Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Three Money Saving Tips with Modo

All buckled in & ready to go
Last weekend we got invited to a special event at a movie theatre in Surrey. It was almost 40km from home & nowhere near the Skytrain. I checked out how long it would take to get there by transit or cycling & neither of those options sounded that great, so I decided to book a Modo car. Here are three tips I use to save a little money when driving with Modo:

Photo Credit: wuestenigel Flickr via Compfight cc

Trip Stacking

Rather than doing just one thing with our Modo, I always try to see if there's an errand we can add in along the way to make our trip a little more efficient. This time, we hit up Ikea on our way home, since we needed to pick up something for our kitchen. The detour to Ikea added less than a kilometre to the trip, & only a couple extra hours of booking time, so it cost quite a bit less than booking another separate trip to just go to Ikea.

Photo Credit: Phillip Pessar Flickr via Compfight cc

Think Short, Not Fast

Another trick I use to save money with Modo is taking the most efficient route in terms of distance. I 
Google Mapped the route & looked at each of the three suggested routes, picking the one that is the fewest kilometres. For some of our regular trips, to see family in Coquitlam, for example, taking the highway might be two or three minutes faster, but it costs $3-4 more in kilometre charges for the round trip. So we pick the shorter route, not the faster one. Over a year, those little savings add up.

A Kia Rondo can carry the four of us plus a small Ikea haul

Small is Beautiful

The other thing we do to save a few dollars here & there is to pick the smallest, most efficient vehicle size for trip. The vast majority of the time, all we need is something that will seat the four of us--we don't need much cargo capacity to carry, say a couple of birthday presents to a family party in the suburbs. Even Ikea trips are very doable with the Daily Drives category of cars--we drove a Kia Rondo & bought a kitchen cabinet, as well as a handful of other things at Ikea & there was more than enough cargo space in the back hatch for our flat packs.

The other great thing about these three habits is they are more environmentally friendly too--driving fewer kilometres, making fewer trips, in smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles minimizes your carbon emissions.

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Sunday, September 8, 2019

Bike the Night 2019 with two kids & our Tern GSD S10

This was our fourth year at HUB Cycling's annual open streets event, Bike the Night. If you haven't heard of it, the nonprofit cycling organization plans a 10km route which is closed to motor vehicle traffic. There's a two hour event in the park ahead of the ride with music, lots of free samples, food trucks, free basic bike maintenance, & other goodies.

Bronte wanted to ride her own bike & Linny chose to come as a passenger on the back of our Tern GSD S10. We met up with some Vancouver Family Biking friends & rode together most of the route. Mostly with another family at our school, with six kids between us: three on our two cargo bikes, three kids on their own bikes. The other mom or I would have to stop occasionally for a kid's stuck derailleur, or to check on someone else along the route, or for one kid to stop to scratch under their helmet, then the other mom would zip off to try to keep up with the kids who were pedalling ahead.

This was easy for me with the Tern GSD, that thing is so much faster from a dead stop than me on the Bakfiets!

So not the most relaxing evening--is it ever really relaxing with six children between two parents?--but definitely enjoyable to have the streets just for us for an hour. Every year that we go, there are more children & more cargobikes on this ride. I like how the event has evolved over the years--my kids spent quite a bit of time at the Vancouver Aquarium booth, handling at their collection of  specimens, puppets, & getting an airbrush octopus tattoo. There were many snacks to be had, with Clif Bar people roaming the event & handing out free bars from a Metrofiets cargobike.

Bike the Night allows families & slower riders to start the ride a bit early, so we all headed up out of Sunset Beach Park lined up on We definitely had a lot of fun. If your kids can stay up that late, or sleep on your family biking setup, it's well worth going next year!

I made a little Instagram story, saved to my profile, about the whole experience, if you'd like to head over there to watch the video. :)

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Thursday, August 15, 2019

Bikey T-shirts & More at Dark Cycle Clothing

My Dark Cycle Grizzly tee
If you've ever read anything on this blog, I'm sure you know that I love cycling & kind of have a bike t-shirt problem. I think N+1 applies to bikey tees because I can go for more than a week without having to do laundry & I'll still have clean bike t-shirts to wear. Heh.

