty. Call 609-645-5960 or visit www.aclink.org/PARKS/mainpages/estell.asp
Lake Lenape Park: 6303 Old Harding Highway in Mays Landing has myriad shared-use off-road trails. Call 609-645-5960 or visit www.aclink.org/PARKS/Lake_Lenape.asp
Belleplain State Forest: 40 miles of off-road trails, many of which are open to biking, on Route 550 in Woodbine. There's also a 20-mile paved road system perfect for easy riding. Call 609-861-2404 or visit www.state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests/parks/belle.html
Wells Mills County Park: 3.5-mile off-road bicycle trail on Route 532 in Waretown. Call 609-971-3085.
Parvin State Park: On Almond Road in Pittsgrove has flat, easy single-track trails for bikers, including an 8.2 mile mountain biking trail. Surfaces vary, but all are suitable for a family biking excursion. Call 856-358-8616 or visit www.state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests/parks/parvin.html
Wharton State Forest: Two mountain bike trails, one 19 miles and one 6 miles long, plus about 500 miles of shared use gravel and sand roads. Call the Batsto Village office at 609-561-0024 or visit www.state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests/parks/wharton.html
Allaire State Park: 5.5 miles of multi-use trails south of the village, with a moderately challenging mountain bike loop trail. Allaire State Park 4265 Atlantic Ave. Farmingdale. Call 732-938-2371 or visit www.stateparks.com/allaire.html
Helmets (required by law for riders younger than 17).
Water-bottle holders installed on bike
Pack on one bike to hold snacks, extra clothes and diapers
Bike pedometer to measure distance and speed.