I started bike commuting because as a member of a one-car family, I needed a way to get from one place to another without buying another car. I wasn't looking to become a bike activist or advocate in any way. As my family started to ride together, we learned what works with biking in our community and what makes cycling here tough. Who doesn't want to make tough things in one's life a bit easier? However, taking on any such formal role of bike advocate just seemed too daunting with three young fellows and a full-time job. And there are simply logistics that don't work right now: the local community's formal bike advocacy group meets at a time I need to be home to feed my boys; the monthly Critical Mass rides also don't fit our schedule, etc. So I stayed content talking with folks whenever people asked about our bikes or riding with kids. I invited friends to join us on bike rides. I kept an eye out for bike events in which we could participate, a few Bike to Work breakfasts, a fun group ride here and there. But truthfully, I saw my truest act of bike advocacy as simply riding, riding nearly every day, riding with my kids, being out there and visible. I still think that.
But I can feel the urges, the whisperings that I must do more. I must contribute to making my community a place where more parents feel comfortable riding with their children. Where someone contemplates leaving her car parked for the day and rides downtown to the library and knows this is a valid and safe option. Where two friends might go out for the night just using pedal power to get them where they want to go.
And I must do more because my family now faces a dilemma.
We have three sons and two cargo bikes. We bike far more than we drive. We bike to school, to work, to music lessons, to camp, to church, to the farmer's market, to playgrounds, to friends' homes, etc. Both my husband and I have grown quite comfortable biking throughout our city with our kids in/on our bikes. But now-- our oldest two are about to turn eight. And they have grown. And the truth is, they are busting out of the cargo box on our Bakfiets. Yes, they are quite good cyclists on their own, comfortable riding their two-wheelers, happy to do so for some distance. However, we live in a city that simply does not have the infrastructure to make it safe for them to ride themselves most places. Our route to school brings us right through downtown with lots of impatient drivers racing to get to/from work and no bike lanes. We have no routes that would put us on quieter streets.
So what are we to do? Stop biking? We are not ready to do this and I fully resent the idea that we would have to give up bike commuting.
So right now, we are hoping that a new cargo bike set-up may solve this problem for us for the moment. We are sad that it is time to sell the Bakfiets, but excited about the orange Yuba Mundo that will join our family soon. How long will this extend our ability to be family bike commuters, I can't say. But I worry that my boys' growth will far outpace the changes our community needs to make it a truly bike-friendly city, a place where ten, eleven, twelve year-olds can ride to get to where they need to be going. And I know, I won't be able to haul them forever....
Do you live in a place where a young person can safely ride to school, to the library, to camp? Can kids do that in Portland, OR? In Cambridge, MA? In most suburban towns? How about rural communities? I want to learn more.
But the truth is, I don't want to move. Not now, anyway. So I need to get advocating in more formal ways.
This was a start.....
Thursday, June 24, 2010
We've been keeping an eye of Dottie and Trisha's Let's Go Ride a Bike Summer Bike Games. Here's a report on our second phase that included these challenges:
June 7 - June 27: Learning Experiences
- Perform a maintenance task — big or small!
- Decorate your bike
- Read a book about cycling
- Carry a load on your bike — groceries, etc.
- Test ride a different type of bike than you normally ride
Read a book about cycling. We did that, too! I've been diving into Joe Kurmaskie's family cycling adventures but the bike book we want to share here:
How can you go wrong with a story about a duck who wants to ride a bike? Truly. Fun to hear Duck's friends' reactions (and see their expressions) watching him cruise on two wheels. My boys love author and illustrator David Shannon's books in general and one with farmyard animals AND a bike= cool!
Finally-- carry a load on your bike..... Well, this feels like cheating a bit since we are family bike riders so EVERY day both P and I are loaded up with children and their stuff on our two cargo bikes. When we first became parents, I remember a friend commenting, "I am my child's roadie. I have one little bag of stuff and they have two tractor trailers worth of things like a rock star." So we decided to show some snaps of our every day haul. I don't think we have yet mentioned that with the boys taking up that much more room in the cargo box that we expanded our haulin' capacities with a set of gorgeous hot pink, orange, and red Clarijs bags.
So here's a list of what goes in our Bakfiets on a daily basis during school time:
- Two boys (roughly weighing 110+ lbs.)
- At least two books-- pictured on top of this post: a Tin Tin collection and one of Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson books.
- Three lunch boxes (mine included)
- Kids' artwork (an amazing amount after each school day)
- My school bag with laptop
- Two water bottles
- A 1/4 sized cello
- Small kid's chair
- A 1/2 violin in other side bag
- Music books & sheet music
- One cute musician
- One iced coffee for the tired dad who accompanies one cute musician to his cello lesson then hands off the first cute musician to mom (who has the box bike with their two other sons) who in turns drops off a different cute musician down to the music school for his violin lesson which dad stays for as well-- Whew!
Saturday, June 12, 2010
We've been riding a ton, writing very little. I have much to blog about & need to keep up reporting on our participation in LGRAB Summer Games events. I couldn't however let yesterday's BIG BIKE EVENT AT OUR HOME pass without marking it here.
Our little guy, F, aged four and a half, learned to ride a two-wheeler yesterday. Yes! It was so exciting. He's been on a balance/push bike for over a year and yesterday, my husband raised its seat. F was riding his balance bike up and down our block with ease, lifting his feet higher and higher with longer intervals between putting his feet down. P, watching him, thought F could likely ride one of his brother's two wheelers. F was game. It took only a couple of spills (plus, he hasn't quite gotten stopping down) but off he went. It was truly magical!
I have to say thanks to all the bike bloggers out there that talked about bypassing training wheels and just go balance bike to two-wheeler. In this case, it worked perfectly.