I had the opportunity to chat with a couple of the mothers as I was loading the kids into the long john after playgroup yesterday, and I was left gob-smacked after one of the women said “WOW, you’re amazing!”. Me? Amazing? Far from it. I came home and gave that statement a lot of thought. I didn’t come up with the idea of a cargo bike; I didn’t design or build the bike. I bought the bike, and I pedal the bike. There’s nothing amazing about that. Is it amazing that I made a different decision than the other mothers about our transportation choice? I don’t think so.
So much can be achieved with a slight change in view point. All it took for me was to stop and evaluate the choices I had already made. Why did I own a car? Why do I drive the places I do? And when I saw that I couldn’t come up with some really excellent reasons, I decided to rethink.
“I was too lazy to drive today”
Mary-Ann is a mother of two who lives nearby. While we were attending the same playgroup I used to marvel at her as she walked her three year-old and her nine month old in the winter cold to the playgroup. One particularly frigid day, we were talking about another playgroup, several kilometres away, and I asked if she drove – trying to ascertain whether or not she even had a car. And the answer: yes, but she left the car at home almost all of the time. Too much hassle.
“Oh, I don’t know, I get there when I get there”
Doug is our neighbour; he lives at the end of our street. There is not a day goes by without Doug going out for a walk. He’s getting on in years, and walks at a leisurely pace, and he gets there when he gets there. He walks in the driving rain, the fiercest winds, and the hottest and coldest days of the year. One day I saw him waking with a bag from a shop that was easily four kilometres one way, and I asked him if he took the bus to get there and back. No, he walked, and he had no idea how long it took to get there.
“She gets bored in the car, the bus is much more fun”
Caroline is another mom who comes to our playgroup. She takes two buses and the subway to get there. I used to pity her as I buckled the kids (screaming and squirming) into their seats for the 700m trip home. I used to think “how does she keep the little one entertained for that half hour that it takes to get home?” So I asked her one day – and was very surprised to hear that they preferred the bus, there’s so much more to see and do.
“No thanks – It’s easier to bike”
Natalie is your typical tree-hugger. I had the opportunity to spend a couple of days with her and her family and learned a LOT. They biked to our house, spent some time in the yard talking about organic farming, and then when lunch time came, Natalie biked to the store to pick up some food for us to share. When it was time to leave, it started raining. We offered to put the bikes and the trailer in the truck to take them home (we had a spare car seat for the nine-month old baby), but she declined, saying it would be far easier to just ride the bikes, even in the rain. She never owned a car, had no intent of ever owning a car, and was very happy and confident in her decision. And she lives in our neighbourhood.
Instead of saying no, say yes.
The biggest shift in mind set I had to make was to say yes. YES I can take three kids by myself on the subway. YES it is possible to fit three kids on a bike. YES I will continue to go about my daily life without sacrificing my independence. YES I can do it without a car. And darnit – we’re going to enjoy it.