Monday, June 27, 2016

CycleHack Talk: Barriers to Family Cycling

Friday I had the pleasure of speaking at CycleHack Vancouver. I was invited to talk about the barriers that biking families face. The goal of the event is to bring makers & idea people together to address some of the barriers that stop people from biking.

I thought I'd share a written version of what I talked about here.

When it comes to family cycling--especially with kids under six--barrier is all the stuff they require. They need enormous amounts of stuff to leave the house: diapers, wipes, extra clothing, snacks, drinks, toys, blankets, even a potty, sometimes. So deciding to bike to your destination, rather than driving seems like a crazy idea.

I've learned that biking is often faster than driving & it's totally possible to live car free with a family. But it's still tough for families to get started--figuring out gear--front seat? Rear seat? Trailer? Cargo Bike?--feels like information overload.

 try to help people overcome these barriers in a few different ways. First is my blog: I write reviews of gear, tips & hacks, upcoming events & recaps of rides, all about how we make transportation cycling & carsharing work with two little kids, & how cycling is awesome.

Second, I organize Vancouver Family Biking group rides. I think that recreational cycling is the "gateway drug" to transportation cycling. I hope by coming on our rides & chatting with other people, families new to cycling will be inspired to get groceries or go to their next appointment by bike.

Third is listening, providing advice, & connecting people when I can't answer a question. Much of this is in the Vancouver Family Biking Facebook group. This group is a great little forum where parents ask questions & share information on things like rain gear, taking transit with bikes & little ones, cargo bikes, and so on.

Fourth, my friend Tonya & I organized the Mount Pleasant Family Biking Festival last year to celebrate family cycling & showcase real family biking setups. We had over 25 families in the show & shine, talking about their seats, trailers, & cargo bikes, as well as offering test rides. We're doing it again this year Stanley Park, bigger & better, on September 24th--stay tuned for more details!

Fifth is education: Tonya & I are providing five workshops on the ABCs of Family Biking this summer, funded by the Vancouver Foundation's Greenest City Neighbourhood Small Grant & supported by prize donations from bike shops & Modo.

There are still a lot of other barriers that I come across that I'd love to see some solutions to this weekend. Here's my list:

Obviously I talk to a lot of families with all the work that I do & the number one barrier I hear people talking about is fear. Riding in & around vehicle traffic with your baby on your bike doesn't feel safe. & when your kindergartener starts riding on their own like mine did a couple of months ago, it's a whole other level.

Another safety issue comes up when using front or rear child seats on a bike. According to my research there's a very very small chance of being injured riding in a seat on parent's bike. It's getting on & off--that's where injuries happen. When it's just one parent balancing a regular bike with one or two children on it mounting can be really difficult.

I've solved this by getting two cargo bikes that have bombproof wide double kickstands. But not everybody has the budget or the space to get a cargo bike.

Front seats don't impede rear panniers, but weight limits are lower, so around three or four years old, you'll need to move your child to a rear seat. Rear seats are often on the rear rack, not usually compatible with panniers. With the weight of groceries, or whatever else you're carrying, plus a kid on the bike, you get the balance problem I mentioned before.

This bike has some cool seats that work great for a four year old & a seven year old. But kids at top of the percentiles for weight & height don't fit seats that will hold them securely. A toddler who still falls asleep on the bike needs to be strapped in but could be past the weight limits of a baby seat. Then there are special needs kids who are older but still need more physical support or restraints--there are few options for these kids & none that are affordable.

Just like anyone who bikes, security is a big issue with family biking, Where it differs though is when you have a cargo bike with a front basket or a child seat on the front. These bikes don't fit well into many of the bike racks around the city. Then there's the issue once all the kids are riding on their own bikes. Locking up one bike not too hard, but locking up four to six bikes means that one parent might be carrying their weight in locks.

The last barrier I'll talk about is storage. When you're going from one store to another or running errands, you can't really leave stuff on the bike, like your tool kit, water bottle, coffee mug, kleenex, diaper bag, grocery bags, or purchases, so you have to drag it all inside when you lock up. My bakfiets has an accessory I can order to create a lockable trunk under the child bench, but that's not really an option on longtail cargo bike or 'normal' bikes.

