The Green Spotlight!
Perhaps you’ve witnessed the amazing “mommy mobile” in action while dropping off your kids at MCS. Almost daily, Sally Miller commutes the 1.5 miles from her home on bike, with older daughter Ella. in tandem, and younger daughter Julia (red class) following behind in the trailer. The Green Committee spoke to Sally to find out how she pulls off this impressive feat, and why.
Green Committee: Why do you choose to bike?
Sally: We used to be a two-car family. Then one day my husband and I figured out that if we sold one car we would have enough money to pay off the other one. I personally hate to drive and the air pollution that goes along with it, so I make conscious decisions not to.
One way I avoid driving is by telecommuting to work. Nearly 15 years ago, a group of my colleagues and I drafted a proposal to management about how telecommuting would not only save our company money but make us more productive, happier employees. Since then, I've been everything from a book editor, to a product manager. In my current role as a senior database consultant, I am the only telecommuter on my boss’ team. With proper management support and employee motivation, telecommuting works for a broad range of jobs.
As a family, we also deliberately chose to send our girls to schools that were close to our house. Luckily, the Montessori is an excellent school that is also close by.
When did you start biking your kids to school?
It was when Julia started at the Montessori last year. It’s difficult to make a change unless you’re motivated somehow. I like to bike so it works for me.
Do your kids like it?
At first Julia complained that the trailer ride was too bumpy but she doesn’t complain anymore. My older daughter really likes it.
Are there weather conditions that prevent you from biking?
If it’s really raining or if there is enough snow on the roads so that it will kick up into the trailer, I won’t do it. As long as I can keep my kids warm, I’ll do it. I biked all through the winter last year.
Have you had any near accidents?
I have not. I choose my routes carefully. If I had to bike on busy streets I would re-think my decision. I think Salt Lake City has come a long way towards being bike-friendly but still has a long way to go, and I’m not about to put my kids at risk.
What kind of bike and trailer do you have?
We ordered a tandem bike on the internet from Bike Friday (www.bikefriday.com), a company out of Oregon. I liked it for a few reasons. I was attracted to the tandem (as opposed to a trailer bike) philosophically because you’re working as a team instead of one hauling the other around. When Ella chooses to pedal, it’s an amazing power boost. Also, our model is highly customizable. The second seat can be adjusted to fit a child or grown-up. I also like that the bike is low enough to the ground that my daughter can straddle it. You can even put a third seat on it. I call it my “mommy mobile”.
The trailers are amazing. The transfer of weight is such that you can easily haul big, heavy loads. Most popular brands of trailers seem to work equally well. I like the fact that ours is designed for a single child, so it has a narrower profile. Also it connects to any type of bike. You don’t need any special tools. I detach ours each night when I store it in the garage.
What would you say to inspire other parents to give this a try?
It’s fun. I’ll wake up and think, “Uuuh. I don’t want to go to work.” Then I’ll think, “Ah! I get to ride my bike!” For working parents with small kids it can be hard to fit in biking. Now I have a way to fit it in. And I can talk to my kids while we’re on the bike. It’s also a great starting point for conversations with them about why it’s important to choose alternate modes of transportation.
It has taught me that you don’t have to do things the way everybody else does. And it just makes me feel good. I love it when all the cute kids at the Montessori see the bike and come up to me and say, “That’s cool!”