You can’t get kids of out of the car and into sneakers or onto bikes without convincing parents that it is safe, healthy, and useful. In this panel, leaders on the front lines of creating family bicycling culture will discuss tips and tricks to use in your community. Started in Eugene, Oregon in 2008 and now spread to over a dozen communities, Kidical Mass has been transforming family travel habits, helping families network and advocate, and raising the next generation of bicycle advocates. Families turned out in Santa Monica, California by the hundreds for the first-ever Kidical Mass ride, and a Family Bike Festival, which allowed parents to test-ride family-oriented bicycle gear, while children practiced bicycle handling skills and decorated helmets. Complementing encouragement activities, in-school bicycle skills training allowed elementary and middle school students to become confident cyclists, earn independence in their day-to-day lives, and experience riding on community streets.
Yesterday was pretty exciting with our Kidical Mass ride success! Today was more nerve-wracking as it was my first attempt at public speaking in a conference setting. I felt so "official" with my SPEAKER ribbon and getting to hang out with the real advocacy and program leaders like Jessica Roberts and Shane MacRhodes. Our panel was called Family Bicycling: Empowering Tomorrow's Leaders.
I was really excited to be a part of this great group and after the breakout sessions I attended yesterday, I was feeling pretty okay about the whole thing. I even had powerpoint slides to help my along. If all else failed, pictures of my adorable kids would help distract them from my blabbering. I tried doing a run-through with my mom and bumbled the entire thing so I decided to take some notes with me.
After listening to Shane and Peter talk about their successful Kidical Mass and Bike Fest programs, I got up and talked about our own family journey to car-freedom. There was only one guy in the audience who was obviously flabbergasted about the idea of NOT having a car (although he also treated the presentations as his own personal conversation). It was great to have some friendly and familiar faces in the crowd, too. Afterwards, a couple from Arcata asked to take a photo of me with my website slide behind us so they could post it on their Kidical Mass page.
Overall, I think it went well. We all had fun topics to talk about and cute pictures of kids on bikes. The conference was a blast. I got to meet so many wonderful people doing incredible things to help the walkability and bikeability of their local communities. One woman, Elizabeth, from Turlock was there on her own to learn about the best ways to implement Safe Routes curriculum and practices. Her family is the only car-free family in their town! Another guy from San Fran was excited to start planning how he could continue being car-free when he and his fiancee start having kids. I had to point him on to Hum Of The City, of course. I hope to be able to continue learning from these folks and sharing our experience. This is the future of transportation, whether you know it or not (you all know it, of course). I feel so lucky to be a part of this greater movement.
I finally got to spend some real time at the 4th annual Safe Routes To School conference today. I was a bit nervous about leading the Kidical Mass ride with real people in the industry. I always feel like such an impostor. I just ride a bike, I don't make policy changes or anything important. However, finally meeting Shane MacRhodes of Eugene Kidical Mass, helped put me at ease. Having an expert help organize the ride was fantastic. He even brought unique spokecards for everyone!
I had already ridden my planned route multiple times in the last couple of days and made a few changes here and there. There was heavier traffic than I would normally plan for a Kidical Mass ride but because the conference is at the Sheraton Grand, we didn't have much choice other than Downtown Sacramento. We already had about 30 people signed up for the ride so I knew that we'd be big enough to have a presence on the larger roads which were mostly multi-lane one-way. The areas that didn't have bike lanes still had sharrows and bicycles were pretty common vehicles on these routes. Our riders were almost all adults and the few kids were all riding on their big buddy's bike (in various forms).
Our route was 13th st. to T st. (which is usually lovely but it was garbage day...), 10th street led us by the Capitol--where the bike lane disappears and is replaced by sharrows. J street was the biggest and busiest road we were on and the bike lane is pretty useless but it was just for a couple of blocks and we were fine.
We ended up with about 30 riders total, including some locals and a few kidicals. We had a great variety of cargo bikes including my Bullitt, Shane's longtail Bike Friday, Mina's Madsen, Jen's Yuba, a homemade bakfiets, a demo Yuba Lux with Monkey Bars, a couple Boda Bodas, and Grandpa Greg with his grandson on the trail-a-bike (4th grandkid to pedal that ride!). There were also a few "regular" Bike Fridays, a Brompton, and a handful of Practical Cycles's rental fleet that had been donated to the conference this week.
After a quick informative intro and ride briefing from Shane, we pulled out into traffic. We followed all traffic laws with me as leader and Shane as sweeper. Every so often, I'd hear on the walkie-talkie "hold up ahead" from Shane and we'd pull over where it was safe to allow the rest of the group to catch up. No one gets left behind on a Kidical Mass ride!
It was an easy but thorough 3 miles around downtown. We made one longer stop at the Capitol for a quick photo op and fortune cookie (thanks, Elena!) snack. As we got back to the hotel, some of the riders broke off to the Farmer's Market a few blocks away. The rest of us closed the ride with a visit to POPcycle (I had garden mint chip--amazing! Thanks, dad!). Rachel had pedaled the POPcycle down to peddle her homemade gourmet ice cream pops. Yummy! It was the best way to close out a fun but warm afternoon ride.
