Thursday, November 24, 2011

25 Things I Love About Family Bicycling, #1: Mama Mittens

Something about the cooler weather seems to prompt me to think more about the small pleasures of ordinary cycling.  Perhaps it's because bicycling in cold and wet weather was an acquired taste for me.  As an undergraduate, I had my share of long bike rides to work on rainy nights with inadequate gear.  Once I discovered wool clothes and warm scarves and mittens, bicycling in the autumn and winter became something I actually enjoy.

I've started jotting down some of these small pleasures to share here.  It's interesting to me how different ways of getting about create some kinds of experiences that might not otherwise emerge.

Consider the unique type of hand-holding that Big and I have discovered this season.  On these crisp autumn days, the front of the bike can feel a few degrees cooler than the back.  While Little is snuggled cozily into my back, Big -- who rides up front with me on the kid saddle of our Workcycles Fr8 -- usually wears mittens so that he can hold onto the center of the handlebars comfortably.  (The center part is metal, so it would feel quite cold to rest your bare hands there on a chilly day.)  Sometimes, though, Big doesn't put his mittens on for one reason or another, and we don't want to take the time to stop and put them on.

On these days, I get to be his mittens.  He puts his hands on the handlebar grips, and I place my own over them to keep the chill off.  I have to admit that I don't really mind it when he forgets to put his mittens on.  I sometimes wish he would forget them more.  Especially as I watch him growing by leaps and bounds in his first year of elementary school, I savor these moments when I can warm his hands with mine.

Friday, November 18, 2011

My Bike-Car Interfaith Marriage

Getting ready for a ride with Big and Little

Our family watching fireworks in the back of Grandma Mona's truck

Yes, I know.  It's a bit of an exaggeration to discuss decisions about transport in my family as though they were some kind of religious affiliation.  But the truth is, navigating our transition from being a two-car to a one-car family has been one of the most challenging, complex, and rewarding periods in our relationship.

When I first suggested that we get rid of a car so that I could purchase a new family bike, I think it's fair to say that my husband thought I was nuts.  He was worried about the safety of bicycling with kids.  He wondered how we might cope with bike breakdowns, and with longer travel times.  He was concerned about the potential hassle and expense of buying a second car again if for some reason living with one car didn't work for us.

These days, he still may think I'm a little nuts for riding my bike everywhere, but he's proud of me, too.  And our system works: it saves us money, keeps me healthy and in a good mood, and fits well into our very happy marriage.

Here's what has worked for us.

1. Poor Auto Maintenance

We had been discussing the possibility of selling one of our two cars for at least five months without finding much middle ground when my husband's car broke down.  After a respectful period of grieving for his...terrible misfortune, we approached the issue of what to do with that broken-down car from a purely budgetary perspective.  At that point I had already been living as if there were no second car for a few months.  He'd had some time to see what it would be like for us to have one parent getting around primarily by bike, and one parent driving.  Things were working pretty well.  Why dump more money into maintaining a second car when we were really only using one? 

I bring this up because I've heard of other families who got rid of cars this way: the car broke down, they figured out how to live without it while they were waiting for (or just procrastinating on) repairs, and they never looked back.  Car neglect could work for you, too!

2. Not Selling our Second Car Right Away

My husband decided he would feel more comfortable with transitioning to one car if we kept the second car for a little while.  We've never bought a car with credit, so both our (very modest, used) cars were already paid for.  We changed our insurance plan to an extremely low-cost, vehicle-in-storage policy for Austin's car, and completely stopped driving it.  (Easy to do when you don't fix it, of course.)  Frankly, I was ready to sell the car right away, but hanging on to the extra car helped us reach consensus on the transition.  Buying a second car after selling one off would be a big hassle, so for Austin, keeping the car around for a little while took the edge off a sizable concern.  And he eventually did decide he was ready to sell it.

3. Compromise and Seeing the Big Picture

Once we decided to rid ourselves of the second car and buy a very nice family bike, we faced what was actually, in my opinion, a greater test of our ability to compromise: navigating the endless transportation decisions that arise in day-to-day family life.  In some respects, I think our transition may have been easier if we had just gotten rid of both cars.  (Which I am totally open to, Austin, if you happen to be reading this.)  Because we still had one car, there was a lot of negotiation at first.  How would we get to our movie date?  What about last-minute, pre-dinner grocery runs?  Dinners out with the kids?

On each of these questions, my inner bike geek was shouting "Go Team!" at the top of her lungs.  I try, though, to take a deep breath and remember that my husband is making some really big changes, and often sacrificing his hard-earned free time (he works full time and goes to grad school at night) so that I can get around by bike.  And he, thankfully, usually remembers that how I get around keeps me healthy and happy, and saves us money.  There are trips that I make in the car with Austin because it would be silly or divisive to go separately.  However, I've also made a mental list of places that I absolutely will not go in a car, under any circumstances: grocery stores, our kids' schools, the library, or anywhere within 3 miles.  Those places are off-limits, and just as I wouldn't ask Austin to take the bus with me to his mom's house in Creswell, he doesn't ask me to visit the places in my no-drive zone by car.

One of the current challenges we face concerns my evening pilates class.  It's located about 35 minutes away by bike, whereas by car it's only 15 minutes.  I happen to really love the bike ride to class, and it seems ridiculous for me to drive somewhere in order to exercise.  But Austin is my babysitter, and he is so overworked that the additional 40 minutes of travel time feels like a significant loss of study time to him.  We've worked out a solution that I think will keep us both sane: if he feels like he needs that 40 minutes for schoolwork on my pilates nights, I can take the kids to a friend's house for dinner.  I think the key for us has been figuring out which seemingly small problems are grounded in something bigger for one or the other of us.  In this case, Austin's time is precious because he needs to spend so much of it studying and holding down a 9 to 5 job.  The longer rides are important for keeping me healthy and fit, and touch on my sense of equity and responsibility: It doesn't feel right to drive somewhere regularly when I can get there by bike or transit.  We feel frustrated with each other's choices sometimes -- what couple doesn't?  But we work hard at remembering to be influenced by each other, and at seeing how these little nuts and bolts issues are sometimes connected to something bigger for one or the other of us.  I feel that if we just managed a tit for tat kind of compromise for these problems, we wouldn't be quite as happy as we are.

