Category Archives: transporation concerns

The Great Bike Debate

Nothing quite like a frustrating situation to propel a change. My anger and worry over our finances was the impetus for lightening our car burden and plowing into a bicycling life style. I have not had a regret since. It’s been a very rewarding and exciting change for me and our family, despite my husband’s worries over us biking to and from school.  He admits he worries when we drive there as well. Worry and anxiety is his nature, especially when children are involved.

I don’t want to give up on my current life style choice. I set out to do one month because I like finite self imposed limits. If I has said “as long as I can,” I might have given up at anytime. Anything longer than one month might have pushed my husband to the edge of his patience with my process and he too found he liked knowing that “if he could just wait it out till September…”

Interestingly, he didn’t know that today was September first and as our friends who take our children to school were out of town, he biked the three children to school himself. He came home to leave me the trailer and reported the ride was relatively easy and fun, although he still thinks crossing onto Washington and Norway are very dangerous (I agree). I didn’t ask him how he handled Washington, but he did ride the children on the side walk on Norway. No complaints from anyone till the very last steep hill just two blocks from school. It took them 30 minutes, and because we didn’t leave enough time this morning to debate with London, they were about two minutes late.

School Commuting Troubles Continue
What I was getting at, was how frustration begets change. I have had several frustrating commutes home from school with the children. It is usually because one of them is very, very tired and I don’t have enough room to transport more than two with the trailer/stroller/bike combos I have been using. The closest I came was yesterday when London rode my bike, towing Avery and Oliver in the trailer. Yet it was Elliot who was exhausted to tears for the first half of the walk. I offered him space in the trailer and putting Avery on the bike seat we could continue walking the bike home, but he declined. We actually jogged home together for the last quarter.

London towing Avery and Oliver and all the back packs, Elliot and I jogging home down Wiltshire Blvd.

Coming home from another 95 degree, 90 minute bike-walk-jog, exhausted and frustrated was yet another prompt for change. The research for a new bike has been in progress for a couple months. The past couple weeks it kicked up a notch as I test rode two bikes in Columbus last weekend and I have been in touch with two other bloggers, Car Free with Kids and Family Ride, who have been tremendous about helping me hash out different scenarios. I thought all I needed to know was on the internet, but between the forums, reviews, flicker pools, blogs, business sites, my lack of knowledge, lack of diverse bikes in the area, and our unique situation (location and family size), it’s been daunting, and that is an understatement. The experience of someone who has “been there and done that” is invaluable. I can’t thank these women enough for what they have done for me. The email exchanges with Car Free with Kids are continuing as I parse out options and considerations.

The Debate
The research process has led me to two bikes I feel will best, but not perfectly, meet our needs. I know that neither the Madsen kg271 or the Yuba Mundo will roll out of the box just as I need them. There will need to be some adjustments with seating and towing options and the consideration of an electric assist. Neither will fit on the bus bike rack. I looked at several different options that would allow us to continue using the bus but they were outside our price range at this time, but something to consider later when the children are older (as the scenario and cost would change). Despite some of these barriers, both of these cargo bikes are better than what we have now and would make the commute more pleasant for us all. I don’t want our methods of transportation to be the only thing we think, talk and blog about, I want it to be a solution and means, enjoyable and safe, empowering and inspiring.

The Madsen contender (older model)

Yuba Mundo option.

While I will be purchasing one of these bikes soon, the possibility of purchasing them both has entered the equation. I displayed this option to Brent last night as I knew it would be one of the two and I couldn’t decide. I asked him to sell his brand new bike and then consider getting both the Madsen and the Yuba, as having a team of bikes like this would certainly meet all our needs. His argument was that neither would fit in the elevator at work, like his current bike does.

How would you solve our problem? Pros/cons comparison to the Madsen and the Yuba? Do you have another option?

*As I finish up this post it has started to rain and has the potential for rain the remainder of the day. This will add a little spice to our home from school commute today and I will let you know what becomes of it.

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After School Enrichment & Some After August Plans

Oliver and I biked to pick up the children from school today. The trailer was already in trailer mode and I didn’t feel the need to put it back in stroller form. I had no idea it was 90 degrees and humid outside. The windows were open and the cool morning air had maintained a decent 77 degrees in our house all day. With this heat, the ride up was rough. I had to stop about five times to let my muscles breath and just to catch my breath. I still partially blame the bike, as the last time I took Oliver up (on Brent’s bike) I only stopped once for a short breather on the last hill.

When we walk home, sometimes the children (mostly London) complain. Mid week I know they are tired so we have tried to take the bus most of the way home and then walk a flatter shadier route. Last week I had the idea to give them something to look forward to each day to motivate them home, instead of threatening to leave them at school if they didn’t continue forward. Before you get images of me cracking whips and forcing them up hills like mules, we do go at Avery’s pace, stop many, many times for water and shade breaks and have only made it home once before 430PM, and we leave about 315 for the two mile trek. I think we certainly take our good sweet time. Yet I have raised a daughter not unlike myself, and she finds a lot to grumble about.