That's my list! Keep in touch on social media, visit my blog for information on the family biking festival, links to the Vancouver Family Biking Facebook group, & the workshops. Thank you for listening & I look forward to hearing about the Cyclehacks inspired by tonight's talks!

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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Summer Vacation is Here! Join #YVRFamilyBiking for the Pyjama Ride

The last day of school for Vancouver is Wednesday, June 29. My kindergartener has been counting down the days--how about you? Since Thursday is officially the first day of freedom for all the school kids, I thought why not celebrate with a ride? But it's the first day of summer vacation, so why get dressed? Let's all meet up for a ride IN OUR PYJAMAS!

Meet at 10am, Thursday, June 30, in front of Science World, sporting your best jammies, frilly granny nightie, sleeper, butt-flap longjohns, or flannel PJs.

We'll hang out for a half hour (this is a great time to chat about bikes & ask for test rides of seats, trailers, or cargo bikes you've been eyeing!) & ride at 10:30am. Our route will be along the North False Creek seawall to Stanley Park & end up at Ceperley Meadow.

As always, the ride will be a relaxed pace with at least one five-year-old riding his own bike. It's fairly flat & about 6km each way a longish ride but good for novices. There will be a few cargo bikes on the ride, so if any small riders need a lift & a tow, we've got it covered!

Ceperley Meadow has two playgrounds, public washrooms, a pool, a concession, a beach, & lots of shade. Bring the usual sunblock, snacks or lunch, lots of water, & whatever toys you like for the kids.

RSVP here so we know to expect you! See you soon!

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Friday, June 24, 2016

Biketopia Music Festival at the VAG July 2

The "Pleasant Revolution" musical bike collective is coming to Vancouver as part of their West Coast concert tour powered by bicycles.

They'll be at the Vancouver Art Gallery (720 Hornby Street) 3-7 PM Saturday, July 2. It's a free event & after the show, everyone is invited for a ride to the beach for a sunset with Pleasant Revolution.

More info on the tour:

This summer, a group of musicians, artists and cyclists known as the Pleasant Revolution will embark on a tour through the Pacific Northwest, with a mission to produce exhilarating and inspiring concerts completely off­ the ­grid. Why is this important? As global warming effects more and more communities across the planet with droughts, melting glaciers, and other drastic ecological shifts, there is a need for educational empowerment and a growing demand for cooperative self-­sufficiency that this tour aspires to address.

The events on this tour are called Biketopia Music Festivals; all of the sound amplification is powered by stationary bicycles. The Pleasant Revolution collective works with local musicians, bike enthusiasts and environmental groups to co-­create these grassroots, community empowered festivals.

The Pleasant Revolution is currently scheduled to land in Vancouver, Salt Spring Island, Victoria, Seattle, Bellingham, Olympia, Astoria, Portland, Eureka, Arcata, Santa Rosa, Petaluma and a grand Bay Area return. They will also be putting on impromptu concerts in unexpected locations along the way. The music on the tour will be performed by Latin circus funk band Bicicletas por la paz (Bicycles for Peace), neo­folk­soul artist Heather Normandale and various other artists both on the tour and from the towns they will be visiting.

The mission of the Pleasant Revolution is to inspire cooperative community effort through music and through the collective effort of the audience producing the show’s electricity on bikes! This tour will be hauling all of their gear on bike, no “sag wagon” required. The impact of this project is not just about showcasing good music and sustainable technology; it is to inspire and empower creative minds to think outside the box and realize the power that exists in community.

The Pleasant Revolution has recently launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to help raise funds needed to launch this traveling musical and theatrical extravaganza. The funds raised will helped pay for the pedal­-powered sound system, cargo­bikes, crew food and maintenance.