When we first decided to stop using one car, Austin had some lingering concerns about the safety of bicycling with kids, logistics of long bike trips or fixing flats with kids in tow, and future changes in our family.  Each one of these topics could be an essay in itself, but suffice to say that we talked each one out, in careful detail.  I took a confident cycling class, which really did help me to figure out the best ways to get around (and taught me about inductive loops -- I can't recommend these classes enough).  We made some specific plans for how I would cope with mechanical problems or with really bad weather (hail, electrical storms, etc.).  And we've discussed our options for future changes -- such as the possibility that I will need to look for full-time teaching work in a bad economy, which could mean a position very far from home.  I think that if we didn't take each others' fears and priorities seriously, we couldn't have made it through the transition to being a one-car household and still love being around each other.

4. Multi-Modal Dates

Another key to our success is dates.  As many dates as we can get.  They have been a great opportunity for us to travel a little by the other person's preferred mode.  And also?  They're dates. 

In general, we alternate.  One date is to the movies by bike, and the next is to some far-flung restaurant in a car.  I do have to suck it up and pretend I don't wish I was riding my bike.  (At least, most of the time I remember not to complain about it.)  But Austin is a good sport and does his part by trying out going to places he normally wouldn't on a bike.  He gets to see that I actually do know how to get around safely, and that most trips are pretty quick by bike.  Now that it's getting dark so early, our bike dates are more likely to be on a weekend afternoon.  No one wins converts to bicycling by making someone ride a bike in the rainy, cold dark.  And we have fun -- by bike or by car.  It would be a waste of perfectly good babysitting not to live it up when we have an evening to ourselves.

5. Having a back-up plan

In the course of those discussions about bad weather and bike break-downs, I had to think through how I would cope with major transportation failure.  Would I call my husband to come pick us up?  Sure, he would be willing to help, but I also have other options.  I could take a taxi, or catch a bus.  I actually did take a long taxi ride one afternoon when I jotted down the incorrect time for a bus from Veneta to Eugene.  (The bus service on rural routes can be infrequent at best.)  It cost me twenty bucks, which seemed expensive at first.  But then, of course, I remembered:  that's less than a tank of gas for our station wagon.  I think it was a relief for both of us to consider some worst-case scenarios and realize that I wouldn't have to call on him to bail me out if it didn't feel like the best choice.

What doesn't kill you...

It's a cliche, but true: taking on big changes makes can make a relationship stronger.  I had some moments of hesitation about going car-light at first -- wouldn't this really be hard on my marriage?  For us, though, the big changes we've made to our life together -- though they may cause some bumps in the road in the short term -- make our marriage stronger and better in the long run.  All those complicated things we throw at our relationship are not just worth it because of their own merits, they also help us stay happy and connected: kids, graduate school, getting rid of a car.  There were difficult conversations and frustrating experiences aplenty along the way to our current, more balanced experience of being car-light.  But that's how it is with everything complicated and interesting that's worth doing, right?  Ultimately Austin wouldn't want to stand in the way of me doing something I find truly important, just as I want to support him in pursuing what he wants from life.

Our marriage is stronger now because we tested it with a bicycle.  Add that to your list of things that are better by bike.

Kidical Mass Giving Thanks Pie n' Chai Ride

By the way...Hello again!  I have been enjoying an unplanned hiatus from blogging.  The time away has been lovely and relaxing (especially while my grad-student husband was on his summer break), but I've missed writing for this blog.  And I've missed hearing from you, all the friendly people I've met here.  If you've written me an email while I was on unofficial hiatus, please know that I was not checking that account while I was away.  I'll be composing my replies over the next few weeks -- thanks for your patience.

In the meantime, if you're in Eugene, we'd love to see you tomorrow at Kidical Mass!  I'm helping to organize and bake pie for the ride, and it would be gratifying to see some familiar and some new faces at Cesar Chavez Elementary tomorrow.  Here's the official blurb:

The weather is just right for cozy mittens, warm drinks, and delicious pie!  Join us for a short and sweet afternoon bike ride from Cesar Chavez Elementary to the Whiteaker Community Center, where we can play outdoors or nosh on homemade pies and hot chai tea inside (decaf rooibos version will be available for the kids, of course).  Along the way we'll stop to admire some fabulous new improvements to our bikeways, and create a simple thank you to our city for making it safer for families to walk and bike through our neighborhoods.

We always ride safe and legal, and all kinds of family bikes are welcome!  Remember your mittens and hats for the coziest possible ride.  Bring lights in case we'll be out after dark. 

Questions?  Find more info at  Hope to see you tomorrow!


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Bike Commuter Night Out

If you live in Lane County and are interested in getting started on a bicycle, or perhaps in bicycling more for transportation, I hope you'll join me at the Bike Commuter Night Out tonight, beginning at 6:30 pm at the Hilyard Community Center.  Folks interested in a discussion about women and bicycling may also want to attend: this event features a panel of six women cyclists (including me) who will be speaking about getting around by bike.

Paul Adkins will share a presentation about bicycle commuting.  If you don't yet know Paul, he is a great resource for bicycling here in Eugene.  He's one of the founders of Kidical Mass, and teaches the GEARs Confident Cycling class (there's one beginning soon).  He's also a bicycling activist and a father of four great kids.  I hope to feature his family in an interview here soon!

After Paul's presentation, the panelists will discuss obstacles to bicycling, as well as our own successes in overcoming those obstacles.

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Workcycles Fr8: Some First Impressions

After a little over three weeks of riding my new bike, I feel like I have 15 pages of notes about how different my daily life on this bike is.  I'm not cruel enough to spring all those jumbled, hasty thoughts on any poor reader who happens across this blog, so I'll do my best to give just a few impressions in this post.  The three areas that I think about most are the ride quality, the bike's ability to handle large loads of cargo gracefully, and the fun of riding a bike with a kid up front and one behind.

Riding the Bike

This bicycle rides beautifully, even with wiggly children and very large loads of books or groceries.  It is absolutely a pleasure to ride, with or without significant cargo.

On the first full day in which I rode the Fr8, the kids and  I compiled the largest grocery list in recent memory.  (Two gallons of milk!  Ten pounds of flour!  A case of canned tomatoes!  You get the idea.)  I filled both panniers, put a large bag on the front rack, and then strapped another large bag on top of the rear rack (via a bungee on the metal tubing on the lower rear portion of Little's Yepp Maxi seat).  I knew that the bike was designed to carry lots of heavy cargo, but as I wheeled an overflowing shopping cart back to my bike, I feared that I had perhaps bitten off more than I could chew.  Should I have waited for a time when my children were not on the bike to test out a large and unwieldy grocery load?

While we were certainly not speeding through town, our return trip was relaxed and pleasant.  (I did pass a couple of people on the bike path, which was uniquely thrilling.)  The Fr8 just glided along the streets, rolling carelessly over potholes and up gentle hills.  Where I would have felt it necessary to focus on balancing my previous bicycle carefully under such a load (in particular when coming to a stop while climbing a slight hill), the Fr8 seemed resolute that it would remain upright and steady without much assistance from me.  Where I might have felt that I was having an argument with gravity on my previous bike with a big load, on the Fr8 the ride felt shockingly simple.

