Moving beyond the margins

Last week, Portland bicycle activist* Elly Blue published a piece in Bicycling magazine about how her decision not to have children has enabled her carfree activism: both her ability to afford life as an full-time rabble rouser and her general freedom to cycle without the physical encumbrance and time constraints of transporting children.

Some UCLA researchers have thrown down some science about women and bicycling. The gender gap in cycling is so huge in the US (by comparison, to say, the Netherlands) not because women are particularly afraid or particularly fussy about their hair, but because of the pure logistics of the combination of errands, drop-offs, pick-ups required to run the Mom Taxi.

I read about this new work with interest. I’ve never owned a car. And I’ve never had kids. Both these factors have contributed to my ability to get around by bike, write about bicycling, live a bike-obsessed life. Otherwise, there isn’t really a practical connection between these two definitive—and in some circles, oddball—life choices, but they’re linked in my mind, in my own story of my life. And that link is very much economic.

While Blue’s piece is on the one hand a celebration of her freedom to make these choices, it is also an implicit acknowledgement that her circumstances are unlikely to be replicated on a broad scale.

As someone who, in over 11 years of living without a car, has taken fewer than a dozen bicycle trips**, I am hardly the right person to say what will get folks on bikes. (Or, perhaps I’m exactly the right person.) But, I do know a thing or two about what it’s like to parent without a car. And I have some thoughts.

On the one hand, we should definitely challenge the concept of the “mom taxi,” both the mom part and the taxi part. It is past time for us to address the cultural (and economic) conditions that chain mothers to their cars.

On the other hand, people need to live their lives. And currently, just getting to the most basic destinations is not feasible by bike (or transit, for that matter) for most parents–most people–in most parts of the country. To have any hope of shifting the paradigm, we must provide robust, affordable***, accessible, safe, reliable alternatives to driving.

We aren’t.

* Or, as I affectionately refer to her, “bike hustler.”
** I am working hard to raise two cyclists, though!
*** And by “affordable,” I mean free.

2 thoughts on “Moving beyond the margins

  1. subversivite

    Hello Bus Chick. I’ve just been introduced to your blog by my sister after I wrote a blog post that is spookily similar to some of your writing – especially to the irrational liking for buses that I’m developing having cut down my car use dramatically. I really love what you are doing and what you have to say. It’s hard to find anything to add to what you’ve already written so well, but that blog post is here if you ever fancy checking out the perspective of a mum in North London:

    1. BusChick Post author

      Thank you for sharing that post–and your blog!–with me. I’ve never shared the bus with a chicken, but I have ridden with a rabbit (and innumerable cats and dogs). ; )

      It’s funny–my husband just (as in, yesterday evening) returned from a work trip to London. He of course came back with a full report about the transit situation. (I’ve been to London once–in 2005–but only for eight hours. We took the Underground and walked but didn’t ride any buses.)

      Thanks again for commenting!

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