Monday, July 25, 2016

#LetsModo: Car Sharing with Little Kids

Parking at Surrey Bend Regional Park to take the ferry to Barnston Island
A long time ago, possibly even before I was pregnant with Linnaeus, I remember people telling me we'd have to buy a car when we had kids. We'd been car sharing with Modo for a few years already & didn't have any plans to own a car.

More on our car sharing story & why we don't want to own a car here

Living in Mount Pleasant there are tons of Modo cars in our neighbourhood, lots of frequent transit connections, errands & shopping are often within walking distance, & though we don't have any fully separated AAA cycling facilities right in our neighbourhood, there are lots of quiet neighbourhood bikeways.

More about how car sharing & family biking go hand in hand here

Somebody is excited to go in a Modo car
Once Linnaeus was born, we got used to installing his carseat in the Modo cars--it really doesn't take long to set up. We'd just click the "baby bucket" base into the car's child seat anchors, tighten it up & level it using a short length of pool noodle or folded towels underneath if needed. We tended to use just one or two specific Modo cars so we knew the seat angle, & how far the front seat needed to be moved forward.

Most of the time, since we've got two parents around, one of us walks over to pick up the car, while the other one stays with the kids at home. Then we install the car seats here, load everyone in, & away we go. Occasionally, I've gone out on my own with the kids in a Modo vehicle. Slightly more complicated, this is still very doable.

Carrying Linnaeus & his car seat to the Modo vehicle wasn't too hard--getting a stroller that the seat can click into is ideal. We didn't have that, so we sometimes just rested his car seat into the bassinet of our Uppababy Vista stroller or bungeed it to a small cart & wore him in a baby carrier.

My post on car sharing with one parent & a toddler, with photos here

When Bronte was born, we got an upgrade on our baby car seat. We were able to borrow both the seat & the adapters to click it into our stroller. Linnaeus' toddler seat fit in the basket below, just barely. Bronte would ride in the stroller in her car seat, Linnaeus on the skateboard attachment on the stroller, so I could walk with both kids to a car, set up the car seats inside & leave from there.

Bringing two car seats to a Modo car is easy with a cart
Now that both kids have graduated to the next stage of seats--Bronte is in a toddler seat & Linnaeus in a booster seat--it's even easier. I can strap both car seats to a cart or umbrella stroller & both kids can walk the two or three blocks to the car. We typically use the full back of Linnaeus' booster with the shoulder belt positioner, but we can remove the back so he can carry it himself.

Car sharing is definitely possible with little kids & gives us a lot of flexibility. We usually use a Mazda2 because it's close by, but when we're planning on carrying a lot of stuff for camping trips or furniture shopping, or possibly even a live Christmas tree, we can get a minivan. If we're picking up trees or backyard play structures from Craigslist we've used a pickup truck. We've also gone out with another family of four in one of the premium Modo vehicles in our neighbourhood that seats eight people.

Here are ten more reasons that car sharing is awesome.

What about you? Do you car share with kids? How do you make it work? Any tips to share?

If you'd like to see how carsharing works with biking & a family, watch for us on Instagram! I'm taking over Modo's account this week!

Disclaimer: As an Official Blogger Ambassador, Modo will be providing me with some driving credits & I'll be blogging, tweeting, Facebooking, & Instagramming about our adventures big & small with Modo. I've already been writing about carsharing for years, so if you've been following me for a while, expect more of the same!

To follow my Modo travels, & the other Modo Blogger Ambassadors (there are a few of us!) click on the hashtags #LetsModo & #MyModo & follow @Modo_CarCoop on TwitterInstagram, & Facebook.

Follow Spokesmama here too:

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Modo Adventure: Barnston Island

Bikes are loaded up on the Modo car bike rack
Bike #3 folded up in the trunk of our Modo vehicle

En route to Surrey for our ride around Barnston Island
Saturday we tried something we haven't done before: driving somewhere to bike. The vast majority of our riding is for transportation, which is still fun, but the main purpose isn't to get exercise or for recreation, it's just to get somewhere. So it was interesting to do some purely recreational riding. We decided to go to Barnston Island, which Oliver had ridden on when he was younger. I read a bit about it on Let's Go Biking & it sounded like a great place for Linny to ride on his little bike.