I am a very heavy library user, which is one reason that I felt I needed a proper cargo bike instead of a lighter transport bike outfitted with child seats.  Since the Fr8 arrived, I have made four library trips to pick up large loads of books (50 or more).   When carrying a significant amount of books on our previous family bike, I usually noticed the frame flex slightly beneath me, and felt compelled to focus a little more on balancing the bike.  It was challenging to carry lots of books home from the library when the road conditions were less than ideal, so I often rescheduled a library trip if there were heavy rains.  On one of my recent library trips with the Fr8, we encountered rain and hail (!) as we hauled our books (and of course, my two children) home.  It handled like a dream.  I used lower gears, and we pedaled along a bit more slowly, but in terms of balance, handling, and exertion, it was impossible to tell that I was carrying significant cargo.  Workcycles' website describes this bike as capable of carrying 500 lbs., and I'm curious to take a ride soon with it loaded to maximum capacity.  So far, though, it is quite easy and straightforward to ride with heavy cargo.

This bike also rides beautifully when I'm carrying nothing more than a wallet and keys.  I've ridden it several times without my sons, and each time, the bike glided along, smooth as butter, with little effort on my part.  Bumps in the road have a delightfully springy effect on the ride: the sprung saddle and wide tires cushion me from the rough pavement.  Paul Adkins described it as something like riding a La-Z-Boy down the road.

Loading and Unloading Cargo

Loading and removing cargo is straightforward and convenient on the Fr8. 

While I did have double-legged kickstand on our previous family bike, it was certainly not stable enough to handle children or cargo without at least some assistance in balancing the load on my part.  I feel like this new bike does all the balancing work for me.  I load Little in the rear seat, Big climbs on (typically he does this independently, unless the frame is wet), and then I load cargo into the panniers or onto the racks.  Simple.  I stand next to the bike if the children are on it, but I don't really need to steady it in any way.

This may not sound very important to you unless you have had some experience managing a tippy bike, squirming children, and cargo all at once.  Before the Fr8 arrived, I would occasionally have to stop loading groceries into my bike in order to help a tired toddler remember to stay close, or to help the kids work out a solution to a conflict.  With the Fr8, I have the option of loading my children onto the bike first, and then getting the rest of my cargo onto the bike without worrying about supervising mobile children.  Cargo-intensive errands are easier now, not only because the cargo is so well-balanced on the bike, but because helping my children stay safe and happy is sometimes easier with them loaded onto the bike first.  This has made a tremendous improvement in our errand-running experiences.

Fun Bike Factor

This bicycle is loads of fun to ride, especially with children!

Big likes sitting up front, dinging the bell, and viewing the streets, creeks, and paths.  There's this hard to define "Wheee" factor when you are sitting with a child between your arms.  It's fun for Big, of course, but also for me.  Somehow, with the front child on a saddle (as opposed to our previous set-up, where Little was belted into the Bobike Mini), there's this little bit of extra child movement and wiggle that adds to the feeling of bike joy.  I don't know how else to describe it.  It's not something that affects balance or handling at all.  Perhaps it reminds me of doubling up with a friend on my bike as a kid?  Anyhow, if you have the opportunity to ride with a child in a front saddle (I've heard that Brompton also makes one), I recommend you try it.  (Kidical Mass Eugene attendees: this is an open invitation to take my bike for a spin around the park!)

Our closeness on the Fr8 also improves communication, which most folks agree makes riding bikes with kids more fun.  When Big was behind us, via the Follow Me tandem coupler, it was sometimes difficult for me to hear him, especially because I have a slight hearing impairment.  Not a problem anymore!  The boys love talking to each other on the bike, swapping jokes, asking each other silly questions, or planning our afternoons.  I'm happy about this most of the time.  Until I have to help them change the subject.  (Yes, those were my children comparing each other to various parts of a chicken's anatomy on the bike path last week.)

And of course, it's fun to ride a bike that you feel is beautiful.  I bought this Fr8 because I wanted a family bike that could handle up to three kids and lots of cargo, but with a smaller footprint than a longtail bike or bakfiets.  I love this bike because it functions just as I need it to (and in fact, better than I ever expected it might).  It doesn't hurt, though, that this thoughtfully designed bicycle is also, to my eye, an elegant one. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

New Bike Love

Photo by Todd, of Clever Cycles

Meet our new family bike!

She's a Workcycles Fr8 Uni, and we adore her.  We added skirt guards, a front pickup rack, an extra-long rear rack (one day we'll be able to fit two GMG 911 child seats on the back), a Yepp Maxi child seat (for Little), and a child saddle (for Big) up front.  We also picked out some Clever Chimp panniers and a large, covered wicker basket for the pickup rack (arriving soon in the mail).  I look forward to snapping a few more photos of all her delicious details once we have a brief window of sun around here.

More later on our new ride.  For now, we're off to enjoy her!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Up to Something

We've been up to something fun around here.  And like so many of our other favorite spring activities (gardening, park trips, playing in the creek), this one involves mud.

We're working on a new bike shelter!

We've been parking lots of bikes in Austin's shop, which has made it difficult for him to get work done there.  At the start of his spring break, we held a small work party to get things going.  Many burritos,  pulled pork sandwiches, and beers later, we've made a lot of progress.

 Austin's younger brother, Jake, spent the weekend with us and did a big chunk of the back-breaking labor.  Little and Big idolize him, so his presence also helped to keep our littlest workers happy.

Austin's dad, Graig, was in town for work.  Even though he wasn't feeling well, he hung gutters on the bike shed and let the kids play in his very popular truck.

Cindy helped with tricky pathway work, and with crucial dress-up and story-time portions of the construction.  (Caring for children is an important part of any family project!)  Her husband Scott was here, too, though he somehow evaded capture on film.

Big insisted on dressing just like Papa for the duration of the project.  We had to wash his outfit each evening so that he could feel a part of the process in his carpentry clothes.  Little enjoyed watching from the window when he wasn't helping outside.

Grandma Mona also lent a hand with various tasks, though she was nursing a cold, too.  She took most of these photos, as my camera broke over the weekend.

