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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 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.


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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What's in an appraisal form? Evidence the real estate industry hasn't caught onto the demand for walkable, bikeable places

When my husband and I set out to buy our first home together last year, we were pretty shocked to find out just how little we could afford in our rapidly-gentrifying city.

Gone are the days in New Orleans where you could find a peeling shotgun for a steal. Despite sluggish economic times elsewhere in the state, the real estate market here is going gangbusters, to the point where my husband and I started to worry that the only places we would be able to afford would be found out in the suburbs. This, however, wasn’t an option for us.

As fairly typical members of our generation, we have long been enchanted by the trappings of city life and more than willing to sacrifice square footage and a big yard (who has time for maintaining a yard anyway?) for architectural character, lots of places within walking and biking distance, and colorful streets populated by people from all walks of life. And after spending the previous year in an apartment fronting Bayou St. John, we were pretty well set on staying in our neighborhood, with its ample recreational and social opportunities, warm, bohemian vibe, and which plays host each spring to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

The scene at this year's Bayou Boogaloo, the annual music festival on Bayou St. John
The scene at this year’s Bayou Boogaloo, an annual music festival on Bayou St. John

Among its most alluring attributes for my husband and me is the fact that it is crisscrossed by sidewalks, surrounded by bike lanes, and just a short trip by foot to the city’s first greenway. It also lies in close proximity to lots of places to walk and bike to: restaurants, bars, and grocery stores, the French Quarter, both of our jobs, and one of the largest urban parks in the country.

Just when we started to think sky-high real estates prices would render us eternal renters, we stumbled with the help of a Realtor friend onto a broken down craftsman cottage right on the edge of our neighborhood of choice. It oozed character, with its soaring, 12-foot ceilings and beautiful hardwood floors, transoms above all the doors, abundant windows that bathed the inside in light, and a sprawling front porch on which we envisioned spending languid evenings chatting with neighbors and passersby. As a bonus, the house was a few minutes’ walk to our favorite brunch spot.

Our house the day we bought it.
Our house the day we bought it.

Given all its positives, we were willing to overlook some of the less savory aspects of our future home: the back addition on which generations of termites had feasted; crumbling piers and joists that left the house listing ten inches from front to back and that would require some serious foundation work; the creepy blighted house next door. The house was a gut job, and soon, sales documents and architectural plans in hand, we found ourselves in the midst of a major renovation project.

This being my first home and first renovation, I knew nothing about financing going into this deal. We were fortunate to have the help of a savvy banker friend to navigate a rather convoluted system. We would take out a temporary construction loan to buy the house based on the future estimated value of the renovated property. Upon completion of the project, we would convert our loan to a standard, 30-year mortgage.

pagoda cafe
Pagoda Cafe, a favorite breakfast spot, is a short walk from our house.

This scheme carried some risk. After all, home values are susceptible to fluctuation, as we all learned with the global financial collapse of 2008. Our plan counted on the market not diving into a tailspin before we finished work on our home. It also assumed the final appraisal would be in line with the first.

But when the initial appraisal came back, we had plenty of reason for confidence. The projected future value was well above the money we expected to spend on our renovations, so much so that we even threw a few extras into our plans.

Several months and plenty of construction-induced frustration later, it was time for the final step in our financing plan: conversion to a standard mortgage. Everything we needed was in place, with the exception of a second appraisal to verify that we’d done the work we’d promised. It seemed a mere formality, and we set up a time to sign the final documents with our lender.

So it was quite the shock when a couple days later, we received the second appraisal. It was more than $100,000 shy of the original and totaled less than what we’d already invested in our home. If the appraisal stuck, we were poised to be underwater before we even moved in.

Fortunately, the appraiser’s report was riddled with glaring omissions and oversights. She hadn’t even gotten the size of our home right. But as striking were the metrics used to assess our home’s worth.

None of the attributes that had so appealed to my husband and me – from the architectural details to the ample options for getting around by means other than driving – were accounted for in the report. Instead, it was counted against us that we had merely a single-car driveway, even though a driveway at all is a rarity in our part of town, largely built out before the rise of the automobile. As a selling point, the appraiser noted our house was “a ten-minute drive to the interstate.” Our property value, it was clear, was being measured against “amenities” found in the suburbs. As such, it didn’t measure up very well.

Biking is a common mode of transportation in our part of town.
Biking is a common mode of transportation in our part of town.

It turns out the “uniform residential appraisal form” doesn’t just lend itself to a remarkably high degree of subjectivity; it also doesn’t necessarily account for many of the things that people of my generation (not to mention those who belong to the rapidly-aging Baby Boomer contingent) are looking for when deciding where to live.

Fortunately, for another $500 fee and a new mortgage broker, we were able to secure a third appraisal. This time, I held my breath before opening the report. I had reason for optimism as the new appraiser had during his visit rattled off many of the attributes we’d fallen in love with in our home and neighborhood and pointed to strong comparable sales nearby.

When I read the appraisal figure in my office, my scream prompted a coworker to pop her head in the door. It was $150,000 higher than the previous appraisal, higher even than the original.

“Prices in your neighborhood,” the appraiser told my husband, “are going up.” And I have to think that this is in part thanks to the growing demand for walkable, bikeable places, which in this country at least are in short supply. Even if the industry hasn’t fully embraced the trend, the market, it seems, has.

Our house, near the end of our renovation.

Emilie Bahr is a writer and urban planner who lives in New Orleans. She is the author of the book Urban Revolutions: A womans guide to two-wheeled transportation. Follow her on Twitter @EmilieBahr.