Thursday, November 5, 2009

Give us a wave!

Because I am committed to simple living - that is, I attempt to be committed - I am looking at a four thousand dollar bike.

It's true.

Walking to school takes hours every day. It has its merits, many merits, that I don't deny. We go different ways, and stop off in playgrounds, and observe all the gardens, and make new friends. But my double pram is only so big. My kids keep getting heavier. And we have a double decker style pram, so the baby sits staring at the back of the top seat. (A side-by-side pram would never fit in my suburb.) My baby, who is suddenly not a baby but an inquisitive child of fifteen months, is fed up with the view. She shrieks when I put her in, then twists her body and shoves her head out at all angles to get a better look at things. One of these days, I'm going to knock her block off with a rubbish bin or fire hydrant. I could put her in the top part of the pram, but then my three year old would have to walk - and it's just too far for a three year old. She even struggles on a scooter.

The tram costs five dollars just to get there and back; that's ten dollars a day, drop off and pick up, and at this time of year I'd prefer to spend that sort of money on blueberries. Not to mention that it's impossible to fit on a tram at peak hour, my kids fall over when it accelerates and brakes, and the motion makes my baby throw up.

Driving to school is a nightmare. We live in a crowded area with narrow streets and kamikaze drivers; it's what some friends refer to as the Beirut end of the city. And our car is a big, smelly, petrol guzzling behemoth. We bought it to drive up the creekbed into a friend's country block, but to transport a small child to school - well, using the car feels grossly excessive. I do, of course, when everyone's ratty and tired, or it's stinking hot or raining torrentially. But it's not my favourite option. I read of the abominable goings on of Trafigura and other petroleum companies; and little things like oil wars, global warming and my city's filthy air bother me, too. I try to avoid driving as much as possible.

So, what's my brainwave? A new bike! A four thousand dollar bike, in fact. We're looking at a Christiania cycle. It's a Danish delivery bike, and fits up to four children - with seatbelts - in the delivery cart. It has a sunshade and a rain cover, which will make it look like a covered wagon. We can still go through the parks and stop off at the playgrounds, and travel slowly enough to notice the trees in bud. We can chat all the way to school, but without the tears too much walking entails. And when my five year old becomes more confident, she can ride alongside.

It's taken me a long time to recognise that 'green' living might mean spending a bit of money. It doesn't all have to be so terribly difficult - I can go to school petrol free without making it a forced march for tired hot and hungry kids. And, as expensive as the bike is, most families spend much more than that on a second car. So I'm arranging a test ride, and then we'll organise our finances, and then... if you see a woman with three gorgeous girls cycling a delivery bike through Brunswick, give us a wave!


  1. What a great idea! I hope it works well for you. It almost always costs financially to live locally and green, in my experience. Simon continues to shop at the local IGA--it would be much cheaper to go to Safeway. He buys local meat at the market--it costs more. Cheese, same. Locally made clothes, more. In the end, 'cost' also takes on more than the financial. I think you are thinking great things.

  2. Yay!! We don't have a car, although we use taxis and borrow cars from time to time. My husband rides a fixie when he wants to be fast and get some exercise, and either a Yuba Mundo or a geared bike with a home-made trailer to haul stuff. He's picking up 120L of compost and potting mix on the Yuba as we speak! I'm very weak (chronic illness) and use a wheelchair whenever I leave the house, so for places it's impractical to push me to we either borrow a car or use our super-styley home-made wheelchair bike. I swear we'll cause an accident one day when a driver forgets to pay attention to the road in their amazement at our appearance, but other than that it's all good and we get *so* many fun comments! It can take a bit of expense and creativity to minimise car use, but it's *so* worth it when you consider the magnitude of damage cars cause, both to the environment and the community.

  3. What a great idea,I'm excited for you! Looks like these are not available in the US unfortunately?

  4. Mandy: I'm not sure if you can get the Christiania trikes in the US (although I'd be surprised if not), but there are many other options. Try looking for 'bakfiets', or contact somebody like Todd at (in Portland, OR) who may know a shop in your area.
    --Martin (bike freak and Heather's husband).

  5. Hello I'm Peter from psbikes who imports the Christianias to Australia, this just a quick message to Mandy, at the moment there is no one importing the Christiania to US, but if you contact, then she will give inform you about what to do to get one.. Heather, I'm very impressed with your 'wheelchairbike', I'd love to see it, and if you need any special parts or long cables etc let me know and I'll gladly help.
    Kind regards

  6. Hi Alison, I think you may enjoy this article. It's from a talk by a cyclist blogger I greatly enjoy, and who writes lyrically, and his wife on how they raised their children from babies to adults completely without cars.

    And Peter, thanks for your kind comments and offer of help!

    --Heather :-)


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