Monday, October 1, 2012

Sharing the Load

Good day readers.  I appologize for the lack of posts lately; just a little thing called the end of the fiscal year kept me tied up and unable to post.  Which brings me to today's topic, time management, and to all of my federal employee friends, Happy Fiscal New Year -- May all of your controls be accelerated, and all of your marks be successfully reclama'ed!

One of the most difficult challenge of being a daily bike commuter, especially a bike commuter with family responsibilities is the time committment.  A daily 50 mile (2-way) commute will easily consume 3-4 hours, and make pretty tired.  By ading the responsibilities of getting the kids ready for school, making dinner, and putting in a full 8-9 hours of work you quickly realize how little free time or energy thre is to do everything else that has to get done.

In this edition of the Family Pedaler, I've listed 4 strategiesthat have lighten my bike commuting time load and allowed me to achieve a balanced life.


Commuting by bike every day for more than an hour each way can be a daunting task.  Mixing up various ways to get to work can decrease some of the milages and time committment.  Bikes are a great solution to the first/last mile problem of transit.  Trains and buses can do much of the commute "heavy lifting" by covering long distances and bridging gaps in the bike-friendly infrastructure.  Leaving the car at home and biking to transit makes it a more appealing option because bikes offer daily exercise, can maneuver around congested transit centers quicker, and park for free closer to the entrance. 

Multimodal transportation requires a little knolwedge of bike-on-train and bike-on-bus rules, and services such as bikeshare reserved bike lockers can facilitate first/last mile biking without carrying a bike on transit.  Folding bikes offer a nice alternative to staging a bike at both ends of transit but come at a premium.  Remember unless you park your car in your office and sleep in your garage all commutes are multimodal to some extent.


When I first gave up my car for the bike and train, I was afraid that I would be stranded downtown unable to respond to an emergency.  Having multiple commuting options eased this worry.  On days when I needed to depart home later than the last bus/train I can ride to the metro station.  I can time my departure midday with less frequent but available mid-day busses.  Having tickets, passes, schedules and knolwedge of how to get to and from many different transit options ahead of time allows me to take advantage of all transit options, improving the flexibilty to a car-like level.  Becoming agile in various transportation modes takes practice but it can alleviate the burden on your family of you missing an infrequent train.


I ride most of my longer rides in the morning when I can get up earlier and not infringe on evening or workplace responsibilities.  I taylor my riding schedule to those days when my wife is free, isn't planning a morning run, or doesn't need my assistance before I leave for work.  Knowing what you want out of a bike commuting regiment is good, but knowing what your family can support is better.  Your family is also adjusting to the sacrifice of convenience that a car commute provides.  The benefits of commuting by bike such as saving money, exercising, and happiness far outweigh the loss of convenience.  It's just that bike commuting takes a little time to get used to.


Think of the extra time you spend commuting by bike as time that could be spent at the gym.  Actually when compared to the time it takes to drive to the gym, park, work out, clean up, and drive home, bike commuting actually saves you time.  This is the story you have to keep telling yourself (like you actually used to go to the gym for an hour everyday), to keep going some days.  Rain, traffic, early meetings, all of them are big demotivators.   On thing that helps me is paking up my bag, laying out my ride and work clothes, and making my lunch the night before.  I always try to keep at least one work shirt and pair of pants at the office for days when I am running late and just have to get out the door.  It turns out that all of those days I convinced myself I didn't have time to ride in, were days when traffic was really bad and I would have made it in by bike in the same amount of time, but If I had ridden I would have been much less grumpy.

Bike commuting is wonderful but it has it's challenges.  Being a father, husband, and surburban denizen amplifies some of those challenges, but by adopting bike commuting as a new way of life and sharing that life with my family, I am happier, healthier and a better family man for it.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Family Pedaler

It doesn't take much searching on the Internet to find local blogs about life in and around DC.  There are even quite a few DC bike commuter blogs that have useful information, tips for new comers, interesting stories and irreverent observations from the bike paths, lanes, sharrows, and streets of DC (Many of them are very witty, well written and informative and I encourage you to check them out in the list of links).  My wife and I have started this blog, "The Family Pedaler" not just to add another voice to the conversation, but to add a different, often underrepresented viewpoint -- stories, tips, and insight from people who are active in DC biking, but ride with their kids, and live in car-centric Fairfax County, Virginia.

In the blog entries that will follow we intend to review kid-toting equipment and local businesses that have helped us along our way.  We will describe great ways we have found to bring the kids along for a ride.  We will scrapbook our bike-filled vacations whether we explore different parts of the country our our own community by Bike, Tag-a-long, and Trailer.  We will also try to answer any questions you our reader may have about biking in DC with or without kids.  Lastly we hope to entertain you with stories from our family life.

Before we get started a few introductions are in order:

"Hi my name is Mike, I'm a civilian employee for the Navy who commutes daily by bike and bike/transit/bike to work in SE DC from Fairfax, VA.  My favorite part about biking in DC is meeting the great, helpful, and caring community of fellow bicyclists and sharing these encounters and experiences with my wife and kids."

"I'm Keow, Mike's wife.  I am a stay at home Mom who as much as possible gets out of the house on bike with our kids.  I also work part time as a children's education program instructor with our county Rec Centers.  I love the feeling of accomplishment I get and seeing the smiles on our kids faces when we reach some far-flung destination by bike."

"I'm Dougie, I'm 7."  "I'm Ben, I'm 5."  "I'm Jack, I'm 4," no Jack you are only 3, "Right, I'm 3."  "We call our bike the Red Streak Express!

Thank you for joining us on this journey.  In life as on the trail with the kids, we may be a little slower, but we are strong -- strong enough to get up any hill that life puts in our way, and I can guarantee we will be smiling when we get to the top.