I met Alexander during the last edition of the Fête du Vélo in June. What captured my attention was a trailer attached to his bike. He was towing his two-year-old daughter Laura. Parents cycling with their kids in trailers or cargo bikes are still a rare sight in Luxembourg but it seems that people from abroad who settle down in Luxembourg are bringing valuable cycling habits with them.
Alexander originally comes from Freiburg, which explains a lot. Freiburg has gained the most desirable labels: green city, ecological heart of Germany, model of sustainability. Next to solar panels, passive houses and recycling, the city has invested a great deal in cycling. Cycling seems to be second nature for Freiburg’s citizens. Alexander confirms this: “Definitely, it is a cycling city. It is true that the city took a lot of steps to become bicycle-friendly. For example, it converted a street with high cycle traffic into a cycling zone where cars are allowed but they are secondary street users. Cycling is part of daily life. Most of my friends did not have a car and I myself could purely rely on a bicycle. In Freiburg, you can perfectly combine such modes of transportation as train and bike. Taking a bike on board is not an issue.”
Moving to Luxembourg seven years ago must have been like jumping into a different reality. “My father told me that nobody cycles here”, laughs Alexander.” But over these last seven years things have changed. “The city is taking a lot of effort to invest in the infrastructure. The introduction of the velo’h! system has changed a lot, it influenced people’s thinking about using bikes and improved the visibility of bicycles.”
Even with noticeable gaps between Freiburg’s and Luxembourg’s cycling infrastructure, Alexander did not want to compromise his cycling habits. “If you are keen on cycling, you will find your own way through the city without being discouraged.”
The outside of the carrier is covered with reflective strips. As the trailer is lower to the ground and less visible than a bike, Alexander attaches a long, bright orange safety flag to its side. In case the trailer goes over a bumpy surface or a curb, the full suspension ensures the kid’s comfort.
When towing a trailer it is best to avoid high traffic areas. “I am rather trying to find my own ways through the city and choose less congested roads. To get to Parc Merl, I avoid Avenue de la Liberté and instead take side streets. Even if it takes a few minutes longer, it is more relaxing.”
Carrying kids in a trailer is believed to help them transition to a bike when they grow up. From inside the cabin, kids can watch their parents navigating around and can learn how to give hand signals, how to behave in traffic and overall pick up some of their parents’ cycling habits. For Laura, it may be easier to later transition to her own bike. “Hopefully”, smiles Alexander. “Well, it is also part of my story because my mother used to take me and my brother on her bike, which at that time was very uncommon and she was seen as someone unusual. And maybe I inherited this love for biking.”
While cycling with kids in trailers is commonplace in Freiburg, it is quite a sensation in Luxembourg. “People look at me, a lot of them smile. They seem to accept the idea- they express that, especially other cyclists.” Alexander’s advice for parents who hesitate whether to try a trailer or not is that they should: “Just do it. They should not be afraid of traffic, they can just try to find their way in less congested roads. My experience is that there is always a way to get from point A to B in a reasonable manner.”