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No Shower, No Problem

Think back to when you were a kid. Did you enjoy getting stuck in a car more than the riding your bike through the neighborhood? Then why do we default to cars as adults?

Maybe we shouldn’t and a lot of us are taking that to heart and commuting by bike to work.

There are many reasons people commute by bike. MANY. For the love of the environment, ease of parking, fiscal responsibility, workout opportunity are among some of the reasons.

Some bikers never commute. They ride only for fun and fitness. And that is ok too- biking is awesome for many reasons to many people and I welcome everyone to the road however they see fit.

I do commute to work by bike everyday for all the reasons mentioned but the main reason is for my children. I ride to show them you can do ‘it’ and the world is not just about getting from A to B by car. You can make a difference, you can do something both good for you and others AND you can share your love of biking with those you love most. Kids really do emulate their parents and the more active you are, the more active they will be in their lives.

As recently as 2013, transportation contributed more than half of the carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides, and almost a quarter of the hydrocarbons emitted into our air (citing USCS.org). Roughly only one percent of commuting trips to work are by bike (Bike Commuting Statistics). But this is growing and YOU can make it grow further!

Commuting by bike is GROWING!
Commuting by bike is GROWING!

Imagine if every 1 in 10 of the cars you see on the road commuted to work at least twice a week. Imagine the investment in bike infrastructure you would be given due to the demand. Think about the quality of life, work achievements (#8 Tips for Unleashing Creativity at Work ), cleaner air and lower traffic you would have.

light_and_motion_sunset

Now, biking to working AND being a parent IS NOT easy. Getting them to school, getting you to work and getting back home in time before sundown seems almost insane if you add biking.

Depending on how far you live from work you could face quite a trip. BUT according to the commuting statistics most people travel 15miles or less to work. This distance is do-able in 45min and provides a nice 1h 30min+ work out daily. Even just 2 times a week.

This biking would enable you to quit your gym membership AND there is chance you could ride to school with your children (Tips for Biking to School). Your kids would get more time outdoors, benefits from the exercise (Kids and Physical Activity) and get a chance to really see their neighborhood(s) maybe for the first time.

So is it easy- NOPE. Is it possible- YES! Why should you even try if it isn’t easy? Because it matters- to you, your health and your kids.

Don’t know where to start?

There are a LOT of tips for commuting. One for example is Bike Commuting which discusses new routes, tools to take are discussed here with tools to take riding with kids and absolutely applicable for your commute into work.

Seasonal Commuting By Bike Temperature Compass
Seasonal Commuting By Bike Temperature Compass

Here are a few pointers:

1.) Leave the laptop at work if you can. Remote in to your computer if possible from your home computer and ask your company if they don’t have this option to add it (this would make it safer for the company too not having assets offsite).

2.) If you have to drive into work- do it on Monday. Get the kids to school a little earlier, pack everything you can for the week- food, clothes, soap, towels, etc in the car to take to work.

3.) Do NOT forget deodorant.

4.) Do NOT panic if you cannot shower. You can still clean up after the ride. Shower or bathe at night before and using a wash cloth and soap of your choice (nice smelling is helpful) you can bath just enough to get through the day.

5.) Consider going minimalist to none on the makeup if you are a woman- some jobs may not allow this but for those that do this may help you liberate off makeup and lighten your load on your pocket book and your skin.

6.) Do NOT panic. You don’t even have to take of these recommendations. As long as you bike – it will benefit the whole family and you will see it.

7.) Know that more people are joining you. They are riding more and some cities may see the rise in bike commuting than other BUT just maybe by see you on the bike you have inspired others to join.

8.) Tell EVERYONE you know you bike. Tell them bikers need 3ft by law and 5ft courtesy when passing. This will matter when you are on the roads. Now people can put a face with the bikers out there and that IS power. You will have influenced a vast amount of drivers to respect bikers without even realizing it.

9.) Find a co-worker or friend if possible to commute with to help for safety and motivation. Bike clubs are a good way to reach out to find contacts and your company may even reward biking so motivating co-workers may be easy than you would think.

10.) SAFETY, SAFETY, SAFETY. Lights (rear and front), mirrors and reflective clothing preferably fluorescent colored . And eye gear PLUS be aware ALWAYS. Ride defensively.