The Bribe
Mondays and Wednesdays we have to get home straight away for an early dinner with Brent. He has to return to campus for night classes so there is no time for any treats as we walk, just the usual breaks. Tuesdays we have decided, are library days. Gallaher Village library is on our walk home. There is a crosswalk at the corner and a lot of visibility get us over Norway. The library is also a very strong motivator for London. She’s our bookworm. The deal is, no complaining on Monday or Tuesday and then we go to the library. So far it’s working.

Today we spent about thirty minutes soaking up the A/C, refilling waters, snacking (outside), checking out books, reading magazines, changing diapers, and chatting with the staff. One of the gals said they were starting a Tuesday after school reading/activity group. I think this is something to consider. We might be able to get everyone there, get some homework done, have a snack and then enjoy an hour long library led session. I will let you know if we decide to participate. Tuesdays after school twice a month, we have Girl Scouts to contend with as well. So maybe the other weeks we could hang at Gallaher.

Snacking at the bike rack right out side the front doors of Gallaher Village Library

With Monday, Tuesday and Wednesdays filled in, what were we going to do the other two? Thursdays we are going to use as our litter-gitter days. We are all appalled at the trash we pass on our way to and from Our Lady of Fatima. Avery always tries to bring some home. If I bring empty bags and hand sanitizer we can pick up what we deem to be “safe” to handle. I have been doing some of this, but the amount was just overwhelming to stop for every time I passed something, I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere on time. If you have children, you probably realize that picking up garbage is not a motivator, but paying them for each bag they fill is. I offered them up a dollar each for every bag they stuff full. I think initially I might be out $3-$9, then maybe just $3, as we do have to carry it all home to dispose of. I highly suspect they will bore with this idea and I won’t owe them anything, but I can continue my clean up efforts without them.

Fridays I am offering them play dates. Elliot is begging for friends to come home with us. This boy needs a jam packed social calendar. Every moment of everyday.  Provided they arrange them ahead of time and I can plan our transportation, they are each welcome to invite a friend over on Fridays. I think this will get them home quicker. The anti-complaint rule is also in effect. They can’t complain Thursday when we are pick up trash or Wednesday when we just have to get home.

It’s a good idea, but I don’t know how much of it will work. The library seems to be having a positive effect so far, and we will see about the rest.

The Car-free Month is Ending, Won’t We Just Drive the Children Home?
Brent and I have been in negotiations over our anticipated van usage after August is over. I am of the mindset that it’s worked so far, why quit just because the month changed? Brent’s more practical (thankfully) and he wants us to make a decision about using the car on an event by event basis, keeping in mind the comfort, safety, time and conveniences for our available modes of transport to each commitment.

We tried the other side of Norway today so we didn’t have to cross back over at the intersection as well as making our cross back over to Woodland a more visible one. These poles are one excellent reason why we don’t use this side of the street.
We don’t fit. Thanks to a very observant and kind pick up truck driver, who stopped at Berry Hill Nursery (now closed), we were able to safely cross Norway to the other side and continue on our way home. The driver came down to us and stopped the car traffic in both directions to get us across.

The school commute has been the most dangerous and time consuming process this entire month. I have not given up on finding a better way to handle this situation, but as it stands we will most likely continue to carpool with friends, taking our turn to do some of the driving.

Spinning my hypocratic-web

Can you have a car-free month and still drive your car once, how about twice, three times? I know we got off to a rough start, but we have been going great since the 2nd of August. Oh, then there was that one time Brent drove to get Grandma from the Greyhound station. Does that count? I mean, if we really didn’t have cars, we would have had to rent one in that particular situation, so driving was relatively unavoidable. Having two cars sitting out front and driving one to the station was sort of like renting a car right? One of the purposes to this entire car-free month was to set out to discover what was possible, for our family of six, without driving a car in Huntington, WV.

If part of our self-inflicted contract was to reduce our carbon foot print, this blog would read more like No Impact Man. While what we are doing has great benefits to the environment, it’s not one of our primary purposes, just another great by-product of our efforts.

With two blemishes on our record since August first, I am knowingly committing to another. After spending four days with my grandma she was picked up by her friends from Milton last Saturday, and has spent the past week with them. Before she left our house she was wanting to get her return ticket from the Greyhound station to leave tomorrow, August 27. Grandma is 76. She was obviously slowing down considerably since the last time she visited and I feel that going home on the Greyhound isn’t right. I am driving her home tomorrow. She’s paying for the gas, at her insistence, and no objections from me. It was a compromise. She doesn’t like to have folks go out of their way for her and she really just wanted to take the bus. I told her I had been wanting to get up to Ohio anyway and she would be doing me a favor by providing the excuse. I think we are both happy.

