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Biking to School: One pedal stroke at a time!

Fall is here! School has begun!!! The weather is cooling off and the mosquitoes are beginning to die off…and finally we can go outside again anytime of the day!

But many of us are busier than ever too. Busy with chores, work, life and ready for the election to be over for some sanity.


Some of us are lucky enough have an opportunity to commute by bike to work whereas others may not and reluctantly hop in the car or on the bus for the commute.

With all that is going on sometimes the last thing we think about is how we get to school but just actually getting the kid(s) to school. But the way we get the kid(s) to school can have a profound impact on their success at school, overall health, and outlook in life. As if we did not have enough pressure as parents, huh?

So, how do your kids get to school? By bus, car, bike or on their own two feet? Maybe you really want an opportunity to have them bike to school or walk. Maybe you feel they are attending a school that doesn’t have an option for alternate modes of transportation because it is too far or not enough time.

As parents we want dearly to share the love of biking and the outdoors. Time seems to limit us so often. Many of us are busy however with work and daily chores that it gets easy to feel overwhelmed at the thought of working to get to school by biking. But maybe just a first baby step would help make a world of difference.

First step, figure out how much time you can dedicate to the alternative commute. Maybe one day a week is all that can be managed given all of life’s constraints. That one day is enough to make a huge difference so take it!

Second step, figure out how much of the commute you believe you can make initially by bike. Do you think the kids could make a 15min ride or 10min or could they do a full 30min ride like champions of biking!?

Third, and probably most important, find a ‘safe route‘. This can be tricky. The safest route for less experienced bikers is a residential road with lower speed limits (25mph and under) or dedicated bike paths. Alternatively bike lanes with physical barriers.

In finding a safe route however not all communities have the bike friendly infrastructure desired. You know your neighborhood and environment best. A safe method to finding the right route is rather pragmatic. Find a local bike map or local bike advocacy group. From the available bike map you should be able to see lower speed roads (essential) and bike friendly roads. Also highlighted on a bike map are crosswalks enabled for pedestrians and cyclists. Some more advanced crosswalks maybe highlighted in these maps to give you an even safer crossing.

Kids on Wheels: Crosswalk Capture
Kids on Wheels: Crosswalk Capture

One very cool tool put together by the city of Brisbane helps put together a safe commute and maybe a useful tool to familiarize yourself with building your own route.

Once you have mapped out an opportunity to bike to school with the kids. DO ride this on the weekend first. Try a nice Saturday and Sunday morning when traffic is light and see how the kid(s) do. Is the distance too much? Do you need to choose a different street or maybe hook up to a bus route to finish the ride and if so, can bike go on the bus? Would it be better to drive 2miles closer, park and bike from a safe location? This is still a good choice as with time you will get stronger and more confident.

Once you have this ALL worked out and feel like the kids AND you are emotionally and physically ready to tackle it- give it a shot on a nice Friday morning or so- I promise although it is nerve racking initially it does get so, SO much easier. And ultimately EVERYONE has a better ‘ride’ to school!

Fourth step, figure out the needs of your equipment. Always have a helmet, lights and a flag and/or bell for the kids on whatever bike your choose. For a choice of bikes, many younger kids may prefer to use balance bikes or bikes with training wheels. This definitely limits the distance and increases safety concerns.

If your child(ren) is (are) ‘ok’ on these types of bikes but you have a fairly long way to travel, consider a trail along bike. You can also buy a tandem trailer bike for multiple kids needing some assistance.

These are amazing at getting your little one used to biking the distance without solely relying on their ability. Have a little one to tag along that can’t quite reach the pedals- NO Problem! Haul your trailer behind the tag along bike OR consider having a friend join to help with pulling the trailer.

Our Ride to School!
Our Ride to School!

We bike 3 miles to and from school daily and my daughter recently got her trail along bike and she loves it! She actually looks forward to going to school and the pedaling definitely works her legs- she sleeps much better at night for it too!

So you have the tools and the knowledge – get out and ride. Whether it is one day, two days, one morning or all week back and forth just starting is the key to laying the foundation for future success. You can do it and you have help I promise!

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Why I haven’t been riding my bike

This will be my last post in this forum, at least for a while.