Our family has a very tight budget, and we certainly couldn't afford to hire someone else to help with a project like this one.  With busy work and school schedules, we don't have much time for big projects, either.  I think it's fitting that our shelter for such an old-fashioned, practical means of transportation was constructed in the spirit of a barn-raising.  Many thanks to all who joined us!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Learning to Ride a Big-Kid Bike

After two years of regular balance-biking, we've started helping Big get the feel of a big-kid bike.  Choosing a balance bike for Big when he turned two was a no-brainer for us.  As a teacher, I've heard a lot about the benefits of balance activities for children's development.  Did you know that the more intelligent a species is, the more its young play balance-oriented games?  And does this mean that cyclists are a more highly evolved group of humans?  (Obviously I'm joking, folks.)

Helping Big learn to ride a pedal bike has been a little more challenging than I remember balance biking to be in the early stages.  Big has always been on the slower end of normal in terms of his mastery of gross-motor physical milestones (walking, running, etc.), so I'm not certain that he's completely developmentally ready for pedal biking right now.  (I've read that most kids are ready sometime between 4 and 6 years of age.)  He absolutely loves working at it, though, so we're doing our best to give him lots of opportunities to practice.  We've been reading tips from other parents on the internet, asking friends for advice, and improvising a little here and there to see what seems to work.

Our basic strategy has three simple parts:
  1. Continued balance biking for fun, for maintaining a sense of balance, and for teaching new skills
  2. Practice with pedaling when his bike is connected to mine via the Follow Me Tandem coupler
  3. Practice pedaling and balancing on gentle slopes with a parent running alongside (usually holding the back of the bike most of the way)
There's a spot near our house with a nice little slope to it where we like to go.  One parent runs alongside Big, mostly helping him get the feel of pushing off with his feet and then starting to pedal.  We do hold his bike with one hand (typically on the back of the saddle) to help him feel more confident and get up a little speed.  Once he's had a few minutes of practice, we'll start to let go for a few seconds at a time.  We always let him know before we start that we're going to begin letting him balance the bike on his own.

In my view, the most important thing we're helping Big do in these practice sessions is build confidence and an image of himself as a bike rider.  As with teaching children to read, I believe it's important for early experiences to be pleasant and build an identity of competence.  We try to offer him lots of specific, positive feedback about his efforts to help him feel more confident.  He's proud to be on a big kid bike, so it's easy to keep him feeling good.

One tip we gathered early on was to help Big learn how to lean into a turn.  When I asked Paul Adkins for advice about teaching kids to ride, he mentioned that this could be a tricky skill for kids to master.  (He and his wife Monica have taught three of their own children to ride bikes, so they have had plenty of experience.)  We help Big get the feel of turning on the pedal bike, but he actually gets the most practice with leaning into turns on his balance bike.  On our way to the park, we seek out driveways with a gentle slope, and Big bikes to the top.  He then glides down towards me (I stand at the bottom of the driveway, right in front of him), and turns to avoid me and get back onto the sidewalk.  He loves this game!  Neighbors on our route, I hope you don't mind all the hubbub in your driveways.

I think that the most important thing I can do at this point is to figure out a routine for pedal bike practice that works well for our family.  We don't practice as often as we'd like to, mostly because we need two adults to really make this activity work (one to help Big, one to occupy Little).  One downside to Austin's graduate studies is that our time all together as a family is more limited than we would like it to be.  My friend Heather and I are both helping our boys practice with their pedal bikes at the moment, and when we compare notes, we always remind ourselves that consistent practice is what our boys most need.  Short of giving Little some kind of really unusual treat to keep him busy, I haven't yet figured out a way to keep him happy while Big and I practice riding together.  Heather, maybe we should have some bike-practice playdates at the park?

If you're looking for more information about teaching children to ride a bike, I recommend you check out some of these resources:
  • Sheldon Brown wrote a nice tutorial about teaching children to ride bikes.
  • Kathleen Wilker wrote for Momentum Magazine blog about making a homemade balance bike for her daughter, and about how her daughter learned to ride a bike on her own.  (Kathleen, if you're reading this, I didn't realize that your blog is called "Families on Bikes" until after I had begun my Friday Family on Bikes interviews!  Oops.)
  • I enjoyed reading this article from The Exploratorium (a fantastic science museum in San Fransisco and a fixture of my early childhood) about what really happens when we steer our bicycles.
    While I'm figuring out ways to support Big as he learns to ride a pedal bike, I also get to enjoy watching Little discover the balance bike.

    I hope you've been enjoying your bike as much as my two little fellas are enjoying theirs!  And if you have a favorite trick for teaching kids to ride bikes, please send it my way.

      Friday, March 4, 2011

      Friday Family on Bikes: Samantha, Andrew, and Little Ding

      It's my pleasure to share this interview with Samantha, the blogger behind the informative and cheery family cycling blog Ding Ding Let's Ride.  Samantha's blog includes describes not only her experiences as a year-round bike commuter in Chicago, but also a wealth of resources for adaptive cyclists.  Samantha's blog is a new favorite of mine, and I hope you'll enjoy learning more about her family and their bike adventures in Chicago, just as I have.

      Samantha, Little Ding, and Andrew
      Who are you?  Introduce yourselves, please.

      I am Samantha, aka Ms. Ding of the family cycling blog Ding Ding Let's Ride.  I write about the Chicago city biking adventure of myself, my partner Andrew (aka Mr. Ding) and his 6 year-old son, Little Ding. 
      What is your family bike setup?  How is it working for you?  How has it changed as your child has grown? 

      I've been riding a mountain bike for over 20 years and this past fall I bought a Dutch Workcycles Omafiets which is now my primary bike.  I made the switch because I spend most of my time these days riding around the city to work, on errands, to the grocery store, and on rides with my guys.  And when Andrew and I get in a “date night” now and then, it's usually via bike.  I wanted an upright bike that would be easier on my clothes (fenders, skirt guard, chain guard, etc,) that I could ride in more normal clothes, ride in dresses, and lug gear and groceries.  Andrew has a  hybrid and a cruiser bike.

      We were carting Little Ding around in a Burley trailer, but he was starting to outgrow that last year so we looked around for a bike for him.  He has Cerebral Palsy, so finding a bike for him was difficult.  Luckily, we found a great place that adapts bikes for kids and we got him a very cool adapted kids bike that was not nearly as expensive as the $1000-$3000 that many adaptive bikes cost.  It's great to have him riding his own bike with us - he rides on the sidewalk right now, usually with Andrew behind him, and me on the street.  The downside of having him on his own bike now though, is that it does limit the distances we can cover as he is only able to ride about two miles total – generally a one mile ride to a place, then a break, then ride back.  This summer we'll be working on his endurance.  A cargo bike or family tandem would be nice, but we don't have the storage space for something like that. 

      Ms. Ding and Little Ding.  Little Ding's adaptive bike is in the foreground.

