Thinking Out Loud

Many moons ago, before The Wiggles and Yo Gabba Gabba became the mainstays of my family’s playlist, Public Radio was our go-to station for diverse, thought provoking and often humorous programming. Oregon Public Radio show Think Out Loud ran a show last month about biking in non-urban areas. City cyclists receive much attention in terms of safety, infrastructure and funding but developing safe roads for cyclists in non-urban areas is a relatively novel concept. TOL asked me a few questions about our experience competing for road space in rural washington. You can check out the entire broadcast here. My segment only lasted a couple of minutes but it was a fun to touch on these issues from a family perspective.

Recording the broadcast itself was exciting. My twelve year old son had babysitting duty while I ran to the garage for quiet. Live radio doesn’t yield much forgiveness for a wailing “Momeeeeeeee”. Worrying about the children interrupting or burning down the house did wonders for my nerves, in general, as I didn’t really have much time to worry about what I was going to say. As short as my segment was it got me thinking about family biking, the concept of the weakest link and grassroots advocacy.

For us, as a car-free family biking is much more than recreation or a hobby. It’s about function and practicality. Getting groceries, getting to school and meeting our transportation needs without turning a key. As a result we are exposed, to the elements, the public and most critically to a constant stream of 2,000 plus pound vehicles zooming by next to our children. Our town has a lovely multi-use trail for recreation however there is no infrastructure to connect us to stores and services. As a result we are forced on sidewalks, across grassy/ muddy areas where there is no shoulder and in some places into the streets.

The idea of building streets and communities to service pedestrians and cyclists seems like a no-brainer. A hundred years ago the auto was viewed as a dangerous intruder to streets in which pedestrians, bikes, women, men, children were the dominant force. In our “modern” culture cyclists and pedestrians are fighting for safe ways to commute.

While I believe cycling to be one of the safest and most affordable means of transportation; we bike defensively. With my twelve year old on two wheels and five year old and one year sheltered only by a fabric and aluminum frame trailer it’s not enough to assume a motorist will stop or check the bike lane before turning. I take full responsibility for the failure of motorists to stop, yield or give enough room. I have to assume that every car is playing a deadly game of Russian roulette and keep the barrel aimed away from my family.

Buffered bike lanes and infrastructure certainly offer some measure of protection but they must be built with the smallest, or most vulnerable user in mind. The wheelchair, the stroller, the child are the weakest links. If our streets fail them. They have failed entirely. One casualty is too many.

I believe the path to change is going to be cut by a change in consciousness. It was not until my family got on bikes that my scope of vision widened. Now I notice cyclists and pedestrians. I pay attention to legislation and bicycle advocacy. I seek opportunities to encourage and educate everyone and anyone about the freedom and possibilities that using a bike as transportation offers.

There is no overestimating the strength of families, mothers and fathers for providing and protecting their children. As more families and individuals experience the myriad of wonderful benefits of biking, their consciousness will expand too. Collectively we can raise awareness, be a force for change and build a better future.

What do you think? How can cyclists and family cyclists protect themselves? What are the solutions to keeping families and individuals safe while commuting? Are cities inherently more safe because of biking infrastructure ie: bike lanes, sharrows etc?

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It Means So Much !!

Over the past few weeks, our iBikeuBike family has been following, supporting and cheering for Ride to Read cyclist, Kasia, on our twitter feed. Kasia is traversing Europe, solo, on a bike, in an effort to raise $10,000 and to raise awareness for World Literacy Canada, which supports literacy education for women and children in India. Her travel blog is a pleasure to read and gives lots of details about the project. Or better yet click here for the official Ride to Read video!

Currently Kasia is half way through her $10 for 10 days promotion to help boost fundraising efforts as she nears her destination. Today we need YOU to donate $10.

Here are a few compelling reasons why:

Literacy  Take a moment to reflect on how reading has changed your life… or how your life would be if you could NOT read! Pretty amazing, huh? Spreading the gift of literacy is the thrust of this fundraiser!
Cycling  It is just so cool. Supporting two-wheeled locomotion is awesome!
Women  For women’s cycling, for women’s literacy… it’s about solidarity. Women understand that our daughters’ future will be built upon the accomplishment of women today!
Comfort  Kasia is pulling her weight (literally and figuratively!) Let’s all skip one comfort today, whether it is that latte or a rental movie, and donate those bucks to the cause. Be a Rock Star! Make the donation!
Meaning  Magic happens when people from different communities join together for a singular cause. $10 will not matter much to your budget 10 days from now… but being a part of the greater cause will resonate because “It just means so much.”

While pregnant with our firstborn, we spent a family vacation (husband, brother, mother and father) running the Honolulu Marathon for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, as part of Team in Training. Training for and running your first 26.2 mile race is challenging and sometimes downright grueling. Shin splints, sore knees, blisters, chaffing in spots that are never supposed to chafe were second only to the joys of pregnancy, including morning sickness 24 hours a day, and stopping to pee for every sip of water…I’ll spare you any more details!

There were plenty of moments I wanted to quit, but our commitment to the fundraiser kept me going. After a while, I was driven by a sense of power, accomplishment and a high that came from pushing my body and mind past its comfort zone to the next level of possibility. It was as if I had awoken a giant, the sleeping one that lives inside my 5’3” frame, and lies dormant in all of us.

Fundraising from a grass roots level like Kasia’s Ride to Read is a completely different endurance sport. It’s really challenging, and she needs our help!

We suffered through Arizona heat hosting yard sale after yard sale; we sweated through concession sales at football games and car washes; anything to raise a buck and raise awareness for our cause. The fundraising effort made our 20-mile training runs look easy!

But oh, the people who reached out and touched our lives!

There was the elderly man who donated $20 at a yard sale, buying nothing. He shook my hand, crystal blue eyes tearing as he thanked us for inspiring him. There was the 25-year-old widow who didn’t run, but volunteered anyways. She had married the love of her life… after he had found out his diagnosis was terminal, just so they could be husband and wife before he died. Our special “honor patient.” We ran in honor of five-year-old Patrick. I remember him, his little head bald from the trauma of chemotherapy, which didn’t damper the most beautiful, infectious smile or those eyes that twinkled with mischief.

Through the heartache and the tragedy of others, so deeply scarred by Leukemia or Lymphoma, we were gifted with deep and meaningful purpose for our efforts. One teammate explained it to me best, with tearful eyes, why he ran marathon after marathon: “It just means so much.”

The Ride to Read cause of literacy for women and children in India reminds me of our past efforts because it…means so much. I know the joy and pride I felt upon finishing the marathon. It was a shared victory for myself, my family, all of those special individuals who had supported us along the way.

Let’s join together to make this finish line experience a reality for Kasia on her Ride to Read. Head over to the Ride to Read website with me right now and pledge at least ten bucks. You will be glad you did.

Talk about it, tweet about it, and infuse your day with meaning from this simple act of kindness.

Thank you so much!