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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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The Wacky World of Bike Trailer Tents Part 2

I’ve been discussing the fusion between bike trailers and tents. In a past post, I looked at the tent shelter bike trailer by Tony of Tony’s Trailers.

This next trailer, the SpeedLobster, seems like it may have been a German Engineering student’s thesis project. It is very impressive in its design and application, but seems to miss the boat a little bit when it comes to real world application.

Continue reading The Wacky World of Bike Trailer Tents Part 2

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Bike Trailers at Interbike

Other than Xtracycle, there were several other developments of note in the arena of bicycle cargo trailers.

Kona UTE Utility BikeKona was displaying their utility bike the Ute. The UTE like the Surly Big Dummy is a complete long haul cargo bike. Unlike the Big Dummy it does not utilize the Xtracycle rack system and instead has a built in bike rack system.

Continue reading Bike Trailers at Interbike

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Converting Bike Trailers to Hand Trolleys

It can be convenient to have a bicycle cargo trailer that converts into a trailer that is easily pushed around by hand. This can be useful for wheeling your gear down to the beach while leaving your bike parked. Or pushing your trailer through the grocery store. It is a useful mode if you have to push your trailer through an apartment building or to the office.

The Wandertec BONGO bike cargo trailer has been built with the ability to transform into a handy unit for walking by the good folks at Wandertec. The hitch arm of the BONGO can be quickly rotated 90 degrees into a position that is suitable for walking by loosening the two quick releases on the hitch arm bracket, turning the hitch arm and tightening the quick releases. An extension to the handle that makes it a more ergonomic for handling is due to be released sometime in 2010.

Continue reading Converting Bike Trailers to Hand Trolleys

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The Perfect Cargo Machine

The Perfect Bike Trailer 1893 BernardiThe perfect bike cargo trailer would be light and strong. It would have lights and a kickstand incorporated into it. You would barely notice its affect on your bike as you pulled it. It would work on road and off and have smooth suspending properties to keep your load from getting jostled. It would work great for both large and small loads. It would go on and off your bike with quick/secure ease. It would collapse down neatly out of the way and transform into a carrying case for your bike when you were traveling like the CELLO bike case.

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Trailers for Adult Passengers

Edit (5/24/08): I just came across a trailer design for pulling a wheel chair on a trailer. See Tony’s Trailers for more.Bike Trailer AmbulanceThis site is generally devoted towards bicycle cargo trailers. The category of bike child trailers deserves another blog of its own by someone more versed in this area of expertise than myself. Continue reading Trailers for Adult Passengers

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Single Wheeled Trailers: Adding to the Art

The basic BOB Yak Trailers set the stage for imitators, as discussed in the last post, as well as single wheel bike trailers that owe their lineage to the BOB but have gone on in new directions. These inspired cargo haulers have evolved by adding suspension, different cargo configurations, different size wheels, multi-functionality and other features.

Bob Trailer IbexBOB’s Ibex trailer was introduced circa 2002. It offers suspension to improve the ride off road and on.

Continue reading Single Wheeled Trailers: Adding to the Art

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Single Wheeled Trailers: The BOB Trailer Imitators

Imitation, the Greatest Form of Flattery

The BOB Trailer has first defined and then dominated the bike cargo trailer scene since it became available in the early 90’s. As evidence of its success there has been a significant train of imitators to follow. Some of these have brought added innovations while others are simply a lower quality knock off.

Continue reading Single Wheeled Trailers: The BOB Trailer Imitators

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Bykaboose Trailer Review

Bykaboose TrailerBykaboose bike cargo trailers has been around for about 10 years now manufacturing the Gecko and the nearly identical, and slightly smaller Newt Cargo Trailers.

The Bykaboose Gecko and Bykaboose Newt are two afford ably priced trailers that offer solid performance. There most unique feature is there pop up design that allow them to easily collapse down for storage or travel.

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Deliver anything by Bike Trailer

Bike Trailer DeliveryWorking in the online bike world requires that I make a bike delivery trip to UPS or the post office almost everyday. Most of the time I use my BOB Trailer or Xtracycle except when I’ve got just too many boxes and I need to resort to the car. It gives me an excellent opportunity to test out the capacity of what I can load on my rigs.

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