Seemingly minor errands on an average Saturday (farmer’s market, pharmacy, friends’ houses, etc.) add up to me feeling like I’ve spent most of the day driving, even when we’ve stayed fairly close to home. Throw a weekday in the mix and I’m swearing up a storm as I sit in traffic on the highway, asking “What is this, LA?” of the car-studded landscape. I don’t actually like driving very much (sorry, was that obvious?), and I’m also aware of the very real fact that this planet’s rapidly running out of oil—as well as seriously heating up from the things we do with it—so it strikes me as odd that we’re all still so dependent on our cars. With that perspective, I take the bus to work each day, and we try to live as locally as possible, consolidating our driving needs and refusing to turn into a two-car family. Ever.
We realized as we looked ahead to our hectic fall schedules, however, that while Kaspar’s morning start-time will work perfectly with mine—I’ll drop him off (by car) and then head to class myself—I’m still going to have the car up in central Austin when he’s ready to be picked up. By Aaron. Who’ll be without the car.
Click Read More for the rest of the post!
Aaron felt similarly wary of the way of the road here, but noted that planning routes and travel-times (as well as exercising caution) do a lot to offset cycling’s risks. And anyway, he added, driving in cars is risky, too. We picked up an Austin bicycle map, and I began harassing random families as they cycled up to my go-to coffee shop, trailers in tow. The parents I spoke with tended to be of the same mind as Aaron on the precautionary measures front, and they were also extremely enthusiastic about towing kids by trailer. One family even gave me their numbers and invited me to bring my crew over for a test ride in advance of buying anything. Austinites may be dicks on the road, but they’re undeniably friendly in person. (I do like this town, I do).
I got right on Craigslist and found a top-of-the-line (read: best safety features) model that a local family’s kids had outgrown. The family even agreed to cut $25 off the listed price, and to keep the trailer in their garage while we went on vacation. They just “really wanted it to end up with people who’d love it as much as [they] did.” So our trailer’s got good karma! And we will love it. Kaspar loves it already, and we haven’t even attached it to a bike yet. Aaron will use it to pick him up from school each day—at noon, so it won’t be rush hour-- and I’ll use it for as many of the usual errands as possible. We’re also looking forward to taking some day-long bike trips this fall, once the weather cools off.
Somewhere in between deciding to move ahead with our new transportation plans, and actually picking up our trailer, Aaron actually got hit by a turning car, while on his bike, right in our neighborhood. He allowed the bike to move sideways (not quite sure how this worked; I wasn’t there) instead of toppling. The driver sped off, and he and a witness called the police, who quickly determined that the vehicle was stolen. Classy. Aaron injured his thumb, but was, thankfully, otherwise okay. He was shaken by the experience, though. I was shaken, too. What if Kaspar’s trailer had been there, instead of Aaron’s bike? Flags are only useful if drivers pay attention enough to see them.
We ultimately decided that we would still buy, and use, the trailer, as Aaron noted that he wouldn’t have ridden in the street if he were hauling Kaspar around. We’re going to stick to sidewalks, as a rule, rather than bike lanes, which are separated from busy roads by painted lines alone. I realize this may be technically illegal, but if we’re onto the sketchy drivers in this town, I’m willing to bet the cops are, too. We’re not too concerned about getting ‘pulled over.’ We’ll definitely take that over getting hit, so the decision’s easy to make.
Are you a cycle-centric family? Do you cycle your kids around, with bike seats, trailers, tandem cycles or cargo bikes? What do you think of the risk factor, and how do you keep your family safe? What’s the best part about being-the-change with your kids?