The Pleasant Revolution is a concept invented by Kipchoge Spencer who first took his band, Ginger Ninjas on bike tour in 2005, and has since toured through the states, Europe, and Mexico over the past 10 years putting on self­-produced bicycle music festivals. This year, two bands who both have a history participating in musical bike tours will pick up the torch and continue the project’s mission.
Carolyn Herlehy of  Bicicletas Por La Paz and one of the main organizers of the tour said, “The first time I saw a pedal­powered show, I was floored, I just couldn’t believe it.” Herlehy continues, “Bicicletas Por La Paz has toured for multiple years inspired by this idea”. We never had a pedal­-powered sound system and we’re ready to take it to the next level.”

Heather Normandale who toured and performed with the Pleasant Revolution commented, “ We really have so much to learn from our natural environment, bike touring allows me to be closer to what inspires me as an artist, and pedal­-powered music is a fun way to involve audience members in the show.”

Paul Freedman, owner of Rock the Bike and designer of the pedal powered technology for this summer’s tour said, “People­powered shows allow the audience to connect with the musicians and allows a space for the audience to believe in their human potential.”

Pleasant Revolution

Bicicletas por la paz (Bicycles for Peace) 
Heather Normandale 

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

#CarFreeDayYVR Recap

The little kids loved our runner bike track!
Over the past year & a half Tonya & I have tried a number of things to promote family biking in this city. One of those things is to go to big events like Car Free Day. Last year Oli & I just showed up, parked our Yuba & gave out flyers for our Mount Pleasant Family Biking Festival. This year, we were official participants in the Commercial Drive Family Zone of Car Free Day. They generously gave us a huge triple space (thanks Amelia & Laura!!) so we were able to set up a little runner bike area, a colouring table, a mini cargo bike show & shine (aka rock star parking for our rides to the event) plus our info table & chairs with a big sun shelter.

We biked all our gear there on three cargo bikes, of course: two folding tables, a 10'x10' sun shelter, five chairs, crayons, markers, colouring sheets, banners, toy stop signs, mini traffic cones, eight plastic bollards, bunting, two runner bikes, lunch, several bottles of water & two kids. Since we arrived by bike, we were able to set up at the last minute & didn't need to worry about the restrictions on driving vehicles into the closed streets.

Our colouring sheets with girls on bikes were most popular
We had a great day & talked to a lot of people about family biking, our workshops, the Vancouver Family Biking rides & Facebook group, plus the prize we were giving away: a $25 gift certificate to the Sidesaddle Bikes saddle library. Thanks Sidesaddle for donating the prize!

The kids had fun during the day. Since we were in the family zone right by the park, Linny & B got to spend a good amount of time on the playground, plus a good romp in the empty Tumblebus at the end of the day. Bronte disappeared (briefly) multiple times. She went to the photo booth next door to us a few times (there was a monkey mascot outside, so of course), begged free lemonade from the kids selling it down the street two or three times, & went to visit with various dogs that she saw. Slightly nerve wracking, but she & Linnaeus were both wearing their Mabel's Labels name tags with my phone number on them, so that gave me a little peace of mind.

The food was yummy too--I had some jerk chicken roti, pizza, & a pork sandwich. I didn't actually see much of the festival--only what we rode past on our way in & out. It was kind of nice just hanging out in one spot, though.

All packed up & ready to go. Cargo bikes for the win!
During the seven hours we were there, 55 bike colouring pages were coloured, around 100 Spokesmama business cards disappeared, people took about the same number of Vancouver Family Biking cards, & I saw a few people photographing the URL on our banners too. I think it was definitely worth going to & would love to participate in Car Free Day again next year. Plus, a bike ride carrying lots of stuff, then seven hours of chatting family biking with different people, then another bike ride? What's not to love?!?

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Friday, June 17, 2016

Learn to Ride the Road Confidently with HUB

If you're just getting started riding but you're not that comfortable biking in traffic, why not take a class?

HUB has a number of different courses that can help you become a more confident rider. From one hour free sessions to half day practical workshops partly spent on the bikes for just $20, there are a number of beginner options available.

Check out the HUB website for details!

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