However, most of my cycling themed shirts are from HUB Cycling, sort of a suggested work uniform (I use the term very loosely here). It's great to have a job where I can wear comfy clothes & not have to worry about conforming to business casual, or worse, wearing--ack--pantyhose! But, some of my work tshirts are, well, a bit logo-ey, even slightly dorky. So I'm always on the lookout for cycling themed shirts that feature cool art, or something that's just a little weird.

I was introduced to Dark Cycle Clothing by my friend Anny, who started up a group of riders called Team Mama Bear, in Seattle. This shirt that you see me wearing in the image on the right is their unofficial uniform, & she gave me one when we visited her last year. I love the drawing & can relate to this bear so much. DO NOT MESS WITH A MAMA BEAR, amirite, ladies?!?

The kids' Dark Cycles tees: tabby & axolotl, front & back
When I went to take a look at Dark Cycle's website, I was blown away by the huge variety of animals on bikes that you can get on a t-shirt or sticker. & not just your run-of-the-mill ordinary common animals, like cats & dogs & bears. They've got OVER 75 different creatures on t-shirts, including such things as pangolins, pelicans, & platypus.

Not too long ago, I entered an Instagram contest & won a sticker from Dark Cycles, so when I went to their site to claim my prize, I also bought shirts for the kids. I chose a tabby on a bike for Bronte & an axolotl on a bike for Linnaeus.

The shirts arrived soon after, & they fit my skinny kids well. 5.5-year-old B is in a size 6, 8.5-year-old L is in a youth medium. The fabric is a cotton blend, super soft & the print is made with a lightweight ink, which means it's also nice & soft, not plasticky. Once the kids got them on, I noticed a little bonus: Dark Cycle prints their logo on the upper back of the t-shirt in reflective ink. Makes the kids just a wee bit more visible on warm summer nights. :)

Unicorn on a bike sticker!
Fast forward to this summer & I heard Dark Cycle was starting an affiliate program, so of course I signed up! So, if you're thinking about picking up a bikey t-shirt for back to school season or a gift or just for you, because you need to have a unicorn on a bike on your chest... if you use my affiliate link, I'll get a wee commission & you'll be helping to support my blog. Thanks!

If you don't need a t-shirt or a sticker, Dark Cycle also makes housewares like hats, mugs, pillows, & trivets. So you could geek out your entire home with weird animals on bikes on stuff!

If you really do need t-shirts, you could also consider their t-shirt subscription--the more months you sign up for with Shirt of the Month Club, the more you save.

Disclaimer: As an affiliate for Dark Cycle Clothing, I receive a small commission if you make a purchase via my affiliate links in the above post. Thanks for supporting Spokesmama!

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Sunday, June 30, 2019

Decisions, decisions: Carsharing, Biking, or Transit?

Our Honda Fit got us to Richmond in about 25 minutes

When you're going out for the day, how do you decide how to get there? We have quite a few options for getting around, including biking with our own bikes, bike share, walking, transit, carshare, & car rental. The vast majority of the time we just hop on the cargo bike--that's how we take the kids to school, to appointments, to playdates. It's how we get groceries & run errands. But when we're going places outside our neighbourhood, I usually think about how to get there a bit more.

Almost showtime!
I thought I'd share with you how I decide which mode to use when I'm planning a day out like we did today.

My decision-making process for a recent outing went something like this:

