Sunday, October 5, 2014

guest post: MAGNIFYING JOY

Gabrielle's photo caught my eye in Facebook cargo bike group. She has two sets of twins. That's right- TWO SETS. As a twin mama myself, I bow down to her for this fact alone. But it turns out there is even more to Gabrielle's story and I honored that she decided to share some of that here... and a little bit about her lovely e-assist cargo trike, too.

I’m Gabrielle, the mother of five kids (including two sets of twins) and I’m new to cargo biking. We own a bakfiets style trike made by Oak Cliff bikes in Dallas, TX.

I can’t remember where I saw the bakfiets style bike in use, probably in the Netherlands. I always thought they were awesome. Then one day stumbling around the internet while searching something like “dutch bike for many kids”, I learned about Emily Finch. Then I read Sara’s blog and watched “Less Car More Go” about 90 times.

But since I live in Central TX, the conversations went like this, “a bak-what?”  This is an area where the car is king. I spent many hours after learning about cargo bikes that there are none to be found in Central TX. I searched Craiglist and checked out bikes shops in Portland and on the East Coast with no luck. Finally someone told me about Oak Cliff Cargo bikes in Dallas. The rest as they say is history.

My husband thought I had lost my mind. My goal was to bike our kiddos three blocks to the local elementary school (by myself) and return. I’m from PA, and grew up in a college town with dedicated bike lanes and I desperately wanted biking to be part of my life.  I was used to walking or riding every place I wanted to go. I want my children to know that they can physically go places by themselves at their own pace.  We retire this spring and are moving back east. The Army will move my bike (at no cost to me)! Win all around. The only problem was my husband had concerns about my ability to ride a bike.

You see, in 2006, I fell out of a helicopter in Iraq. Luckily for me it was not a combat injury, just an accident in a combat zone on the last day of my deployment (because it couldn’t be the first day naturally). Long story short, I now have a spinal stimulator in my spine. I had to give up my last bike, a nice folding Dahon because it was too much for my back. How was I going to pedal four kids in a heavy wooden box? Enter Jonathan, the owner at Oak Cliff, who added an electric assist to the bike. It makes all the difference in the world for me as the electric help takes all the pressure off the base of my spine. It has given me many new opportunities to interact with nature, my children, and my community.

Biking allows you to interact with people and the world around you. It draws people to you in a way that cars can’t. On a bike, I am approachable (once you get past the four squalling children).  One time a woman pushing newborn twins in a stroller chased me down two blocks to ask about it. People love my bike and they tolerate me schlepping four kids in it.  Interestingly, we have a contingent of Dutch soldiers here at Fort Hood (Air Cavalry, I believe). They often bike their kids to school. The love the bike and offer tips. They even can pronounce “bakfiets." 

I’ve had some wobbles with it (I learned that the sidewalk with the benches are too narrow to navigate and I should stick to the car drop off lane). Fathers have pulled me out of the mud. Women congratulate me. People wave and smile. My children will meet people who embrace our nontraditional transportation. We learn about the weather and we learn about each other (my girls HATE their helmets). It is a source of much joy. The kids love to ride in the bike and I love that I can master it and it truly allows us to embrace life on a different level.

I am Gabrielle, a combat veteran, a clinical social worker, a mother of multiple multiples and a devoted cargo biker. Thank you Sara for the inspiration. Biking has changed my life and magnified our joy.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Cargo Bike Dog

It was a big summer for us as we added this girl to our family.

She's a rescue from the South and yes, she's a tripawd (as the internet seems to deem some three-legged pups). We love her. She's sweet and loving and she is not at all hindered by having lost her front left leg just on July 1st. My boys like to boast that she's 'faster than many four-legged dogs.' So there.

We knew we needed to integrate her fully in our lives so we trained her to do this.

First we had the boys sit in the box with her. Since she's a *huge* fan of squirrels and we were worried that they'd tempt her too much, we decided to rig a harness system for her so she could ride on her own. We took out the bakfiets' folding front seat, used the hole openings, and screwed two short 'leashes' with clips to either side. We clip these to a body harness and she can sit and move around comfortably but she can't jump out upon squirrel sightings.

So this is how she and P get to work. Yes, besides being a cargo bike dog, she's also an office pup.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Perfect Gift

My friend C just gave these socks to me. Most perfect gift evah. Yes to 45!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Why LESS CAR MORE GO is Important

It seems a bit silly to be writing about this on my blog as I expect the only people who even visit this place are already folks who are interested in family bicycling-- you know the whole 'preaching to the choir' thing. But as the Kickstarter campaign for LESS CAR MORE GO is in its final week with $8,000 more to go to be funded, I feel like I would be remiss if I didn't say share why I think this documentary is important.

First, the non-bike part. I am not a filmmaker, but I do love films and yes, documentaries are particular favorites. Once, a lifetime ago, I flirted with the idea of going to film school. Instead, I became a teacher-- one who loved to create curricular connections between literature and documentaries. Then when P and I were finishing the Peace Corps, we were convinced that we should return to my area in the Philippines to create a documentary about this amazing country band at this local bar in Baguio called The Wild West. That never happened-- the bar sadly closed and I wonder what happened to those amazing musicians who loved American country music and could play it all, from the old school country stuff to the recent country stars. Their story would have been interesting to learn and document and I am sorry it didn't come to pass...