The hardest parts of biking to work with kids is time. It may take you a little longer during the day so you may need some flexibility to work from home or on the weekend when the kids are asleep. This may sound like a lot to give up BUT each day you commute you are not having to spend extra time without the kids driving to work or the gym or biking on the weekend while the kids hang with a babysitter.

YOU and the KIDS CAN then bike together on the weekends and hone you biking skills to go to school during the week. You CAN talk about why you ride and how much better it is than driving and you CAN inspire you kids to aspire for more and challenge what is normal.

This all just from changing your commute from drive time to bike time!

Change the world from your garage- one family at a time!

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La. lawmaker to cyclists: Keep off the streets

I live in Louisiana, a place that carries the ignominious designation of being one of the most dangerous places to walk or bicycle in the country. We’re in good company in the Sun Belt and in the Deep South in particular which, with certain important exceptions, is especially hostile to non-motorized transportation.

Part of the problem relates to inadequate infrastructure, the legacy of 1950s-era sprawling development patterns that presumed modern lives would be eternally dependent on the eternal combustion engine. Cities and towns built upon high-speed highways, with strict segregation of residential and commercial land uses — the pattern of most American cities constructed after World War II — tend to require significant retrofitting in order to accommodate more recent growth in demand for walking and bicycling. Fortunately, many American cities are starting to make meaningful investments in improving access to our public rights of way by pedestrians, bicyclists, and others not traveling in two-ton steel vessels.

recently-opened Lafitte Greenway
The recently-opened Lafitte Greenway in New Orleans is one example of new investment in walking
and bicycling of the sort taking off in the U.S.

But another big piece of the safety puzzle when it comes to active transportation relates to the attitudes of the people living in and setting policies for places where cars are even more than other parts of our auto-obsessed country unquestioned king.

I’ve been thinking about the role that our collective mindset plays in securing safety on our roads lately. Even in my own city, which developed well before the rise of the personal automobile and carries a number of inherent advantages that make it well-suited to walking and bicycling, the prevailing ethos continues to be that our roads are the primary – if not the exclusive – domain of the motor vehicle, even though many of those roads were conceived decades before Henry Ford popularized the car among the masses. This mindset is crystal clear to me every time I attempt to cross the street in my neighborhood, where drivers pay no mind to the newly-minted crosswalks on the well-traveled boulevard that runs near my house, even when I have a baby in tow. I wrote about this experience in a letter to the editor recently and was heartened by the number of people who shared my frustrations. But equally troubling were the many who weighed in in the comments section expressing disdain for people like me and who showed an appalling lack of understanding of basic road rules.

Despite new bike lanes and crosswalks, many New Orleans drivers continue to treat Esplanade Avenue as a thoroughfare built for cars exclusively.
Despite new bike lanes and crosswalks, many New Orleans drivers continue to treat Esplanade
Avenue as a thoroughfare built for cars exclusively.

Is it any wonder, I found myself thinking, that New Orleans grapples with such dismal bicycle and pedestrian crash statistics?

So it was with great optimism that I heard a few months back that our state legislature, whose actions rarely elicit any pride, was poised to do something quite positive aimed at reshaping the public consciousness around road safety. Our legislative body was set to consider a vulnerable road user law offering extra legal protections for walkers and bicyclists and other road users not protected by the steel casing of an automobile. VRU laws might be described as a new frontier in active transportation policy in this country. Similar measures to those proposed in my state have been adopted so far by nine states across the U.S. Louisiana would be adding its name to a list that included just one other southern state (Florida) alongside more obvious places like Oregon, Washington, and Hawaii.

To my surprise, SB 171, which called for stiffer penalties for operating a motor vehicle in a “careless” manner that resulted in the injury or death of a bicyclist, pedestrian, or motorcyclist, had garnered significant bipartisan support by the time it came up for consideration. But that’s when Louisiana’s governing body resorted to more typical behavior. The bill was quashed with opposition led by a state representative who is either especially ignorant of the laws governing the state’s public rights of way or who is especially cynical. I suspect it’s a combination of the two.