We booked the nearest Modo vehicle that has a bike rack & Oliver rode our folding bike over to pick it up. He returned to our house, where we loaded my hybrid & Linny's BMX on the hitch mounted Thule bike rack, tossing our bags & the iBert seat into the trunk with the folding bike.

Exploring while we get the bikes ready to go
We were one of many families taking the ferry with bikes
It's a fairly quick drive out to Surrey Bend Regional Park on the highway, only about 20 minutes. Parking in the gravel lot there is free & right next to the "ferry"--a small barge pushed back & forth across the river by a tugboat--which runs on demand. Colleen of Let's Go Biking writes that there's no traffic on Barnston & she wasn't kidding. We saw two cars & one motorcycle driving around on the 10km road around the island. I lost count of the cyclists we saw--somewhere around 35 or 40 in the two hours that we were there.

The riders were mainly families who were doing the same thing as us--driving to Surrey Bend & taking the ferry over for a ride around with a stop at the picnic spot on the northern tip of the island. Because there is so little traffic on the rural island, & it's nearly completely flat, it really is great for little riders--we saw kids as young as three riding around the roads of Barnston on their 12" bike with training wheels.

We're here & ready to ride!

Some of the many critters we saw on our ride
Along our circuit of Barnston, we stopped to pick blackberries & look at the many farm animals. We saw dozens of cows, sheep, goats, two donkeys, some chickens, dogs, a crusty old barn cat, & even a couple of turkey vultures. With all the stops, it took us nearly an hour & a half to ride counter-clockwise around from the ferry terminal to the picnic spot (about 8km). We had a quick bathroom break at the pit toilets in the entrance to the park & then biked down the path to the picnic tables for lunch. Other families came & went while we were there--Bronte tried out the bikes of some of the other little riders on the island. Next time we go I won't hesitate to bring her bike too--even a toddler on a runner bike could ride on Barnston.

Checking out the map of Barnston Island
Picnic stop on Barnston Island
After our picnic lunch we ride the remaining 1.8km back to the ferry & returned to Surrey, where we rode around a little more in Surrey Bend Park. There are a few wide gravel paths through the park, most of which allow biking. The park seems really new, & not quite complete, with shiny signs at all the path junctions, tons of bike racks, picnic tables, shiny fountains that aren't working & pit toilets without signs on the doors.

The Barnston Island Ferry crossing the Fraser
I missed the cargo bikes on our ride today--it's nice to have the flexibility to carry the kids or let them ride as long as they want to. Now that Bronte is getting to the top of the weight limit for the iBert seat, it's easier to bike with her on the bakfiets or the Yuba. & of course it's much easier to carry the picnic lunch & anything else you're bringing along on the big bikes. But it was nice to be able to just pop the bikes on a car & drive somewhere, rather than trying to find a route that is nice to cycle on. I look forward to a day when there are better regional cycling connections & riding around Metro Vancouver doesn't require as much planning. I think we'll definitely do this again.

Surrey Bend Regional Park was pretty quiet for a Saturday afternoon
If you'd like to see how carsharing works with biking & a family, watch for us on Instagram! I'm taking over Modo's account this week!

Disclaimer: As an Official Blogger Ambassador, Modo will be providing me with some driving credits & I'll be blogging, tweeting, Facebooking, & Instagramming about our adventures big & small with Modo. I've already been writing about carsharing for years, so if you've been following me for a while, expect more of the same!

To follow my Modo travels, & the other Modo Blogger Ambassadors (there are a few of us!) click on the hashtags #LetsModo & #MyModo & follow @Modo_CarCoop on TwitterInstagram, & Facebook.

Follow Spokesmama here too:

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Social Side of Pokemon Go

Ooh, there's a Poke Gym near here!
Everyone has been all aflutter about Pokemon Go lately, so much so, that I actually decided to try it. A little background: I've been through some periods in my life where I obsessively played Space Invaders, Super Mario, Sim City, & a few puzzle type games on my phone, but I'm not much of a gamer. I was aware of the Pokemon franchise--how could you not be?--but had never watched the cartoon or played the game.

