Pedal-Friendly: only for the privileged?
Today I read an article in Bicycling Magazine, not because I subscribe to the publication but because friends tipped me off that they'd seen my picture in it. The piece: all about cargo bikes, the lifestyle of those cycle-oriented that want to tread lightly on the earth.
Here on urbanMamas, we have often talked about our mamabikeoramama machines, hauling kids, their gear, our gear, all our wholesome foodstuffs, from this place to that, all on our two-wheelers. Amazing, right? In theory, this is all a low-cost venture when compared to the cost of gas, a car, insurance. The $700 I spent to outfit an Xtracycle (done on a 'tight' budget) has paid for itself many times over in past years.
In reality, though, there are many, many factors why lower-income families can't pedal in suit, as much as I dream that they can.
There is affordable housing: often not located just a pedal away from school, daycare or work. Many times, the housing isn't adjacent to safe infrastructure for biking. And, the housing might not be well served by public transit. So, when it comes down to it, that household is still going to need a car, and that $700 to outfit an Xtracycle suddenly becomes a luxury, not a necessity, not a primary mode of transportation. Also, the housing: will it have bike-friendly accommodation - safe parking, easy access the like? There are so many other factors that go into housing, it is likely bike-related needs are trumped for other priorities.
There are jobs: many times, hourly wage earning, at hours that don't allow for longer transit time or at times of day not conducive to biking (say, middle of night? graveyard shift?). And, again, compare the affordable housing location of where the job epicenters might be. Are they separated by miles and miles and miles? Likely. Are their accommodations for changing or showering?
The thought of promoting bicycling as an earth-friendly and cost-effective means to transport our families is romantic. It is a romantic story that I personally have the privilege to live. I realize, though, that there are those out there that cannot. That reality is painful for me; I like romantic stories. There is an organization out there, the Community Cycling Center, that is working on these very issues that I often wonder about: how can cycling really become accessible to all (and by "all" we mean *all*)?
We urbanMamas never mean to be righteous about our velo love. While we want you all to join us in our pedal frenzy, we know that is not possible. But really: how can cycling be accessible for all, across socioeconomic and ethnic divides?