Rep. Kenny Havard explained that his opposition to the bill was rooted in protecting his constituents from being sent to prison for “accidentally” hitting a pedestrian or bicyclist, reinforcing the notion that the best way to kill someone and get away with it with little more than a slap on the wrist is to “accidentally” hit them with your car.

“When you make bad decisions and take chances with your own safety, don’t blame others for the outcome,” said the Republican, until now best-known for his unsuccessful proposal to place weight limits on the state’s exotic dancers. Yes, I’m serious.

Rep. Kenny Havard thinks the streets are for cars, not people.
Rep. Kenny Havard thinks the streets are for cars, not people.

“If you don’t want to overdose, don’t do drugs. If you don’t want to get hit by a car, don’t play in the street,” Havard wrote on Facebook, channeling the late Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.

Havard hails from St. Francisville, a town just outside the state capital known for its antique shops, antebellum plantations, and scenic, hilly terrain that has made it a hotspot for spandex-clad cyclists and elderly window shoppers alike. The town is home to the Rouge Roubaix, the grueling century race that draws amateur and professional riders from across the country to the Tunica Hills of rural West Feliciana Parish each year. It is not far from the spot where last year, beloved Louisiana State University professor Elisabeth Oliver, 63, was killed after being struck by a car while walking her malfunctioning bicycle along a highway.

In the wake of the bill’s defeat, Havard was beset by angry emails and phone calls. Some threatened very publicly via social media and other channels to stop bringing their bicycles and their business to Havard’s district, to which the legislator responded in characteristic fashion that he was fine with cyclists taking their “Fiji water bottles” elsewhere. He
also admitted that he “[didn’t] ride bikes on the open road” and that his “knowledge of cycling is zero,” which was no surprise to anyone who had been paying attention or, to be perfectly frank, seen a recent photograph of the legislator. (Normally, I would refrain from such ad hominem attacks, but in light of Havard’s interest in others’ weight, I feel alright about pointing out the legislator’s own struggles here.)

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that our legislature once again failed to do anything to address a serious problem confronting our state. After all, at a time when our coast is dying, when we rank near the bottom of every indicator related to public health, crime, education, and poverty, and when we are confronting one of the most serious budget crises in the state’s history, our legislature has seen fit in recent sessions take up such issues as barring cities from banning plastic grocery bags; expanding control over women’s reproductive choices; and allowing monkeys to qualify as service animals.

One of the many
One of the many “ghost bikes” erected around New Orleans to memorialize people killed while riding their bikes.

Rarely if ever have I been inspired to correspond with one of our legislators, which has generally struck me as a lost cause. But perhaps it was the woman who sped up as she saw me attempting to cross the street with my infant in my arms the other day and nearly hit me. Or the white bikes that are cropping up with increasing frequency around my city. Or the way I have my husband text me on the days he bikes to work to let me know he made it safely. Or the fact that I hold my breath every time I hear of another pedestrian or bicyclist hit while walking or riding our streets, hoping it’s not someone I know. This time, the disappointment felt very personal. So at a point in my life where some days finding the time to take a shower feels like an accomplishment, I sat down and typed out the following email:

Dear Rep. Havard,

My name is Emilie Bahr, and I am a new mother, an urban planner, and an avid runner, walker, and bicyclist. I was very disheartened to hear your commentary in opposition to SB 171. I believe reasonable minds can disagree, and I understand questioning the necessity of a vulnerable road user law. However, I am extremely disappointed to hear you speak out against the lawful use of public rights of way as “playing in the road.” The same laws that you helped to create provide for the legal use of the roads by many different types of users. When a pedestrian crosses the street or a bicyclist rides down a highway, they are simply exercising their right to move freely through our state. Your comments amount to victim blaming and add fuel to a volatile situation. I expect my legislators to speak and act in a manner that honors the value of all of our lives and fosters a safe environment for me and my family.

Your constituents and I will continue to travel throughout the state on foot, on bikes and in cars. When speaking on matters of public safety, I humbly request that you consider the effect of your words on those who stand to lose the most. I intend to teach my 2-month-old son how to safely walk and bike for transportation. I hope that by the time he is old enough, his legislators recognize his right to do so without the added danger of legally-unsubstantiated and inflammatory rhetoric.

I have yet to receive a response.