When I discovered that you could just download the app for free & that they had an Android version, I was ready to give it a go. I thought it might be a fun thing to do with Linnaeus occasionally. The Pokemon hunting isn't violent--when you spot one, you toss Pokeballs at it. Hitting near enough your target magically makes it disappear into the ball, to be catalogued into your Pokedex. You can also go to Pokegyms & fight Pokemon. I haven't actually tried this yet--just got past level 5 where I'm eligible--but I'm told the best strategy is to just repeatedly stab your finger at your phone screen.

Common Sense Media has a thorough review of Pokemon Go, giving it just three stars out of five, mainly for privacy & safety concerns. I'm not particularly worried that someone will track us via Pokemon, or that we'll get 'lured' to a site & mugged, but I think the security of the information you use to sign up is somewhat concerning. I hope the company sorts that out in the near future. I have signed up myself, & I don't plan to set up an account for either of my children. We'll play together on my phone--that's enough.

Another aspect that I like about it is the accessibility: designed to be played on a touch screen smart phone, which so many people already have. There is no expensive video game system to buy, no controllers. You can spend money to buy things in the game, but this isn't necessary to experience all aspects of the game.

Where I think Pokemon Go really shines is  that you have to actually go outside & walk around to make the game work. I don't think it's going to solve North America's obesity epidemic, but it can't hurt to get in a few more steps a day. I also disagree with the criticisms that this game creates 'smart phone zombies'. My experience using it has been that we've talked to more people that we usually would out in public, because we keep seeing other people playing.

My Pokedex so far
Oliver has had a few conversations with strangers & gotten some tips on how different aspects of the game work. Because there isn't much of a tutorial or any game book that comes with it, you need to figure it out as you go along, or do a lot of Googling. The other people we've talked to seem eager to share tips--the opacity of the game play actually makes it more social, I think.

Yesterday, I stopped on our way home from summer school to grab some free Pokeballs from a Pokestop on the bike path. Another mom & her daughter on a cargo bike were doing the same & we stopped to chat, immediately realizing that we knew each other from the Vancouver Family Biking Facebook Group. Christine has had the same experience as we have, talking with other people who are playing the game. She & I actually chatted for quite a while, & decided that we need to plan a Pokemon Go Bike Ride. Stay tuned for the details in the Vancouver Family Biking group...

The downsides to the game are that it's still in beta version so it can be a bit slow. I've discovered that the most popular time seems to be about 1-3pm (Pacific Daylight Time), which means the game is so slow you can't really play. This has been quite frustrating because I have tried to do a "Pokewalk" with Linnaeus after school three days running & the app hasn't worked every single time. Later at night seems like a great time to play--too late for the kids, unfortunately--but there are tons of people leaving lures & hanging out in the parks around here catching Pokemon.

Another potential negative is that there is a huge marketing machine behind the Pokemon franchise & familiarity with Pokemon world makes kids want to buy their branded stuff. I'm expecting Linnaeus to start demanding Pokemon themed toys & clothes any time now. The game uses GPS for location, your camera when you catch a Pokemon (though you can disable this if you like) plus it uses quite a lot of data. If you have an older phone, your battery may not survive too much playing.

There are already some savvy organizations & businesses capitalizing on the attraction of Pokemon Go, as mentioned by my friend Leigh in an interesting short piece in the Climate Examiner. The concept of augmented reality that the game uses during the Pokemon hunting is really interesting too--Leigh found some research on how this could potentially be used to improve people's habits around conservation.

Overall, I like the game & will keep playing it. How about you? Have you tried the game yet?What do you like or dislike about Pokemon Go? 

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Thursday, July 21, 2016

How Car Sharing & Family Biking Go Hand in Hand + ANNOUNCEMENT

Picking up a Modo car to visit family in Coquitlam
I was recently unlocking our bikes & was approached by a stranger who had questions about the bakfiets. This wasn't unusual, because we have people asking questions about both our cargo bikes all the time. He has two kids & is looking at replacing their Chariot trailer with a cargo bike to be their main family vehicle. They're already long time members of Modo The Car Coop, & don't own a vehicle, so he needs no convincing that a cargo bike would be worth the money.

What struck me after we spoke was that I've had similar conversations a lot lately. There are a lot of families out there who are discovering that it's just not necessary to spend all that money owning a car or two in Vancouver. I think the increasing popularity of cargo bikes is helping, but that's underpinned by the fact that car sharing in Vancouver has become mainstream.