      Why do you choose to ride bikes together?

      I got rid of my car when I moved to Chicago in 1996.  You don't really need a car in the city, I didn't want to deal with the hassle and expense of maintaining a car in the city, and I already had a bike.  When I met Andrew, he loved that I was car-free, and he dug out an old bike and started commuting and riding with me as much as he could.

      When we all moved into our family 'tree house' (our apartment is on the 2nd floor, surrounded by beautiful, old trees), we wanted to keep riding as much as possible and include Little Ding in as many riding activities as we could, hoping he would share our love of being out and about in the city, on our bikes.  Andrew had a car, and though we tried to work out a way to get rid of it, we could not.  We have to run Little Ding to various therapy appointments around the city, and back and forth between his mom's house and ours, and even though we we live about 15 minutes away by car, it's not an easy quick bike-ride between the two homes, especially when we're lugging all his gear (bike, wheelchair, etc), so we've kept the car. 

      What kinds of trips to you commonly make by bike?
      • Commuting to work, both regular 9-5 shifts and even Mr. Ding's on-call work, year-round
      • Grocery shopping 
      • Riding to the park/playground
      • The “Guys ride” to their favorite neighborhood hotdog stand
      • Andrew and I - out to meet friends for drinks, dinner, brunch, lunch
      • Weekend errands, shopping
      • Baseball games (the Cubs have a bike valet service, hoping the White Sox get one)
      • Because of his CP, Little Ding's feet get worn out walking in his braces. He can however, ride a bike a bit further.  We sometimes drive to places like a neighborhood festival or parade, park the car wherever, and let Little Ding ride to the venue or sometimes at the venue, saving some wear and tear on his legs.  We walk alongside or behind him, or bring our bikes too.  We've worked out  the same sort of strategy to go the beach or the Lincoln Park Zoo (both locations that we can ride to ourselves, but are too far for Little Ding to ride all the way from our house).   Andrew works near the zoo/beach, so we are lucky to be able to park at his office.  It's worked out well as a wheelchair alternative.
      Are there other modes of transport your family frequently uses?

      We take public transportation often as well, and Little Ding loves riding the bus.  Since we are only two blocks from a major bus line, he can walk to the stop if he doesn't have to do too much more walking afterward. 

      Would you share a great moment in your family biking experience with us? 

      Hmm...there've been some good ones. Perhaps the first time we hooked up the Burley to Andrew's bike and rode to the Zoo on a beautifully sunny Saturday afternoon.

      We parked our bikes and locked them up, and converted the trailer to a stroller and headed into the zoo.  It was awesome.  We took our time strolling around the zoo because Little Ding could hop back into the trailer and be quite comfortable when he needed, and we had all our gear there and it did not feel cumbersome.  There was a kids concert that day that we did not know about that was cool, and then we discovered the kids fountain.  Little Ding took his socks and braces off and hopped around in the water spray with all the other kids and then climbed into the trailer and went to sleep on the ride home.  It was such a great day and it was the day we realized we could really make biking around the city as a family work.  

      Do you have any tips or tricks to pass on to other bike-riding families?

      Get a Burley or cargo bike!!  Kids love being toted around...who wouldn't?  Bring some water, and some sort of toy for the younger kids, it helps them get used to it when you start out.  If they are anything like Little Ding though, they'll love the ride and fall asleep at the end.  He loved napping in the trailer.  We pulled him around in the trailer in the fall and winter too – just bundled him up and grabbed an extra blanket and wrapped it around his legs and feet.  I've got a great picture of him in the trailer a couple of years ago after we stopped at the grocery store on the way home in February.  We stuffed all the groceries around him – it was kinda funny. 

      I love all the adaptive cycling resources on your blog!  Where did you start your search for the best adaptive bike for Little Ding?  What advice do you have for other families interested in adaptive cycling?

      We started researching adaptive bikes last spring. Little Ding got an adaptive trike to use in physical therapy (we had been trying to figure out how to adapt the one we had) and he took to it immediately – it was exciting. That got us looking for bikes, or something to get him riding with us beyond the Burley.

      We found a used trail-a-bike and took it to The Bike Rack, out in St. Charles, Illinois – they're a bike shop we discovered that sells and maintains adaptive bikes as well as standard bikes (mostly Trek and Gary Fisher).  They were not fond of trail-a-bikes for special needs kids, or at least one with CP, and as they showed us how they were going to adapt it, we could see how there would be a balance issue with Little Ding.  We didn't think we could afford one of the types of adaptive bikes we'd seen, but they showed us a regular kids bike that they had adapted for another customer, and Little Ding tried it out and it worked! We thought it would be the way to go.  We didn't have to buy a new bike from them to adapt, but we did.  They had a cool orange bike in stock, and that being his favorite color, it seemed like a no-brainer.  There's a post on my blog with all the details of his bike, if you want more information.

      Doing the research for his bike, and watching how happy he was on his bike, got me motivated to start the blog.  Once we talked to the people at The Bike Rack, and got his bike, I started doing a lot of research online, and trying to talk to people about kids adaptive bikes.  It was realyl hit or miss.  You really have to look hard to find the bikes beyond the one or two brands that come up in every search.  That's one reason I started my resource pages.

      Some communities around the country have great programs for adaptive cycling, others not so much.  You really need to check with your local park district, as well as with the hospital or rehabilitation clinic that you are familiar with.  You have to ask around sometimes.  I didn't feel like it was easy for me to find groups and events.  I try to keep up with what's out there, so that other people can find the info and resources more quickly than I did.

      Little Ding and Samantha's brother
      Are there any changes (to path or wayfinding systems, auto speed limits, bike boulevards, lighting, etc.) that you would you like to see to make bicycling more convenient, accessible, and safe for families in your area?  Are there particular types of infrastructure that improve access for cyclists on adaptive bikes?

      Separate cycle tracks, and slowzones , as well as good bike parking are the things that I'm most interested in.  More people will ride bikes as transportation if it is seen as safe.  Not everyone thinks riding in traffic is safe.  Adaptive riders , with unique styles of bikes, benefit even more from separate bike lanes.  So many adaptive riders can't drive themselves, but can ride a bike.  Just think of the independent mobility they have if they can ride their own bike to work or school.

      Good bike parking of course follows.  That means the right kind of bike racks, placed so that there is room for multiple bikes of different types to be locked up in a secure fashion. 

      What else do you think we should know?

      I am trying to put together a family bike ride for any family AND families with adaptive riders, this spring or summer, here in Chicago.  I hope to coordinate with the local Kidical Mass folks.  I'm looking for interested families as well as adaptive bike manufacturers who want to demo their bikes.  I have a couple already lined up.  Any ideas, interests, thoughts are welcome.

