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.....