Getting a kitty painted on her arm
  1. Google Map the location: Silver City in Richmond, then the Pacific Autism Family Network.
  2. Compare the directions for cycling, driving , & transit: cycling would take about two & a half hours round trip, driving would be about an hour, transit would be almost three hours.
  3. Estimate the costs of each method of travel: free, $45, $18.90. 
  4. Cycling comes out as the winner for cost, though it takes twice as long as driving. So next I'd look at the route, hilliness, what cycling infrastructure there would be, if any. Richmond is pretty flat, but getting home again up & over Vancouver is a bit of a slog with a cargo bike full of kids. As for bike infra, there wasn't really a great route all the way there. I've biked to the Pacific Autism Family Network before & it's really not great getting on & off Sea Island.
  5. What is parking like? Are there bike racks near the building we're going to? In this case, yes for PAFN & not sure for Silver City. Is it a high bike theft area? I wasn't too concerned with this for our outing to Richmond, but a number of places in Vancouver are fairly risky, so I'd be more likely to use bike share or another mode, rather than our own bikes. 
  6. Next question is will we need to bring much stuff with us? We didn't need a lot of gear for a movie & lunch, but we did come home with a few prizes from the event. Not something that would preclude cycling or transit though.
  7. Last question would be how much do we want to walk? My hip is currently sore & the weather forecast was for fairly warm, so I wasn't keen on walking far. Transit would involve the most walking, Modo would mean walking a couple blocks to & from the car to pick up & drop off. Biking would be the least walking.
Heading home with way too much candy & a short-lived balloon animal
So for this trip, as you've already seen from the photos, I decided to book a Modo for our trip. Since I wasn't sure when exactly we'd be heading home, I just made it an Open Return booking so we didn't have to worry about getting back by a specific time. The kids really enjoyed the movie, the treats & the games at PAFN & we were able to get home quickly in the comfort of an air-conditioned car on a warm, sunny day. 

Disclaimer: As a Modo Blogger Ambassador, I receive driving credits in return for posting about carsharing with Modo Car Cooperative. 

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Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Barriers to Disabled & Family Cycling

Recently, at the at the Active Transportation Summit on June 17, I had the pleasure of speaking as a part of a panel called Breaking Down Barriers to Active Transportation: Lived Experience and Action Items for Policy Change. I thought I'd share my presentation here as well.
I live in East Vancouver with my family & have been using walking, cycling, & transit as my main modes of travel all of my adult life. I started cycling even more since I developed osteoarthritis in my hip. Cycling is much more comfortable than walking for me & actually reduces my pain levels overall. So I use my bikes as mobility devices.

I work as a instructor for HUB Cycling & teach kids & adults how to ride bikes, & how to ride safely on the road. I also organize family rides, festivals, & workshops & talk with a lot of parents who ride or want to start cycling with their children. & I sit on the City of Vancouver's Transportation Advisory Committee

Before we go any further, some definitions of two types of cycle I'm going to be talking about: an adaptive cycle is a two or three wheeled cycle or an attachment that goes on a wheelchair that can allow people with disabilities to ride. Some may have electric assist & some may be operated by pedaling with the hands rather than the feet. These bikes are often wider, longer, & heavier than a typical bike.

Photo: Gabrielle Peters

By cargo bike, I mean a two or three wheeled cycle that is designed to carry large items & passengers. They may have a large box or rack in front or back, & are longer, sometimes slightly wider, & always heavier than a typical bike. Many are also electric assist.

You might be wondering why I'm talking about two seemingly disparate categories of cycling, but there are barriers they have in common as well as some overlap between the disabled cycling community & the cargo biking community.

My kids are neurodiverse, & this means that while they are physically capable of cycling, they are not always able to do it. It isn't always possible to predict when they will be unable to ride safely, so having a cargo bike means I can carry them & their bikes as needed. If I didn't have a cargo bike, I'd need to spend a lot more time on transit, or spend thousands of dollars a year that we don't have to own a vehicle.

My family is not alone in this; I know many other people--mainly women, as we still do the majority of the caregiving work in families--who are able to ride with their older children because cargo bikes can carry teen & adult sized passengers. Like My friend Kath here in these two photos, who rides with her children, one of whom is not able to ride on his own due to his disability.

Photo: Bill Schultheiss

Photo: Madi Carlson

Being able to use an adaptive bike for transportation rather than transit or paratransit (like Handidart here in Vancouver), taxis can mean a huge time savings, not to mention the ability to get exercise, fresh air, connect with other people & all the other benefits that cycling brings. Everyone should be able to cycle if they want to.

So here is my list of four barriers to disabled & family cycling, in no particular order.