After the ride, I sat in on one of the breakout sessions--Fleets and Geeks--to learn about bike education and bike fleet options. It really helped me get more excited about the breakout session that I get to be a part of tomorrow morning--Family Bicycling: Empowering Tomorrow's Leaders. I'm having a great time absorbing all the expertise from these folks who are very involved in all the planning and implementing of these great programs to get safer streets for all. I am so inspired to bring some of these wonderful ideas into our future Kidical Mass rides.
I always think that my life will calm down, once whatever it is that's making me crazy ends. Then I realize I've always got something crazy following closely behind. Yesterday, my last exchange students boarded their plane home. I was looking forward to doing nothing but sleeping today since my boys were having a slumber party at 'Nama's, but of course, something came up. I have a few more days of cleaning, organizing, and wrapping up and then I'll be ready to jump into my next event--the Safe Routes to School conference next week. I get to help lead a Kidical Mass ride on Wednesday with Shane from Eugene and am joining in a breakout session on Thursday morning entitled Family Bicycling: Empowering Tomorrow's Leaders. The following week, I go back to Practical Cycle for more days than before. Truthfully, I can't wait to check out what they've done over the last month! I keep seeing all their great posts about new bikes they're carrying and demo-ing--Strider Bikes, Xtracycle conversions and Edgerunners, and the Boda Boda Lux!
I feel like this is the perfect time for new beginnings and changes for my career and life. Since I've barely (relative to me, of course) been biking this past month, I feel like I have to crawl my way back to my previous riding. It's like starting from scratch. However, when I think of all these fun things I have just around the corner, I am overwhelmed with excitement. I have some great ideas and plans that I might just have the time to get started.
We did make it home from the Ryde in one piece, thankfully! The trip home was pretty similar to the way there. It was slightly less terrible though, probably because there was slightly less traffic than Saturday and we had just had a lovely night's sleep without having been woken up by children at 6am. Still, it wasn't much fun. We had a strong headwind and the same speedy drivers. I didn't get honked at until we got closer to town, though. That was nice. I always wonder why drivers have enough time to lay out on their horns but not so much thought given to tapping their brakes. It takes about the same amount of energy.
Still, even a bad bike ride is still a bike ride. The experience might not have been what I had expected but it was an adventure and some great time together with my hubby. I look forward to trying out some of the alternate routes that have been suggested to avoid the 160 traffic and maybe trying it again on a weekday when the roads aren't full of wine-soaked drivers.
It has been nonstop action since we got back, too. I managed to make it to work at Practical Cycle (which was perfect timing because our BionX Breezer's front wheel had gone wonky and needed attention) after our trip and squeeze in some more biking classes through the Safe Routes To School programs in both Natomas and Citrus Heights. I'm pretty brain-fried at the moment.
Some exciting news--Jose's mastered the Bullitt! He had to lower the seat to make himself more comfortable but he felt good enough to take the kids to daycare for the first time! And, he didn't crash!
It was really cool to see the kids in the Bullitt from another angle other than behind them. They are just too flippin' cute!
Today was a great example of why we need two kid-toting bikes. Jose took Big Brother to a Giant's game by riding the Mundo to the train and I dropped the little monster off with my mom so I could drive to the biking class in Citrus Heights with Dan Allison. The irony isn't lost on me that I drive to a class to teach kids to use bikes as transportation. It's kind of like flying around the world in jets to warn about the dangers of global climate change.
However, I did get to put some of my new bike mechanic skills to the test--adjusting derailleurs and brakes, tightening stuff, and just looking cool while playing with the program's new Bike Friday student bikes. These aren't the typical Bike Friday folders but are incredibly adjustable to fit a huge range of people--from third graders up to real adult-like people. They were sent over without much quality control and have too many variations and a few problems. We weren't able to fix everything but that's what a real mechanic and warranty service is for.
The most ridiculous comment of the day came from a teacher who walked over to see what we were doing. "Teaching biking? Really? Isn't that what parents are supposed to do? First it was tooth-brushing, now it's biking! Are we going to be forced to pay for bikes for kids, now?" As if there are better things for our taxes than buying kids bikes. Dan pointed out (to me, not to her, sadly) that one single freeway onramp could pay for a new bike for every single child in the district.
It's always pretty horrible driving around in a car but it's even worse driving around in the suburbs! There are so many lanes of traffic, confusing signs, nonexistent speed limits, and really depressing pedestrian/bike infrastructure. It's easy to see why people who live in these areas "need" a car. The less I drive, the less I take driving for granted. Today, I watched a man tie his necktie with both hands while driving past a school in the morning. Ben Marans said on Twitter this morning: "It pains me to see so many ppl behind the wheel who treat driving as a secondary activity to eating, make-up, texting, reading, etc."
So to make up for it, here is a photo of how awesomely cute you could be while waiting for public transportation:
And then, because you're not exhausted from driving, you'll look like this:
Doesn't that look like more fun?
This is us. We're fun.