Anyway, back to LCMG-- filmmaker Liz Canning came up with this incredible idea for this documentary and it's not just about the bikes. She is creating a crowdsourced film where she called for footage from ordinary folks from all over the country and beyond. That means us non-filmmakers shoot video when out and about on cargo bikes, and we convince our friends who ride to let us interview them on camera. Then Liz watches hours and hours of all this video from all these many people and she is putting it together in one coherent story. It's an incredibly ambitious project and it's just really cool and I have no doubt that other documentary filmmakers will look at this example and come up with their own ideas for crowdsourced film projects. Liz's approach to this project speaks so much about the power of community. Crowdsourced and now crowdfunded. This film cannot happen without the crowd.

The other reason why LCMG is important is about the bikes and the families who ride them. I think back those six years ago when we were trying to figure out how to get kindergarten-aged twins to/from a school two+ miles away from our apartment and it just didn't seem right to use the car. Yet, they couldn't walk and they couldn't ride themselves and a bike trailer wouldn't work and there was no public transportation available for this route. There didn't seem to be a solution until one random weekend when a friend from another place whispered the word 'bakfiets' and we Googled it and suddenly-- Wow! This amazing machine. Look at these families on the web who were using these cargo bikes to transports kids and not just a single kid, but more than one kid. And the possibilities opened up to us-- possibilities that we didn't know existed before we heard the words 'bakfiets' and 'cargo bike' and saw those photos on the web and read the blogs of Travis, and Anne and Tim, Julian, and Matt.

So this is why LESS CAR MORE GO is important. It's about the possibilities. Other families who may not live in a place with a family bicycling culture can watch this film and think-- Well, maybe…. Maybe if that family does that, maybe we could. And it's also important for the families who already do ride their bikes as it's about community as wellMaybe that family also doesn't live in a place where others ride. They're the outliers-- maybe even the ones that other parents look at and even sometimes comment on "how crazy or dangerous they are to be bicycling with their children." Those bicycling families can look at this film and think-- Well, we aren't crazy. We aren't the only ones. There are other families like ours getting around their communities on bikes. As parents, we can feel unsure and we can hear criticism about our parenting choices pretty darn loudly and we can question ourselves and our choices. Seeing others out there riding with their kids feels good. This feeling of belonging is powerful.

Community. Possibilities. Belonging.

I hope the world gets to watch LESS CAR MORE GO. And I hope I do, too.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

LESS CAR MORE GO: a cargo bike documentary by Liz Canning

It's been three years in the making so I was most excited on Monday when Liz Canning made the Kickstarter campaign live to support her crowdsourced documentary LESS CAR MORE GO.

 Liz is the real deal, people. A documentary filmmaker, mama of twins, and cargo bike enthusiast, you can tell just how much vision and time it has taken for her to put this campaign together. Imagine the hours combing through all of our submitted video footage and coming up with an engaging, cohesive story about how cargo bikes make our lives better. She's got interesting history and interviews in there and a bunch of regular folks who just like riding their cargo bikes.

Liz has also been working on this project, all self-funded, for the past three years. It's time. It's time. $40,000 is an ambitious Kickstarter goal, however, it is quite modest when talking about a film budget. It's been exciting to see how the cargo bicycling community has rallied around to support this film but we needs others to help us out. Please consider giving. Also, consider sharing this campaign far and wide. 

Thanks so much and happy riding.

Monday, January 27, 2014

PechaKucha Presentation about Cargo Bikes

How do you express your deep love of cargo bikes with just 20 images that flash at 20 second intervals?

Late in August I made good on a promise to myself and presented at my city's PechaKucha night about my love of cargo bikes. A fellow happened to be filming it and he just posted it on video. There is a drop in the sound for two slides but it does pick up...

Shout-outs to Travis Wittwer, Elly Blue, and Emily Finch who are a part of my PechaKucha. Thank you so much!

Friday, July 26, 2013

New Haven Living article, "Cycling"

Not to totally self-promote but here is the recently published article in New Haven Living about cycling in New Haven that yes, does include my family.

Wondering about this, though-- Cargo bicyclists, do you agree with the author's description that cargo bikes are "an increasingly popular symbol of urban chic"?

I am all about utility (and comfort). Chic? Not so much....

While I am really thrilled that cycling is being featured in this magazine and that Elm City Cycling and Matt Feiner get the credit they so richly deserve for helping to make New Haven an ever-growing, bike-friendly city, it is hard for me to ignore the glaring editing error of misnaming The Devil's Gear Bike Shop early in the article.

The author mostly got my quotations correct. I can say with certainty that I've never actually uttered the words "Moreover" aloud in my everyday speech but we'll go with it. There is an incorrect preschool detail but it doesn't radically change the idea for anyone but me.  

Ultimately happy though that cycling gets more and more attention as folks figure out their transportation needs and desires. Hoping that more and more people see bicycling as a viable and do-able (even with kids!) option.

Forgive me for admitting that I wished they had used this photo instead in the article, but it is nice it's up on the web slideshow...

Credit: Kathleen Cei from "Cycling" in New Haven Living