Myra loves her cargo bike and being car free!

IMG_20160726_151314

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.

IMG_20160726_151256How has cycling improved your life?

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?

Winter.

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.

IMG_20160802_180714What do you think Lucy  gets out of riding as a family?

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.

4 thoughts on “Myra loves her cargo bike and being car free!

  1. This is really illegal. Car seats are not made to go in trailers, and the child isn’t wearing a helmet! This is so irresponsible for promoting!

    • Thank you for your comment. You have given us an opportunity to do more research into this topic.

      The bakfiet is not a trailer.

      Below is some information from the Urkai store in Burlington, that distributes Dutch Bikes and cargo bikes.

      “The Maxi Cosi carrier, a metal frame, with suspension is mounted into the interior of the box of the bakfiets, and an infant car seat can then be clicked then strapped into the carrier. The actually system has been designed and tested rigorously in the E.U. Can be fitted into almost any cargobike. This system is not illegal in Canada.

      By law in many provinces in Canada, there are laws requiring infants and children to wear helmets while biking. While the issue is a contentious one, as many believe that requiring people to wear helmets deflects from the real issue of proper protected and separate bicycle infrastructure, i.e. if you force a population to wear safety gear, you don’t have to create separate bicycle infrastructure like the Netherlands and Denmark.

      The real safety issue for babies is neck strength, which is typically why a baby should not be put in a trailer or a bicycle seat until they have the proper neck strength to actually hold 8-10oz helmet. Ironically, the baby is less susceptible to a neck injury without the weight of a helmet – which has been studied by many pediatric doctors.

      The cargobike by Bakfiets.NL has been tested again and again by the German Auto testers, (E.U standards are much higher than that of Canada or the U.S) like all cargobikes sold in the E.U. Each time the Auto testers have brought in various bakfiets to see what would happen if a car crashes into it. The Bakiets.NL cargobike comes ahead in safety. It was surprising to learn, that the Bakiets.nl version had only a few scratches, and the German car, was so badly damaged that they could not open the door. The Bakfiets.NL was the original 2 wheeled cargo bike for child transportation, invented by Maarten van Andel in 2002. He wanted to create something on 2 wheels, which was safe, responsive, and durable for child transportation. The Dutch manufacturer uses marine grade plywood for the box and a steel frame. In all testing, cargobikes are safer than bicycle trailers, because 1) your child is upfront where you can see them 2) when you are sitting upright with a box in front of you, you are more likely about to react as one, including how you fall. Bicycle trailers are behind you, like a backpack on a crowded bus, you often don’t realize where it is, and you forget about it, leaving children more vulnerable.

      Car seats are designed specifically to protect children from injury or death during collisions, this includes head injury. An infant car seat has been designed to give an infant complete support, including back and hip support. If you look at an infant car seat, they have been designed to withstand side impact. An infant car seat is actually safer to have your child in, than putting just a helmet on them and strapping them to an ill-fitting harness. Which is why most new parents are told to use a car seat/stroller combo until the baby is 6 months.

      When people say “it is illegal,” they cannot reference where in federal or provincial law it states it is illegal. We have had conversations with police about it, and all that have seen it, including one who has bought one, said that it is perfectly safe, and a happy sight.”

  2. Dear Myra,
    It would be great to cycle in the Netherlands where all your wishes are part of our daily life. We hope to welcome you in our country some day!

  3. Way to go. Forget about the naysayers. You are a trailblazer. Several years ago I put my children in the trailer (or one in back seat, the other in trailer) and went everywhere, year round. I got a lot of angry, disapproving looks and comments. As if stuffing you child in a car is better for them!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *