An Ode to Bicycling Families

8 Comments

It’s been an interesting year. Here at Splendid Cycles it’s been a great year. But, elsewhere in Oregon and the world there have been some tough days and weeks, with natural disasters and incredibly sad news of hatred, intolerance,  and violence. But rather than give you my opinion on those topics, I thought I’d share with you what I found to be an antidote for the deep sadness those events stirred in me, and a warning: this is going to get corny(but it is how I’m feeling).

Anyway, the antidote: just thinking about all of the amazing families we work with, sell bikes to, and know as part of the cargo bike community.

While it’s really cool and gratifying to help businesses reduce their reliance on automobiles, it’s the families that truly warm my heart. I’ve thought so much about them in the last few weeks. I’ve thought about their children, their stories, and the world they are working to create for their children. Every single family we’ve been honored to help with bikes has inspired us and given us many reasons to keep doing what we do.

A couple of family-biking kids and some of their supportive community on a bird watching excursion.

Seeing the way these families bond through bicycling and seeing the resulting healthy, happy children truly gives me hope. When sad news reaches me it is thinking about these families that have brought me the most comfort. These parents seem to be focused on the things that matter. They’re making choices that slow down their lives, enrich their children’s lives, and result in high-quality family time.They’re also the beginning of a change we need here in the USA that shifts us away from our automobile-dominated life style – a lifestyle that isolates us from each other, removes us from contact with our neighbors, and creates a hectic pace that results in excessive amounts of stress. 

It isn’t an easy path for these early-adopter bicycling families. They have to juggle busy schedules with the slower pace of the bicycle. While their neighbors and coworkers are zipping to destinations by car, they’re donning helmets, rain gear, and bike-friendly diaper bags. Sometimes I wonder how they do it as sometimes I’m challenged to get just myself out the door on a rainy day.

Some are ridiculed by the unknowing, well-meaning  strangers who say things like, “How can you endanger your child by putting them on a bike?” This whole line of thinking is fuel for another blog but let me say how grossly mistaken I believe such people are. Cycling has its risks but so does just about everything in life so calling out concern on just bicycling safety is a narrow focus indeed.

Cycling families cope with cold, wet weather and Totcicles (aka cold toddlers). They must get creative figuring out how to get the items they need by bicycle, all with kids in tow. BUT, Holy Cow! they do it, and from what I observe they do it with a sense of humor and open hearts. They are setting sterling examples for their children of how to embrace and enjoy life and each other.

I’m convinced , these children are growing up loved, open-hearted themselves, and surrounded by a strong community of adults supporting them and what their parents do; they all give me hope. They restore my faith in humanity. They help me see so much more goodness on this earth than bad.  Don’t get me wrong, I know dozens of wonderful non-biking families, it’s just that the cargo bike families really do so many remarkable things every day that I can’t help but be grateful for them all.

I know that now media-famous Emily Finch, mother of 6, has some received criticism for having a large family, as has another mom of 4 I spoke with recently. That’s unfortunate.  As an environmentalist, I am concerned about population growth, but I’m more concerned with the happiness and mental welfare of our society. These particular large-family moms (and dads) happen to be incredible parents and because of that are contributing to our society in ways that are far more important than zero-population growth. So, to them I say, “Hey, why aren’t you having more kids?”

And I say to all of the parents out there, making sacrifices to teach their children to appreciate a simple, slower way of life, structured with love and support: Thank You. Thank you for being my antidote to the sadness I feel in response to many of the world’s tragedies. May you all have tailwinds and rosy-cheeked children!

 

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8 Comments

  1. Julian

    Thank YOU Barb and Joel for such a welcoming attitude at your shop, and for putting together true car-replacement cargo bikes for hills and weather. This freezing spell hasn’t slowed us down. I’ve got my balaclava while they snuggle under a blanket in the greenhouse of a front box, and rock out to music. The jacket rule has been enforced, however :)

    • Barb

      Julian, too bad mixed tape sharing isn’t as popular as it once was; I’d love to hear your cold weather cycling mixed tape! Makes me smile just picturing you and the kids rockin’ and cruisin’ around Seattle on your Bullitt. It’s been a pleasure to help you with your bike and we’re so happy to hear that it has indeed led to one fewer car on the road.
      b

  2. Gabe Aron

    Thanks Barb and Joel for making this possible for us. You have truly inspired us to ride more, together as a family. And Nice pic by the way.
    Gabe

    • Barb

      You’re welcome Gabe, your family is one of the inspirations to this post so it’s only fitting that your girls are featured in a photo.
      b

  3. Matt Mason

    That was just the message I needed to hear. It is not the weather in sunny and warm New Mexico that provides an obstacle to biking (especially with children) but instead I’m struggling with a skeptical public. I often listen politely as I’m told my young child has no business on a bike. Some even go on to say it is unsafe for me as well. I think if my daughter could speak for herself she would strongly disagree.
    My hope is eventually my fellow citizens will come around when they repeatedly see a giggling baby and her Dad cruising around town. At least they now know there are other options.

    Big thanks to Splendid Cycles!

    • Barb

      Matt,
      It is amazing, isn’t it, that people perceive bikes as more dangerous than automobiles. I think though, that such sentiments are from a vocal minority. My observation as Portland has evolved from a hard-core recreational cyclist area (in the 1980s)to a utility- and transit-oriented cycling mecca (in the 2000s) is that despite a vocal few that speak out about the dangers of cycling (with or without kids) more and more people are parking their cars, getting on their bikes. It’s folks like you – the early adopters – that are doing the hard work of setting an example, and planting the seed of change for those that are curious, inclined to try cycling, and not yet taking the steps you are to reduce dependence on the auto. Those folks are often quiet…until they see you enough times and decide that they’re going to join you, then they can’t be stopped. So, hang in there, thank you for listening to your daughter, and believe that there can be a shift (pardon the pun) if you just keep doing what you love to do – bicycling.

  4. Jenny

    Barb, Thank you so much for being so helpful to me on the phone yesterday regarding finding a bike to transport my son with a disability. We won’t be affording a Bullitt this year, but you were so patient, informative and encouraging, I just know it’s a great direction for us to pursue! Look forward to visiting your shop someday.

    • Barb

      Hi Jenny,
      I enjoyed our chat so please call any time you have questions. I’m so happy to be able to guide you, I know what a difference bikes can make in a child’s life (with or without disabilities). If you do get to Portland to see your family, please stop by for a visit or better yet, to borrow a bike while you’re in town.