      Little Ding, where is your favorite place to ride your bike to?

      The Zoo, closely followed by the park/playground. 

      Thank you, Samantha!  It was a pleasure to get to know your beautiful family.

      *All the images in this post belong to Samantha of Ding Ding Let's Ride.  You can find more of her photos on her blog.

      Thursday, March 3, 2011

      Where My Little Ones Will Ride

       My kids just continue to grow up lately.  Isn't it funny how that happens?  You think that you've got age 2 1/2 all figured out -- just how to finesse a reluctant visit to the potty chair, or how to help someone take a deep breath at the end of a tantrum...and then everything changes again.

      We are thinking about kindergarten for Big next fall, since he'll turn five in June.  (Five!  I can't believe it.)  Transportation has figured heavily into our discussions.  As I map out some of the possible routes to school and consider the conditions we might be cycling in (dark, early mornings, with impatient auto traffic), I find myself wishing for little improvements.  I'd like to see our gold-rated cycling city transformed into the kind of place where I'll feel comfortable letting my sons ride their bikes around town on their own once they are a little older.

      What if our bike boulevards looked a little more like Portland's neighborhood greenways?  I'm sure that anyone who has ridden a bike down 15th Ave has wished that the city would change the orientation of a few stop signs so that it's easier to get across some of those busy north-south streets.  And some serious traffic calming efforts would make places like Monroe friendlier for kids and families on bikes.  (I occasionally see one of my former students, now a teenager, riding his bike along the sidewalk on Monroe.  We can teach people over and over that it's safer to ride in the streets, but younger and less confident cyclists will continue to ride on sidewalks until we offer them alternatives that really feel safe.)

      Cycle tracks, pedestrian refuge islands, path connections -- I want the city to know how I think Eugene could help families like mine get around better on bikes or on foot.  And I want to learn more about what my neighbors in other parts of the city need, too.   If you'd like to help Eugene grow up a little, join us at the Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan Open House tonight.  It's a drop-in event at Saint Mary's Catholic Church, downtown by the library and the transit center.  See you there, sometime between 4-7 pm.

      Friday, February 25, 2011

      Friday Family on Bikes: Shannon, Jonathan, and Cara

      When I first considered how I might be able to get rid of a car, Shannon, Jon, and Cara were the only family I knew who were actually living car-free.  This gracious, warm, and beautiful family was an inspiration to me.  I hope that you enjoy getting to know them, too.

      Are you a family that enjoys riding bikes?  I'd love to profile you here!  You need not be car-free, car-lite, or even living in the Eugene area.  I'm just interested in sharing the stories of families that ride bikes together.  Please email me at mamafiets at gmail dot com if you would be willing to be interviewed for this series.  Thank you!

      Jonathan with Cara at age 4

      Who are you? Introduce yourselves, please.

      I am Shannon Boyd, mother to Cara (6) and one on the way, and wife to Jonathan.  I am a stay at home mama, 32 years old, and crave forest adventures.  Jon is a guitar and Spanish teacher at the Village School and Ridgeline Montessori, and Cara is a kindergartener at the Village School.  We are currently a mostly walking family.  We acquired a car over the summer, which is our first car in 5 years.  For the last five years of Cara’s life, we were solely a biking family.  We all love to ride!

      What is your family bike setup? How is it working for you? How has it changed as
      your child has grown?

      At first we had a TREK bike cart that could hook up to either bike.  We rode like that for 2 years.   When Cara was 3, she started on the Like-A-Bike for shorter rides.  Boy, could she go fast!!  For town rides we continued with the bike cart.  When Cara was 4 ½ years old, we introduced the tag-along, but continued to use the bike cart, especially in rainy weather.  When Cara was 5, she mastered the 2 wheeler, so from then on, we had her riding on her own, even in the rain.  Currently, we all ride our own bikes.

      Cara, age 4, with her family's park and grocery trip setup.
      Check out the kids' bike in the cargo area of the trailer!
      As far as how it has worked, it has HAD to work.  We had no other choice.  We got a lot of raised eyebrows having Cara in the bike cart at 1 year, but, when you have no other way to get around, what can you do?  Also, it was a choice we made.  To not support a car culture, to be healthy and fit.  But our set-up has always worked.  From grocery shopping (I could fit 5 bags of groceries and my daughter in the bike cart), to work/school obligations, or just for fun, the bike cart was our vehicle.  When the next baby comes, we’ll see how the set-up changes.

      Why do you choose to ride bikes together?

      As I mentioned above, we chose to not partake in the car culture, for gas, war and money reasons.  Also, we live in a place where everything we need is close together.  If ever we wanted to go out of town, we borrowed a car.  So aside from those reasons, we also chose to ride to teach our daughter how healthy and safe bike riding can be.  We are modeling for our children, and community, that we all don’t have to drive everywhere.  That you don’t need a big van when you have kids and need to go grocery shopping- though it is easier.  But is easiest the best way to go?

      We also just have fun riding together.  Learning the roads, the rules, and how to ride is just so much fun.  It is a great family bonding experience.

      Cara, at age 4, on her Like-a-Bike

      What kinds of trips do you commonly make by bike? Are there other modes of
      transport your family frequently uses?

      Previously, we did everything by bike. Groceries, appointments, work, school, play dates, etc. -- everything.  Currently, due to tight working schedules and school schedules, we cannot bike to school,so our bike trips include library, small grocery runs, play dates, appointments, etc.  If not driving to school or work, we mostly walk.  Our neighborhood is pretty central, so we have been walking more often.

      Would you share a great moment in your family biking experience with us?

      All of our experiences have been great, it’s hard to choose just one...Some memories that come to mind are sweet summer rides to get some ice cream, or just to cool off.  Last summer we did a lot of summer riding because Cara could ride on her own and we were teaching her the rules of the road and such.  So, that summer, we had some extremely sweet rides...just special family moments – laughing, singing, riding fast, riding slow...good stuff!

      Plenty of laughs are coming to mind when I think of the past 4 winters we rode in the rain. Lots of wet faces, wet clothes, and all we could do was laugh it off, and warm up with yummy steamers at some local café. J

      Do you have any tips or tricks to pass on to other bike-riding families?

      Start your children young, so they are used to the bike cart, Xtracyle, or whatever set up you have.  The more familiar they are, the more safe feeling and fun.  Also, do not get intimidated by the on!!

      Are there any changes (to path or wayfinding systems, auto speed limits, bike
      boulevards, lighting, etc.) that you would you like to see to make bicycling more
      convenient, accessible, and safe for families in your area?