I couldn’t let an opportunity to go to central Ohio pass by. I am making plans for an afternoon in Columbus.

While I feel like a cheat and hypocrite, I do feel justified with the next breath. We are still saving enormous amounts of money. We have been able to live without our cars here in Huntington and I am replacing a potential rental with my own van. Yet, obviously I feel guilty enough to lay myself out here to try to assuage my own mind and keep my path honest.

Patience with Huntington

There are challenges in every city in America and beyond. Sometimes I get very short sighted and focus on my angst with Huntington, WV. The city has a failing infrastructure that is taking a lot of time to fund and repair. One of the unique features in this town are the aqua-ducts or via-ducts. They are roads that were cut to go under the rail road tracks that run on the level ground. When we get a heavy rain, like we did very early this morning, they fill with water so quickly cars can get trapped and the water can’t get drained away (The details are in the link above).

This morning Brent had intended to walk the children directly to school but London wanted to take the bus, so he obliged her. They left at 7:20AM for a bus that was schedule to arrive at 7:50 and didn’t arrive till 8:10. The via-ducts were full of water and the buses had to find other ways around. Brent called me from the school at 8:22 to report they just arrived, London forgot her lunch and our friends would be taking the children to school all next week. I know he was frustrated.

I am frustrated too. The bus was working out OK when it was only a couple minutes late (the very first day), but the inconsistencies and the forces of nature are too hard on the start of the children’s school day. We were not the only ones on that bus trying to get to school this week either. Every day I rode there was another mother and son going to Spring Hill Elementary. I don’t know what time their tardy bell rings, but if it was 8:00AM, they were late most days too. I wonder how many other Huntington families rely on the TTA for school transportation?

There was an opinion piece in our local Herald Dispatch newspaper this summer about how we can all help with the storm water issues. If you live here, I suggest taking some of Bill’s advice (we have). In the mean time, we are going to go forward with our car pooling plan to get the children to school.

Fear

 The Argument

Another heated conversation with Brent over lunch this week highlighted more of the concerns about selling the van. Brent is afraid, and I think most people would be. In his words, which he emailed to me later in the day trying reconcile the disagreement:

I’m afraid of a crippling injury or death because of the many drug-addled or phone-distracted drivers that infest our streets. When Avery was in the hospital in Columbus, two doors down was a young man with a terrible head injury. He was clearly brain damaged (one of several brothers  who were in a car accident). When I say that I fear we might be inhibiting their [the children’s] potential, that’s the image in my mind. I love their personalities, their intelligence and the promise they hold for themselves and the world. Perhaps my fears are irrational, but to me they are visceral and terrifying. Reflectors might help. And yes, I know that they are in danger in cars, but being surrounded by airbags in our well-tested van sounds and feels safer to me. Death and pain are facts of life that I cannot reconcile at present. As you know, I’ve been trying. I’ll ride where you point. I’ll go wherever you want me to go, but I will not put my kids in an unnecessarily risky situation for our own experimentation and financial comfort.

My take on the fear was to see it as a challenge that needed to be rifled through for a solution. I don’t feel that we are taking unnecessary risks, we are just going from point a to b using a different method.

 

This is also another reason I feel he needs to contribute to this blog. Perhaps he could explain himself more thoroughly and some of you could offer advice or solace. I have been terrible about sympathizing. I am more anxious about missing a bus where the outcome would be having to go home. My methods of reassuring Brent have never worked, he just feels I am trying to dismiss him and persuade him to my “side.” Perhaps I am.

 

Safer Options

If the routes we take are unsafe for biking, let’s find new ones that feel more comfortable and have less car traffic. If we feel the children won’t be seen from behind, let’s get better reflecting material, higher flags, put them in the front of the caravan or to our right, install horns and bells. We could go out on errands with them less often or not take the children that are not a part of the activity we are attending. Let us ask the local bike shops for a bike safety course for families and children. Let us educate ourselves and the community.

 

Brent has been treated very poorly by drivers. He has been yelled at, pushed off the road by cars and been flipped off. I don’t want to put our children in a position to be accosted by people like this either. I have yet to have any terrible experiences on our bikes. I don’t believe that cars are trying to hurt us, they don’t want to deal with that insurance claim or traffic ticket either, they are not vindictive. Yet, as Brent’s experiences prove, some people are rude, inconsiderate and dangerous to be around.

 

When we are riding in dense automobile areas, we try to stay on the side walk. Another option would be to take a longer route that is less crowded and to arm our children and family with an appropriate retort. We ought to give everyone the tools to handle a negative situation. We can’t prepare for them all, but we should discuss the ones that have already occurred with Brent and perhaps the children could suggest some solutions.

 

Here are some sources I found, there are many many more opinions, resources and statistics out there:

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