I’ve come to realize that caring for an infant full-time doesn’t leave a lot of extra wiggle room in my day to do much of anything else. The part-time work I’m doing these days from home is squeezed into the often-unpredictable nap schedule of my rapidly-changing 6 month old (time, I’m told, that I’m somehow supposed to be sleeping myself).

A somewhat gratuitous photo of my 6-month-old.
An admittedly-gratuitous photo of my 6-month-old.

But as I sit at my desk typing these words in the early morning hours while my husband takes the baby out for a walk before heading to his office, I realize that really time constraints, 3 a.m. feedings and the other obstacles to getting anything done but care for a small human being are but one part of the challenges standing in the way of my monthly obligation here.

The other overarching consideration, the one that leaves me who could once list 20 ideas for essays on biking off the top of my head panicking as a deadline nears, that makes me feel a bit silly attempting to offer up meaningful insights on commuting by bike when my turn rolls around, is that, I’m more than a little embarrassed to admit, I really haven’t been riding my bike much at all lately.

For all my swagger about biking while pregnant, my expectation of doing things differently from most, my silent judgment about so many things that other parents do that I vowed not to repeat after having a child of my own, I’ve fallen into the trap of so many others in this car-centric landscape of ours and become far too familiar with the curve of my car seat, the feel of my keys between my fingers.

To my amazement, I can count just three occasions in which I’ve been on my bike in the past six months. And even as I do a good bit of walking around my neighborhood, more than I used to even, and am very thankful to live in a place that affords me the chance to do most of what I need to do on foot, this is the most car-dependent I’ve been in a very long time.

Getting a pedicab tour of Davidson College, my husband's alma mater, earlier this month.
Getting a pedicab tour of Davidson College, my husband’s alma mater, earlier this month.

I can come up with plenty of excuses to help justify my habits of late. For one thing, my favorite bike got stolen a few months back, an apparent casualty of a growing bike theft ring in my city that at once speaks to limited economic opportunity and the growing appeal of biking here.

Tuesday night gatherings of the group GetUpRRide are a testament to the growing popularity of biking in my city. Photo by Stosh Kozlowski
Tuesday night gatherings of the group GetUpRRide are a testament to the growing popularity of biking in my city. Photo by Stosh Kozlowski

Then there’s the point that essential baby supplies, many of which I’d never heard of six months ago, seem to be concentrated in the suburbs, virtually unreachable except by car.

There’s also the fact that at 6 months old, my son is roughly half the age recommended by pediatricians to begin putting a kid on a bike, though a few weeks back, my husband and I rigged our new bike trailer to accommodate his car seat and took a magical 30-mile ride on a protected trail outside the city.

But the unfortunate reality is that I haven’t been riding my bike very much lately because I’m scared. Scared of the drivers out on our roads who seem to not recognize the very high stakes involved in getting behind the wheel of a car. Scared because we live in a society that makes it far more dangerous than it should ever be to get around outside a two-ton steel cage.

It is somewhat ironic that in this car-dependent period of mine I expect will be finite, committed as I am to overcoming my anxiety, that I have become more resolved than ever about the necessity – the urgent obligation even – to do things differently.

This is what comes to mind when I hear that traffic fatalities were dramatically up last year.

Or learn about Karen McKeachie.

Or read about the two people seriously injured in hit-and-runs in recent weeks in my city while riding unsuspectingly in bike lanes, one of them a block away from my house.

Or encounter someone like the drunk driver I met last Saturday when she smashed into the rental car my family was riding in back to our North Carolina hotel after dinner. The woman attempted to drive away but we caught up with her, and as she staggered out of her car unapologetically and I held up my still-sleeping infant, shaking with fear and anger, she declared: “I was on my way to pick up my 3-year-old.”

What if she had another way? I found myself thinking. What if we all did?

beaux and hudson biking
My husband pushing our son part of the way down our street during his ride home from work.

Emilie Bahr is a writer, urban planner and healthy communities advocate living in New Orleans. She is the author of the book Urban Revolutions: A woman’s guide to two-wheeled transportation.