      I think there could always be improvements made in the biking realm – more paths, better lighting, all of it.  I think Jefferson and Willamette St. need to have better biking options...especially for families.  It’s hard to maneuver a bike cart with child and groceries up those hills!!!

      Cara, what is your favorite thing about riding a bike?
      It doesn’t give pollution.  [Shannon says: I’m one proud mama right now!!]

      Cara, where is your favorite place to ride your bike to?
      The river park or the cheese park.

      Cara, age 5, on her big-girl pedal bike

      Thank you, Cara, Jon, and Shannon!

      Thursday, February 24, 2011

      Being Here Tonight

      This afternoon, I rode the bus back from my teaching job.  The driver – it’s always the same woman – pulled up to my stop, and I pushed open the back doors.  The air was especially brisk as it hit my face.  I had a handful of errands to run by bike with my children today before dinner, so my steps were quick.  The wind picked up behind me, pushing me along.

      When I walked in,the house felt a little cozier than usual.  My children, in turtlenecks and wool socks, were gathered around their aunt at the kitchen table.  There were still a few peanut butter cookies left.  As my boys poured forth all the news of their day, I washed my hands.  I let my frozen fingertips linger under the warm water, considering my to do list.  I looked outside, and saw a veil of heavy raindrops spill down from the sky.  A few of them became slush as they hit the window: frozen rain.

      On the sofa, the children had installed a down comforter and a stack of picture books.  I imagined a cup of tea there, too.  Hot tea.  I glanced again at the freezing rain on the other side of the window, then to the picture books.  I mentally moved the handful of errands in my appointment calendar for Wednesday afternoon into the Thursday column. 

      If you are a parent, then you already know what it is to have a little more on your plate than can be comfortably tucked into.  I hope that you also know the pleasure of putting the to-do list aside from time to time.  In my opinion, one of the unexpected benefits of getting around by bike is that, sometimes, I decide not to do it.

      I could have made it work to get out on that errand somehow.  If the errand was really urgent, I could have left my children with the neighbor for a few minutes while I ran around on my bike.  I could have chosen to do the highest priority errand by bus.  I could have made it work to get everyone outside and on the bike had I really needed to.

      But none of those options felt quite right.  So I looked at my list, realized that nothing really had to be done right away, and reorganized my calendar a bit.  I fished a cookie out of the jar.  I set the teakettle to boil, and asked my children which books we ought to read first.

      As we pulled the comforter around us, the first few flakes of snow found their way out of the clouds.  Perfect. 

      I wrote this post on Wednesday evening, but didn't have a chance to proofread and post it until after midnight.  I decided to preserve some language that reflected the original moment at which I wrote this: tonight, this afternoon, etc.

      Friday, February 18, 2011

      Friday Family on Bikes...Mine

      First, an introduction:

      I'm Emily.  I work mostly as a stay-at-home parent to Bigger (age 4) and Little (age 2).  I also work one day a week at a rural elementary school as a writing teacher.  Both of these jobs are my dream jobs.  My husband, Austin, is a superhero: he works full-time as a carpenter, and spends his evenings in graduate school studying library and information science.  He is also an amazing husband and papa who makes seriously good waffles.

      Austin and the boys

      No, my kids are not actually named "Bigger" and "Little".  But this is Eugene, so I understand why you might be curious.

      Our family bike setup:

      Our family bike setup is currently in transition.  While we are awaiting the arrival of a Workcycles Fr8 Uni this spring, I am riding Austin's hybrid bike with a ragtag circus of kid and cargo attachments: a Bobike Mini front child seat with windscreen (you can get one in Eugene at Arriving by Bike), a Follow Me tandem coupler that allows me to tow Bigger's bike behind mine, and an extra-large milk crate for hauling a limited amount of cargo.

      Our new bike will be able to carry two children on seats mounted to the rear rack, as well as one up front on a child saddle.  It will also have a very large, lidded wicker basket up front and panniers on the rear rack.  It will probably tow Bigger's Follow Me tandem, but I haven't entirely made up my mind about that yet.  Installing the Follow Me would allow me to carry four child passengers!

      When we got rid of our second car over the summer, I considered a bakfiets or an Xtracycle, but the deal breaker for me was compatibility with the bike racks on buses and trains.  We share a garden on my mother-in-law's 7 acre property in Creswell.  I need to be able to take a bike on the bus to Creswell with me so that I can cycle (instead of walk) the three miles between the bus stop and my mother-in-law's place.  I've also heard stories of folks being denied the opportunity to load larger cargo bikes onto Amtrak trains.  So we're going to see how bus and train friendly the Fr8 can be.  It is a seriously heavy bike.

      We love our Follow Me tandem coupler for a number of reasons.  Unlike most tagalong-style bike attachments, the Follow Me allows families to install rear child seats, crates, and virtually anything else on the adult bike.  Once he feels confident enough, I will be able to disconnect Bigger's bike from mine so that he can ride solo on the bike path or quiet streets, and then reattach him when we're heading into car traffic.

      While I'm excited about my new bike, I also want to emphasize that it's not necessary to purchase a special bike in order to get around town with your kids and stuff!  If I had decided against the Fr8, I could have made my current bike setup work better for me.  But since we were getting rid of a car, it made sense for us to upgrade to a much nicer bike.

      Little, loving his pink bike
       We also have a balance bike used by both Bigger and Little, a pink Strider.  We like that the Strider is lightweight and relatively sturdy, and that it's small enough to hold a very little passenger (both boys started on it at age two).  I would say that I feel that many of these balance bikes are a little overpriced given the quality of the product, and that it is simple to remove the pedals from a 12" kids' bike from the Goodwill for a total cost of $10 or less.  (Our neighbors transformed a 12" Salvation Army cast off into a truly awesome, custom painted balance bike that I hope to feature here sometime.)

      Why we choose to ride bikes together:

      As Heather pointed out last week, there are too many reasons to share all of them here!

      Our decision to give up a car was tied into our beliefs about what is practical, sensible, and fair.  I think that people on bikes, foot, and public transit (and the infrastructure that supports these modes of transport) make our communities richer, more equitable, and pleasant places to live.  I believe that getting around by bike is helping my children to grow up more confident, resilient, and fit.  I think that it will help them to be more independent as they grow older and begin to be able to get around town on their own.  It almost always lifts our mood to get out by bike.  And getting rid of a car helps to free up money in our budget for other things that are more important to us.

      What kinds of trips to we make by bike?  And what other modes of transport do we commonly use?

