Ask any parent about the transport challenges they face when getting around with their children, and the response is pretty much always the same. It’s stressful, particularly when you have buggies, multiple children and a busy work and personal schedule to contend with.
The first and last mile presents particular problems for parents, as does an overdependence on the trusty family car. More often than not, many parents feel their only option is to drive everywhere because, seemingly, the alternatives aren’t any better.
Which might be why the school run has become such an issue. As Sustrans has estimated, this regular commute contributes to nearly a quarter of peak traffic.
The school run contributes to nearly a quarter of peak traffic.
So what’s the answer?
Share your ride
Ride-sharing has emerged as an effective way for parents to streamline their travel plans and cut down on superfluous journeys. Consider InMotion portfolio company GoKid, which has come up with a smarter way for parents to pool their commutes through an app – it helps to reduce the number of trips any given parent has to make, while offering kids a more sociable, unhurried commute.
Ride-sharing has emerged as an effective way for parents to streamline their travel plans and cut down on superfluous journeys.
Still, there are transport challenges to overcome. The biggest hot topic for parents I talked to was children’s car seats. Helen, who is based in Paris, regularly uses taxis, but she admits that “it’s a challenge to find one with a car seat”.
“Someone needs to invent a car seat that’s easy to lug around, or fit them as standard with cars,” she adds.
Childcare goes mobile
This demand is why we’re seeing ride services aimed specifically at parents begin to emerge, all with a unique take on what is likely to be a very competitive industry.
LA-based SkipHopDrive and London-based OneLane are two examples of startups approaching the same problem in very different ways. While both involve certified and vetted childcare professionals taking over transport responsibilities from parents, the former relies on vehicles to get children to destinations “when their parents can’t”, while the latter fully embraces multimodal solutions.
Buses, trains and trams are perhaps the easiest, cheapest and smartest ways of getting around – so long as they are well connected. Though not always the case – overcrowding during peak hours – public transport is often sought by parents because it offers more space than a car. Kaye from London agrees, stating that buses are “great for buggies”.
Nevertheless, planning the best route to get around by public transport, as well as occupying the time afforded by a commute, can cause anxiety for parents, especially in big, busy capital cities.
But, thanks to technology, there are smarter ways around this. Apps like Citymapper can do most of the work – you type in your destination and then pick from numerous options for getting there. Equally, some great apps for recreational travel for families have emerged, but again, there are plenty of opportunities waiting to be seized up by innovators. There could be more urban travel apps that specifically cater for parents.
Hop on two to three wheels and bike it
Cycling with your kids on busy roads is something that many parents are reluctant to do. Unless you are a very confident cyclist, it can just seem too risky.
One solution that has emerged, which is particularly aimed at parents with young children, is Christiania Bikes (basically backward tricycles that have a cart for passengers at the front).
Also known as cargo bikes, they tend to be bigger than ordinary bicycles, so are more visible and stable than conventional cycles, thus overcoming transport challenges presented by busy main roads. And children love them too. While they can be expensive, some London councils have offered hire schemes to encourage parents to cycle on the school run.
Street geography can be tricky, though. As Catherine says: “I love the Dutch for their biking culture, but I‘m not tackling Plumstead Common Hill in one of those bad boys.” For those looking for a little help, Babboe have developed a cargo bike with electrically assisted peddling.
Apps such as Bike Hub can help you plan the safest route.
The beginnings of something transformative
Many alternative ways of travelling for parents are emerging, and everything points to a more stress-free commuting experience for them and their children. We’re still in relatively new territory for mobility, but it’s set to have a marked impact not just on families, but the world at large.