When I started volunteering with Modo over a decade ago, I talked to a lot of people at various events to whom car sharing was a totally foreign concept. I honestly had many conversations where people just couldn't fathom how sharing cars worked, & I often got the impression that they thought we were a bit nuts.

Now, with over 2100 car sharing vehicles in Metro Vancouver & tens of thousands of members, everybody seems to understand what car sharing means. It feels like common knowledge that even if a family doesn't own a car, they can still get access to one as needed for trips out of the city, rainy days, furniture shopping, or sometimes just for fun.

Aaaaand here's the announcement:

If you'd like to see how carsharing works with biking & a family, watch for us on Instagram! I'm taking over Modo's account for a week starting today!

Disclaimer: As an Official Blogger Ambassador, Modo will be providing me with some driving credits & I'll be blogging, tweeting, Facebooking, & Instagramming about our adventures big & small with Modo. I've already been writing about carsharing for years, so if you've been following me for a while, expect more of the same!

To follow my Modo travels, & the other Modo Blogger Ambassadors (there are a few of us!) click on the hashtags #LetsModo & #MyModo & follow @Modo_CarCoop on TwitterInstagram, & Facebook.

Follow Spokesmama here too:

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Terra Nova Adventure Ride Recap

Having breakfast at Tandem Bike Cafe before the #YVRFamilyBiking Terra Nova Adventure Ride
#YVRFamilyBiking Terra Nova Adventure Ride biking up Heather Street 
Sunday's Vancouver Family Biking Ride was tons of fun! It was probably our longest ride yet, almost 15km from our meeting spot at Tandem Bike Cafe to Terra Nova Adventure Play Environment.

Five families joined the ride, a total of 13 people. Four of the six kids were riding their own bikes. Linnaeus was the youngest of them, & he had trouble getting up some of the hills, so he rode on the Yuba part of the way, while Clint carried his bike on his Metrofiets 'flatbed' deck.

Crossing the Canada Line Bridge
Having a few cargo bikes around means we can always be flexible & give rides to the youngest kids when they get tired. If you want to come on our next ride with a young rider let us know--we'll likely have several cargo bikes on the ride who can carry an extra kid &/or tow or carry their bike as needed. It's a great way to get little kids riding longer distances & give them more confidence without having to commit to them riding all the way or having a meltdown before they get home.

Read more on cargo bikes & supporting kids learning to ride here

We rode down Heather & over the bridge at a leisurely pace, with quite a few stops to load & unload Linnaeus & his bike from the cargo bikes, as well as meeting two of the families along our route, plus a bathroom/water/play stop along the West Dyke Trail in Richmond. The total time was about two hours, probably two thirds of that time we were riding, I think.

Our route followed the Heather Street bike route south to Kent & then we went over the Canada Line Bridge. On the Richmond side we took the Canada Line Bikeway, then Smith Street, Beckwith Road, No. 3 Road, Capstan Way, then River Road for a block until the beginning of the dyke trail. Heather Street was quite quiet, more bike traffic than cars.

Quick pit stop along the West Dyke Trail
The on-road part of our Richmond leg was busier, particularly along No. 3 Road, but the drivers were patient enough & there is safety in numbers. If you are a less confident rider on your own, or riding with a child on their own bike, you may want to take the sidewalk for some parts. Once we got up to the dyke trail, it was smooth sailing for everyone.

The weather was perfect on the way to the park--sunny & not too hot. There was plenty of shade there & the parents got to sit & relax a little at a picnic table while the kids ran around in the playground. Terra Nova is a really amazing playground for kids of all ages. Now that Bronte has gotten a little bit bigger & stronger, she has figured out how to climb all the way up the giant rope ladder tangle that leads up to the 10 metre high tunnel slide.

The ride home was quite warm--I regretted wearing jeans as they stuck to my legs--but still enjoyable with the breeze off the water & the sunny weather. The West Dyke Trail is well served by washrooms & water stations at multiple locations, so we were able to refill all our water bottles as needed.

I really enjoyed the ride & the kids love Terra Nova, so I am certain we'll do this ride again sometime soon.
Very tired from her epic climbing adventures on the giant structures in Terra Nova, Bronte passed out in the bakfiets

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