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Open Forum : Electric Bicycles for Commuting

Electric BikeIn the past weeks I’ve talked about the new Trek Ride+ lineup, that are electric assist.  As I’ve received many emails and comments about electric bikes I wanted to hear your input.

  • Do electric bikes kill the thought of cycling for you?
  • Do you think more folks would get started bicycle commuting if they knew it would be slightly easier with these bikes?
  • If you have an electric bike, what is it and what are your thoughts?
  • What’s your thought of electric assist vs electric?
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The U.S is Not Europe, Can it Ever Be?

This is a complimentary article to “They Say We Need More Women Bicycle Commuters” at
Bike Lane to Work

Over the past week I have had many conversations about the European lifestyle and why the U.S is so anti-bicycles and pro-automobile.  As a country, and in the cycling industry, we are doing better.  We have learned that bicycles are going to help the world, ourselves and our children but what we haven’t learned is how to get there.

I would love to think within my life time my children would have a safe way to get to their school 7 miles away and I wouldn’t be such the odd-ball by commuting to work daily.  Unfortunately the part of the country I live in isn’t as bicycle friendly as Portland, Oregon or others listed on the top bicycle friendly cities.

Here are some of the key reasons I feel that the infrastructure and culture are needed to change first :

  • Starting top down we need to embrace cycling as a viable means of transportation.  This means government and large corporations.
  • From bottom up we need to encourage our children and youth to utilize cycling like we did 30 years ago.  Safe Routes to School is a great example of this.
  • The government and city planning needs to create a better footprint for urban planning that is not revolved around an automobile.
  • Urban sprawl must slow down so that towns and cities can catch up.
  • All the large developments being built 25 minutes from the heart of the city are great, until those miles aren’t approachable by bicycle or public transportation like the subway.
  • Bicycle shops, schools and law enforcement to promote, encourage and participate in bike commuting or utilizing your bike often.

The U.S is taking big strides every year towards becoming a friendlier bicycle country and I hope that there are big waves to be made in the coming years. My biggest piece of encouragement is for you, the readers, to help with any of the above mentioned issues.  Commute By Bike as often as you can, help co-workers or your children learn how going by bike does not have to be difficult and is very rewarding.

Food for thought links :
KUOW : Bicycle Commuting Rising, but Still Pales Compared to Europe
Scientific American : How to Get More Bicyclist on the Road
Forbes – North America’s Most Bike-Friendly Cities

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The Wandertec BONGO Bike Trailer has arrived!

Wandertec and the are proud to introduce a new trailer for 2010, the Wandertec BONGO Bike Trailer. The BONGO is our answer to the call for the ultimate utility bicycle trailer. Here at Wandertec we see many different types of bicycle trailers and receive a lot of feedback from customers. We felt there was a need in the bicycle trailer market that wasnt being satisfied, so we threw some ideas in the oven and the BONGO is what popped out, in two sizes!

With eco-friendly mindsets spreading and the ever-rising price of gas, more and more people are turning to bicycles as their mode of transportation. But its hard to make grocery runs, gets parts from the hardware store, transport plants from the nursery, or tour around the world with simply a bike. This is where the BONGO comes in to save the day.
Continue reading The Wandertec BONGO Bike Trailer has arrived!

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What kind of bicycle diplomat (cyclomat?) are you? If you’re an Obama biker, you probably make eye contact with drivers, signal your turns, and yield the right-of-way when appropriate. If you’re a McCain biker, you have a window punch in your left hand, some Halt in the right, and greet drivers with a wry, Cheney-esque smirk that says, “go ahead, punk, make my commute.”

Continue reading Cyclomacy

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A few observations about Bike to Work Week and casual commuters

Bike to Work Week,, 2008I’m a year-round bike commuter, usually riding four or five days per week, every week of the year. Every week but Bike to Work Week, that is. Year after year something happens, without fail, usually forcing me to drive the whole week, or a good chunk of it. This year, I drove twice. One day it was because of “white out” conditions on the interstate highway I ride into Flag. I didn’t miss a day of bike commuting this winter due to snow. That had to wait until May.

That said, I did get in three days of BTWW this year, and have a few observations to share.