      I make almost every trip by bike, by foot, or bus now.  We do our shopping, appointments, playdates, and most other trips by bike.  I ride the bus to my teaching job. We walk to various destinations close to home (the park, the bakery, etc.) regularly as well.  I've started to frequent shops within four miles of our house almost exclusively.  I've become more efficient in the way I run errands.  And because we really enjoy riding our bikes, taking the bus, and walking, I'm more likely to plan a couple of pleasant errand and park trips every other day or so.  When I was driving my kids around, I often crammed several hours of errands into one day in order to avoid the unpleasantness of errands by car as much as possible.

      We also love taking long-distance trips by train.  Our most frequent trip by train is to visit my parents' house near McMinnville.  I have taken my two kids on several overnight train trips by myself, which is actually really fun provided that you have the good sense not to let your kids drink the complimentary sparking juice right before bedtime.

      Austin carpools to his job as a carpenter each day.  He sometimes has to make trips of up to 50 miles with large loads of lumber and tools, so I think that this is a pretty sensible option for him.  The final few car trips I make a month (between 0 and 3, typically) typically involve and social obligations in distant areas at times when there is no bus service (or very limited bus service).  The moms at Carfree with Kids have a great post about this which is helping me think about how to collaborate with friends and family so that visiting is more convenient for all of us.  One of the goals I have for this year is to try to get to rural family members' homes at least a couple of times a month by bus.  I'm hoping that this will help us refine our rural bus trip routine so that it's more automatic for us to visit our rural family members this way.  Plus, if we're getting to folks' houses by bus regularly, they'll understand if we can't make it to some of those late weekend events.  Not to mention the fact that my kids are always asking for more bus trips!  At $3 for a day pass (the kids are too young to pay fare) it's a cheap thrill.

      A bike tip for other beginning family bicyclists:

      See if there are Kidical Mass rides where you live.  Meeting and talking with folks at Kidical Mass helped me build confidence about riding my bike with my children when I was just getting started.  I learned some family-friendly, low traffic routes to my favorite destinations.  I've gotten advice about family bike setups, and seen some really interesting family bikes in action.  And I've met a community of people who enjoy riding bikes with their kids.  There's a Kidical Mass in Eugene tomorrow -- meet us at 3 pm in Monroe Park!

      Friday, February 4, 2011

      Friday Family on Bikes: Heather, Ryan, and Sylvan

      I'm so very pleased to share the first in what I hope will be a lengthy series of interviews with families who ride bikes!  My dear friend Heather agreed to answer some questions and pose for a photo with her son and their bike.  She even sent me some pictures from her son's early experiences on a bike. Many thanks, Heather!

      If you would be willing to be interviewed for this series, please email me at mamafiets at gmail dot com. 

      Who are you?  Introduce yourselves, please.  Is there anyone in your family not pictured here who likes to ride bikes with you?

      Hola, I’m Heather and my sweet 4-year-old is Sylvan. My husband, Papa Ryan, rides with us sometimes as well, though usually Sylvan and I are on bike outings while Ryan is at work.

      What is your family bike setup?  How is it working for you?

      Although Sylvan was never a huge fan of the bike trailer (I think I should have started earlier), he loved riding on the WeeRide as a toddler and has been on a balance bike (Adam’s Runner) since his 2nd birthday (thanks, Grandma and Grandpa!).

      Sylvan, at two years old, on his balance bike

      Our current family bike setup is with Sylvan on an Adams Trail-a-Bike that was given to us by a friend who used it with his daughter who is now 17. Sylvan and I have been riding with the tagalong for several months now. At first I had to carry all our gear in a backpack, which limited our excursions except when Emily offered to add our gear to her already full milk crate! In order to fit the tagalong over a rear rack I recently replaced my suspension seat post with a non-suspension post so I could mount the tagalong higher. I excavated from deep storage the set of panniers I used when I lived in Seattle 10+ years ago. After a thorough wash they’re good to go and have increased our cargo capacity as well as my comfort. The next step is to attach the cargo trailer my husband fixed up onto the tagalong and see how I feel about such a long setup. I’d also like to look into a cargo bike like an xtracycle.

      Why do you choose to ride bikes together?

      Oh, there are so many reasons, where do I start? I can say that a bike ride brings infinitely more presence of mind, connection with our surroundings, physical wellbeing, and simple joy than any motorized trip. As you’ve said, Emily, we can be crabby up until the moment we hop on the bike but it all melts away when we start to ride, and that is just not the case in the car.

      What kinds of trips do you commonly make by bike?  Are there other modes of transport your family frequently uses?

      With our increased cargo capacity and confidence we've moved beyond a bike ride for the sake of a bike ride and now take trips to the grocery, dentist, pool, parties and many other destinations.  We recently dropped by the blood bank during a day of errands, and though I had to take it easy on the ride home I'm sure the fresh air was beneficial.

      When Sylvan was an infant and toddler and I carried him in an Ergo front/backpack, we used to walk places then ride the city bus home (to help Mama with the child/grocery/library book/etc. load).  We'd like to learn about loading our bike on the bus, and we look forward to planning a train trip soon.

      More cute toddler Sylvan!

      Would you share a great moment in your family biking experience with us?

      In my job as an Early Childhood Special Educator I have to drive all over the county (ex. Springfield, Bethel, Creswell, occasionally all in one day) to visit children and families at their homes or preschools, so any moment biking with my son is a fabulous biking moment! Some highlights would be Kidical Mass, the recent Parade of Champions (after being unsure at first, Sylvan was quite pleased at the end that everyone was waving at him), and singing “Singing in the Rain” at top volume during a particularly wet ride (and staying utterly dry). 

      Do you have any tips or tricks to pass on to other bike-riding families?

      I’m new at this and learning from others with more experience but I suppose my word of wisdom is that the time and money you invest in getting set up (i.e. gear, cargo capacity, safety, maps), is totally worth it. Whereas in the past we had to really plan for a bike ride (i.e. What will he wear to stay dry? Are the batteries charged for my light if we’re out after dark? How will I carry my stuff?), now we’re out the door in no time and we’re set up so we always enjoy the ride. 

      Are there any changes (to path or wayfinding systems, auto speed limits, bike boulevards, lighting, etc.) that you would you like to see to make bicycling more convenient, accessible, and safe for families in your area?

      It’s been inspiring to have recently started meeting folks who are advocating on behalf of bicyclists and bicycling families. I don’t yet know what potential improvements exist but I look forward to learning more and getting involved.

      What else do you think we should know?

      You’re an inspiration, Emily! I hope we have a weekly bike train trip to the pool and back for years to come!

      Thank you, Heather!  It is such a joy to be your friend!  I'm loving riding around town with you and your sweet boy.