Design: Three wheels on your wagon

Now the whole family can fit on one bike.
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The Independent Culture
"WHEN YOU move to Oxford you'll be able to get one of those family bikes," a friend living in the city once said to me. At the time, the concept meant nothing. The only bikes I'd seen, in inner-city London, were ridden by young professionals in helmets, masks and luminous stripes, dodging dangerously through heavy traffic. You'd certainly never put a baby seat on the back of one of those, let alone a baby.

But more than a year on, I witness the curious phenomenon of the Oxford family bike most mornings as I walk my children to school. All three of us are much entertained by the variety and inventiveness of the contraptions pedalled through the leafy north Oxford streets.

An increasingly common sight is the child whose bike is attached to the back of its parents' bike. With vivid pennants fluttering, for extra visibility, these look like little boats as they tack across the Woodstock Road and down St Margaret's. A child's bike can be fixed to the adult's bike with a special bracket. My local bike shop warns against cheaper brackets, which do not clamp on to the front of the child's bike frame. A better option is a Tag-a-long - ideal for four- to eight-year-olds: a one-wheel affair with handlebars, that can be hitched, in minutes, to the back of an adult bike. The beauty of the Tag-a-long is that it can be extended to accommodate an extra child, or even another adult. Indeed, most riveting of north Oxford's family bike sights is the family of four on one cycle (tandem plus double tag-a-long), looking splendidly Victorian with father at the front, mother behind and children in descending order of size. My own children beg me to buy one but I imagine it might be rather hard to park.

Grown-up tricycles, with the addition of two rear-facing seats at the back (large enough for a seven-year-old), are also experiencing a surge in Oxford. And smaller children can be transported, in pairs, in a variety of trailers. The Freeway Kid-Kab is popular here - a sort of open-topped canvas tent on wheels with a double harness inside. Contrary to appearances, my bike shop assures me these are pretty solid.

Tag-a-long, pounds 159, from Caratti, 01454 201700;

Freeway Kid-Kab, pounds 179, from Arthur Neal & Co, 0118-947 0519. Picabac (tricycle with two rear seats), pounds 769, from WR Pashley, 01789 292263.

Information and mail order: Walton Street Cycles, Oxford, 01865 311610

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