I ran into Myra and her family on the Royal River Trail. You don’t often see someone riding a cargo bike with baby on board in Guelph. I had to learn more, so I stopped her and asked her if I could interview her. She graciously accepted 🙂
How did you come into biking as a means of transportation?
As a kid I started off like anyone but I continued to ride a bike in high school. My bus route was long since I lived on a farm in Marden. It was quicker for me to bike to school than to take the bus. That continued into university because I still didn’t have a car.
How did you come to your current bike set-up?
I ride a Bakfiet.NL long – a two wheeled family cargo bike from the Netherlands.
We had a car when my partner Scott and I went on a trip to Barcelona. Scott spent 10 years of his life in Spain, and during his last 7 years there, he was a bike messenger. While we were there on vacation, he showed me his stomping grounds and we explored Barcelona by bike. They have a bike share there and ever-growing cycling infrastructure. It was a wonderful trip.
I returned to Canada before him. When I got back to the Park ‘n’ Fly, the car wouldn’t start. I jumped the battery and off I went. Meanwhile, the trip struck with me over the next couple of months. I had a hard time seeing the car sitting in the driveway, draining our bank account and rarely being used (Scott doesn’t have his driving license). Then we got a huge cold snap in January 2014, and it froze the battery. I walked down the road, got on the bus,and decided, I don’t want to scrape the windshield anymore or maintain the car. So we sold it February 1.
When I became pregnant with Lucy we decided we needed some other way to get around other than walking or the bus. There is no way (that I know of) to transport a newborn except in a cargo bike. A cargo bike also holds up to 175 pounds and has a toddler seat and it will grow with her. There is an attachment for a car seat now. It was a large purchase so we held off and bought it in April. Lucy rode it for the first time at 4 months.
I was intimidated at first by the size of it; it is 8 feet long. I was concerned that people would stare.
However, when the weather turned nice and I took it out, I got used to people staring at us. Anyone who sees it loves it and asks questions. It’s great. I don’t have too many limitations; I can pretty much go anywhere that I need to. It can be difficult to go up hills, but it has 8 gears. It just takes longer. I can’t imagine our lives without it now.
By not having a car, I feel more relaxed. I like that it takes longer to do things. I don’t have a big metal box around me that keeps me from relating to my community. Financially it helps enormously and allows us spend our money differently. Also, having a bike and not having a car allows me to feel like I have fewer obligations. When having a car, you are expected to be everywhere and there are no boundaries. We don’t go out needlessly; we batch our trips. Location is also key, and we were drawn to the ward to be able to live car free.
Where do you go on the bike?
Pretty much everywhere but I would say the radius is around downtown. With the cargo bike I don’t really go south of the Boathouse or west of Edinburgh or east of Watson. We try to follow the river trails when we can because they’re flatter, provide more shade, and are more scenic. When I don’t have my daughter, I go further afield.
When do you use the car?
We go to Costco with my mother in law once a month so that we can stock up on bulky items. We might rent a car for a vacation. We also travel with family members and friends, if say, we have a wedding or event out of town. But 90% or our trips are by bike and bus.
What is the hardest thing about using the bike for transportation?
How would you respond to people who feel a car is just safer?
Driving is definitely more dangerous, especially when you factor in the detrimental effects caused by emissions. I believe that the benefits of cycling outweigh any risks.
What needs to happen in Canada to make the culture, and eventually the roads, more bike friendly?
Separated bike lanes would be very nice. Education and more cyclists on the road would help too. We all pay taxes and the road work is primarily geared toward the car.
Name the top four things you think people get out of utilitarian cycling?
Good health, enjoying and engaging with surroundings, saving money, getting to where you are going faster sometimes, and with more pleasure.
I also have a blog that I hope will encourage people to look at transportation alternatives.
Describe your commute.
I use a cyclocross bike to go to work. I’ll take the Royal River Trail or York Road (now that it will have bike lanes), go up Morris to Elizabeth to Arthur N and go through Goldie Mill and follow the TransCanada trail, to Dufferin and then to Woolwich to the Cemetery.
What is the best part of your commute?
The trail, by far.
What is the worst part of your commute?
Crossing Eramosa at Arthur Street.
What infrastructure change would make your commute better?
Lights at Eramosa and Arthur (a pedestrian crossing). Alternatively, one where the trail crosses Eramosa, at the railway tracks.
I think that it gives Lucy a sense of exhilaration because we often take the long way and enjoy the sights and stops along the way. Every trip is an adventure.
What is challenging about riding with kids?
Having to go slower.
Tell a story about a special moment related to riding with Lucy.
I find the best part so far is seeing her smile and react to the world around her at a faster pace than I can walk with her. She faces me and I get to see her reactions and interact with her. She likes it when we ride as a family so she can see the other parent on the bike in her view.
Have you ever felt judged by those who think you are irresponsible for transporting your kids by bike?
Someone asked me if she is allowed on the road. I think the overriding feeling I get though, is how cool the bike is and what freedom we have with an infant.
What do you suppose Lucy is learning from this part of your lifestyle?
That it is totally possible and fun to go by bike.
What bit of advice would you like to share with new bike commuters?
That there is a really great feeling of being self sufficient. It feels great to get where you want to go by using your own energy. It is empowering.