Continue reading A few observations about Bike to Work Week and casual commuters

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Final Review: SE Lager

SE Lager

After several months of riding the SE Lager for my daily commute, I’ll now give my final wrapup of my thoughts and impressions of it’s performance as a commuter bike. If you haven’t already, check out my first two posts I did as part of this review (Part one and part two). Also be sure to read the comments on those posts as several readers left their impressions of the SE Lager as well.

Comfort and simplicity are the greatest features of the Lager. The steel frame sucks up vibrations and seems to flow the road better than an aluminum equivalent. The geometry of the bike is spot on and I’ve never felt the least bit of discomfort or lower back pain (that tends to plague me) while riding.

The Lager is built from the ground up to be a simple and reliable bike. The steel frame, 1-speed (free or fixed flip-flop hub) drivetrain and overall streamlined features makes it a great choice for someone looking for a no-nonsense bike. I’ve riden this bike for over four months and have not done a single bit of maintenance other than changing the occasional flat.

I do have a few issues with the Lager that I would like to see changed on future models.

The bolt on skewers need to be swapped for quick release. A wrench is not a tool I should be forced to carry on every ride, however if I get a flat halfway home my multi-tool won’t get me very far.

I’d also like to see two sets of brake levers. The current set hangs off the end of the bullhorn handlebars, but I’d like to see a second set added to the middle. It would offer more options for hand position and not force the rider to constantly stretch out over the bars.

The last nit I’ll pick is the bottom bracket. It’s doesn’t conform to the normal standard. Here’s an excerpt from a comment Ed left on a previous post:

My biggest problem was upgrading the crank. The bottom bracket is old school bmx size, so i had to get my hands on a conversion kit which proved to be quite difficult as most people had no idea they even existed.

Even with these few issues, it’s hard to say to much bad about this bike. At a retail price of $540 (and available most places for much less) you get a great bike that is basically maintenance free. If you’re looking to get the most bike for the least amount of money, I would look hard at the SE Lager as the answer to your problems.

The Lager at

Read all the posts from this review…

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Update: SE Lager

This is the second in a series of posts that will serve as my review of this commuter offering from SE Bikes. In this post I discuss the overall feel of the bike after several months of riding. You can see my first post on the SE Lager with more pictures here.

SE Lager Commuter Bike

Riding the SE Lager makes me feel like I’m back to riding a bike without thinking through the gadgetry or latest jazzy technology. The bike rides smooth and requires minimal thought process to keep her rolling day to day.

“Steel is real” so goes the motto and I tend to agree. It’s good to see people like SE still making good use of this material. The Cromolly steel sucks up normal road vibrations much more than your typical aluminum frame and makes for a very smooth and comfortable ride. The head tube angle sits at 72 degrees and the seat tube angle at 74 degrees. This is similar to other commuter style bikes I’ve ridden and makes for a very responsive steering while maintaining comfort.

When you’re looking at the angles of the head tubes and seat tubes, the lower the numbers the more comfortable and stable the ride and the higher the numbers the more responsive they are with a decrease in stability and comfort. You can find other commuter bikes that come with a steeper angles and quicker responsiveness but my commute doesn’t call for a lot of quick agility and the angles of the Lager are a very comfortable middle ground.

This is the first bike I’ve ridden long term with bull horn handlebars and I wasn’t sure how I would take to them. And while I would still opt for mustache bars, I’ve found the bullhorns to be comfortable and functional.

The brake levers are hanging off the end of the bars which I find to be frustrating at times as I like to sit up straight a good bit. There’s not really a better alternative for one set of levers, but I did suggest to SE that they add the secondary set of levers that you see on a lot of cross bikes. This would allow more options on where to place your hands

Across the board, simplicity is the name of the game for the Lager. The one speed drivetrain (fixed or free with the flip-flop hub), steel frame and sleek design make this a bike you won’t have to worry about day to day. I’ve been riding the Lager for several months now and have had no other maintenance issues outside of keeping the tires inflated. The absence of flimsy material and breakable parts make this a no brainer for people that like to ride their bike worry free.

Overall, I’ve been very pleased with the SE Lager as a daily commuter rig. Look for my final update on this bike in the coming weeks.