September 12, 2013 at 14:30  •  Posted in Advice, I ♥ my bike, People by  •  2 Comments

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.
Dad and daughter

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.”


Laura biscuits
It was clear for him and his wife that they would need some sort of transportation for their daughter. They eventually chose a trailer that offers a range of practical solutions. The trailer fold flats so it takes much less space than one would think. In less than 5 minutes, Alexander puts all the elements together and a minute later Laura is sitting snugly inside, munching on biscuits and smiling to us. There is enough space inside to store toys, children’s books, a bottle of water and snacks. Nutrition, hydration, education and transportation in one. It is a more expensive option compared to a baby seat, but it is fitted with a range of safety features.


folded trailer unfolded safety flag
To start with, Laura is strapped inside the trailer with a harness consisting of straps around her shoulders, a waist belt and a crotch strap, almost like in a racing car. The trailer is attached to the bike by means of a special swiveling hitch. In case the parent falls, the trailer will not flip over but will remain steady.

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.


Laura side window
It is also a genuine all-weather means of transport. The whole cabin is made of waterproof Cordura fabric. Laura is protected from rain thanks to a rolled-down front panel. A mesh front screen ensures ventilation and protects her against bugs and pebbles. From inside, Laura can still admire the views through tinted side windows. A great thing about the trailer is that it can be easily converted into a stroller. Active parents can even take their kid for a run as the trailer is also convertible into a jogging kit.

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.”


parc
Cycling parents underline that using a trailer helps them instil in their children an active lifestyle and show them that there is an alternative to cars. “Laura accepts it as a normal means of transportation. She enjoys it. We give her a book. Also, she is more exposed to nature and fresh air.”

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.”

2 Comments

  1. Dominik / September 28, 2013 at 11:09 / Reply

    I like!

  2. Budd / February 7, 2014 at 16:49 / Reply

    I applaud the ease with which Alexander seems to inject the Freiburg casual urban biking style into Luxembourg. I pray to the big spaghetti monster in the sky that he’s successful in setting a precedent. This revolution is long-overdue in Luxembourg’s car-crazed, CO2-spouting, congested (and therefore morose) urban transport infrastructure.

    Personally, I have always found biking on Luxembourg streets to be borderline dangerous and will probably use the side streets (and – although I know I shouldn’t – the pavement) where there is no bike lane available, which would be clearly separated from the remaining traffic.

    Driving in shared lane traffic with a trailer, I’d simply fear for the safety of my child. Take, for instance, the route between Gasperich and Howald (the upcoming Boulevard Raiffeisen). If you ever cycled there in tightly packed (non-rush hour!) traffic, you won’t try again, unless you have a death wish.

    Having been a frequent visitor to Freiburg’s Vauban area, I’ve always dreamed of Luxembourg becoming more like the friendly biking city that Freiburg is. Unless either a) motorists are more strictly monitored and sanctioned for transgressions against other road users or b) a network of (sub-)urban bike paths, physically separated from the remainder of traffic, is set up, I sometimes fear that my dream is going to remain just that.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.