How a car-loving mom found herself running errands with two kids by bike

How a car-loving mom found herself running errands with two kids by bike

A guest post by Mrs S.

I don’t consider myself a hardcore cyclist, but after completing the April 30 Days of Biking Challenge and now having signed up for the Endomondo National Bike Challenge I have to admit to myself that at this point I am bicycling with at least the same frequency that I am driving my car. I feel like I should write at least something about my bike experiences.

Perhaps I should confess at this point that I love to drive. I also love my car. Having never had a car newer than eight years old and most frequently having traded in a sixteen year old vehicle, my three year old car is like a dream. It looks nice, runs great, has loads of space, and has a CD player (how could I ask for more?). It doesn’t get bad mileage either, for a mini-van. But I don’t love buying gas. I also don’t love using up fossil fuels for trips that could be just as easy (or even easier) with my bike.

Practicing Left Hand Turn Signals on the Yuba Train

My 30 Days of Biking challenge has stretched my definition of what trips are as easy by bike as they are by car. It almost seems wasteful now to be in the car by myself (for instance, driving the two miles to work). Yesterday I did that because along the way I stopped and dropped off two non-working bikes and picked up two working bikes. It was a practical car trip but I still felt weird being in the car on a nice day all by myself making such a short trip. Downtown also seems too short a distance to bother with a car, as does my son’s daycare.

Today I put it together. When I visualized my day this morning I thought I would drive the car, but somewhere between that vision and actually leaving I realized that the bike was just as good an option.

First my daughter needed to go to preschool. The school is literally 3 blocks from home. I would have walked, but we were running late, so I loaded both kids on the Bakfiets for the short trip. For such a short distance I prefer the Bakfiets because it is easiest to get in and out of the garage.

Sometimes it's hard just getting out the door with two small kids and a dog
Bakfiets cargo bike

After returning home and moving laundry around I needed to drop off my son at his daycare. I was still thinking I was going to drive. Because it’s fastest to drive, right? I have two hours between dropping off my son and then picking up my daughter again. Usually I am working on Thursday mornings, but classes ended last week and I gave the final yesterday, so this was my first completely child-free, work-free two hours in months. I wanted every minute (you know, to do things like pick up toys, vacuum, do laundry, and sort through the kids clothes to see what they still need for summer). Then I thought about it. It takes one minute to strap my son in the car seat*, five minutes to drive, thirty seconds to unbuckle and another minute to walk in the building (you know, all the way from the official parking spots). With my electric Yuba Mundo I can ride there in about seven minutes, park right next to the door and it only takes thirty seconds to buckle/unbuckle and helmet the kid. In essence, biking might take one extra minute. One. So I biked.

Home again to do nothing** with my child-free one hour and 52 minutes, then it was off for phase two. I was going to drive for phase two. I needed to pick up my daughter from preschool, bring her to the kids consignment store to pick up summer clothes for both children (I think my son only had two pairs of shorts and it is getting hot!), then to a going out of business sale (everything 80% off today!). Finally, I needed to pick up my son an hour after my daughter. Definitely driving for this. I mean, who knows what I might buy at the sale and two errands and then all the way across town to pick my son up, all by noon? Then I reconsidered. Consignment store is downtown. School is between home and downtown, so I could pick my daughter up on the way, then the sale store is on the other side of downtown, but there is a good route between there and my son’s daycare. Did I really want to buy so much at the store that I couldn’t fit it on the bike? Probably not. If it wasn’t going to fit on the bike at this point I probably didn’t need it. So I biked. My daughter was very happy to hop on her Piccolo attached to the Yuba when I got her from school (how we attached it). She was thrilled to pick out several summer dresses and shorts at the consignment store (and try them all on). But it took too long. Trying on the dress options took too long. There was no way I was going to make it to the sale and still get the toddler. I would have run out of time even if I had had the car. Mode of transportation didn’t matter when it came to a five year old trying on 6 dresses in the changing room. We paid for two bags full of clothes and peddled off to the daycare (along a less than ideal route, but it worked).

As I was going I thought about what to do with my final errand. I knew the kids would be hungry. I needed to feed them. I still wanted to go to the sale, but it was not an essential errand. I considered skipping it. Going out to the daycare and then back to the store was a pretty significant detour, especially when I wanted to route us off the main roads. Going home after the daycare pick up to eat lunch meant I was not going out again today. I considered skipping the errand again. Then I remembered our favorite diner. We had not been there in awhile and it is only two blocks from the sale. I suggest my plan to my daughter (eating lunch at the diner, then hitting the sale) and she is all for it. My son will go along. As long as he gets fed he doesn’t care. So we go to lunch. We go to the sale, where I buy another two bags of merchandise as well as two containers of large wooden stakes (you know, for vampires***). I load the new purchases on to the bike and head for home.

On board items
On board items

At this point it is nap time. It is past nap time. By the time we get home (all of ten minutes later-maybe) my son is nodding off and my daughter is almost at the point of being completely impossible due to exhaustion. If I had taken the car, we would have had an almost identical experience.

Except my son would have been riding facing backwards and would not have seen the train go by two blocks over.

Except neither kid would have noticed the ambulance (cool!).

Except the firemen in the fire truck would not have noticed us and waved at two awestruck children.

Except I wouldn’t have noticed how completely gorgeous and warm out it was.

Except my daughter wouldn’t have been able to get all her energy out peddling.

Except I got exercise while I did my errands.

A month ago I probably would not have attempted such a trip by bike. It would not have felt possible at the outset and I would have “wimped out” before trying such an adventure. I might have done one of those trips (gone to one store or picked up one kid), but threading those trips together feels like an accomplishment. It feels like growth. Like my definition of what bike trips are possible has been changed and stretched so far that when it bounced back to its comfort zone it stayed bigger than it was to begin with. I wonder what trip I will take next month that seems too big today.

Rolling with a rice cooker
Our electric "Yuba Train" rolls along with a rice cooker and two kids on board.

*If you are wondering why strapping an almost 2-year old in a car seat takes longer than buckling him into the bike seat you must never have tried wrestling a child (who would rather bike) into his car seat. Arms and legs flailing and yelling “No! Bike!” really slows a Momma down. It probably doesn’t help that he is still rear-facing in the car and that makes a car trip far less visually stimulating for him.

**Who am I kidding? Morning is my most productive time. I am incapable of doing nothing in the morning unless I got zero sleep the night before. If I am going to do nothing, that will be reserved for the afternoon (looking forward to my afternoon already . . . ).

***Relax, I am not one of those crazies. They are for my garden. You can always use some stakes for row markers, or short fences, etc. At 80% off they were cheap. Really cheap.