I suspect I'm preaching to the choir, but biking in amongst multi-tonne vehicles doesn't feel comfortable to most, & it can be downright terrifying for many people. Just as we have sidewalks to separate pedestrians from motor vehicle traffic, we need physical separation for cyclists so that children, seniors, disabled people, & less confident riders will feel & be safer. We need more all ages & abilities infra like this everywhere, including the main roads where people need to go for medical appointments, shopping, socializing.
These cycle routes need to be wide enough to accommodate cargo & adaptive cycles. Narrow paths with bollards or railing style diverters like in this image make it dangerous or impossible to get through with non-standard cycles. Poor pavement surface, or even curbs or stairs that are part of a cycle route can be completely inaccessible for people using adaptive or cargo cycles.

When there is road work or a special event happening that impacts bike facilities, municipalities or construction companies often put up signs requiring cyclists to dismount & walk. This is difficult to impossible for disabled cyclists & can also be difficult for riders carrying children on seats on their cycles.

I wanted to highlight some statistics from the UK as I couldn’t find similar from Canada
Wheels for Wellbeing National Survey of Disabled Cylists in the UK 2017

  • 1 in 3 disabled cyclists had been asked to dismount and walk their cycle even though they were using it as a mobility aid
  • A majority of disabled cyclists (69%) said they find cycling easier than walking, which we know is often the case because cycling reduces strain on the joints, aids balance and alleviates breathing difficulties
  • Inaccessible cycling infrastructure is the biggest difficulty encountered by disabled cyclists.

I love how cycle racks are usually very close to the door of the business or office I'm going to, so I don't have to walk as far. Unfortunately, most of these racks don't accommodate cargo cycles or adaptive cycles well: larger & wider cycles can only easily be locked at the end of most racks because they're designed for typical bikes that are only wide at the handlebars. Individual inverted U style racks are much more accommodating to all types of cycles & if properly spaced, they allow much easier access for riders with mobility issues.

With bike theft rampant in the city, Locking a bike outside to a rack tends to work fine for a quick stop at a store or cafe or appointment, but leaving a bike regularly for a full day or night outside at a publicly accessible rack is a huge theft risk. Secure storage like bike rooms or lockers are crucial, yet many multi unit buildings & workplaces do not have adequate bike rooms & many buildings have strict rules against bringing bikes inside, or installing racks in car parking spaces or leaving essential equipment like pumps & tools in the garage.

Getting in & out of buildings, through turns in halls, & in elevators can also be difficult or impossible with adaptive or cargo bikes.

For electric assist bikes, like mobility scooters, finding a place to park them & charge them can be a challenge.

Unsurprisingly, larger, stronger cargo bikes & specialized adaptive cycles are expensive, costing more than ordinary bikes, sometimes over $10,000. The government has not incentivized the purchase of cycles in any way with rebates or even just eliminating sales taxes, despite giving thousands of dollars at people who can afford expensive electric CARS.

Grants for adaptive cycles are a patchwork of few & far between with a lot of hoops to jump through to get them & may not cover the full cost.

A partial solution to storage & cost is not to own a cycle, but to use cycleshare. I'd like to applaud Mobi for introducing their Community Pass to make a $20/year membership available to lower income residents. But the service area is still limited. Cycleshare here in Vancouver does not have any adaptive cycles or any that can carry children.

Even if cycleshare included some adaptive cycles, like in this example of a free cycleshare in a National Park in the Netherlands. All the bikes had one or two child seats, there were smaller bikes for kids to ride & some adaptive cycles as well.

However, the reason this is a "partial solution" is because a "one size does not fit all"; an adaptive hand trike, for example, may work for some people, but many disabled people will require a customized fit. For people who use larger assistive devices like wheelchairs or walkers, transferring to a cycle at a cycleshare station may not be possible & where are they going to leave their chair or walker?

There are some great Organizations like Cycling Without Age, or seasonal programs like Blind Beginnings Buddy Up Tandem Cycling Club can help people with disabilities do a limited amount of recreational riding, but not the kind of day-to-day transportation cycling that owning a cycle or having 24-7 access via cycleshare can accomplish.

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