We did a thing and it felt good.

By ‘we’ I mean myself (Lindsay) and the lovely mamas from Commit2Commute, Kayley Fesko and Kim Fisher.

We shared our stories about cycling while pregnant, with babies, and beyond – our children grow bigger every year – in front of a small crowd of transportation planning professionals at the 7th Annual Winter Cycling Congress held February 6-8th, 2019 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Our motivation

While we know that the concept of “all ages, all abilities, all the time” (5 A policy^) exists in their professional vernacular, we wanted to make it real. We wanted professionals to see that yes, women cycle, including pregnant women, mothers of young babies, toddlers, kids, and so on. That we can do this. We choose to do this. And it’s awesome. Most of the time.

But, it isn’t all roses and we need their help.

We want to travel through our cities with dignity and it was our intent that this presentation be an empathy-building exercise of sorts – to attach faces to the 5A’s – to have our stories resonate at a more impactful level than policy on paper. A chance to ask women about cycling through this ubiquitous life stage because while children are omnipresent (in my life, at least), cycling with them is not in North America (yet). Middle-aged men may still dominate the cycling statistics in North America but we women are here, even pregnant ones, even with babies and toddlers, and definitely with kids.

We also want our children to be able to have the freedom to move safely through their neighbourhoods as they grow up. Without us hovering over them. So, we need to keep advocating for that appropriate infrastructure now.

Our hope is that the next time a transportation planner decides to slap a bike route sign up on a 50 kph road with neither speed reduction nor design changes to reduce speed nor separated infrastructure, they will ask themselves “Is that a good design for all ages, all abilities, all the time?” I know many places in my corner of Calgary where if I was in their shoes and asked that question, I would say, “Holy shit, no way is this okay. We cannot do this. We have to do that instead.” Unlike some neighbourhoods in Calgary that are littered with mobility maddening maze gates, some of the examples that I am thinking are not even relics of the past – they are relatively new; one example at the forefront of my mind is as early as the implementation of our famed cycle tracks. I am quite confident that the concept of “5A policy” was not new when this particular example was implemented, but it went ahead regardless.

My only fear of this ask is that perfect can be the enemy of progress. And I hate that my fear is not an overreaction. There is faltering momentum towards the right kind of progress but, overall, the change still seems very, very slow.

The presentation

We first shared what we know. First our backgrounds and our cycling histories, then we each shared anecdotes, challenges, and joys of each specific stage:

  • pregnancy (Kayley, because it’s very fresh in her mind right now being due in a few weeks with her second);
  • babies (Kim, because she’s living it currently with an 8 month old); and,
  • beyond (Lindsay, as I keep biking around with my now 4 and 7 year-old daughters).

Then we started to explore what we wonder and while we were preparing for our presentation, we really began to wonder how our experiences compared with those of others. So we dug deep into our virtual worldwide community.

Photo credit: Paul Fesko

Community

As part of our presentation, we had the idea to crowdsource a slideshow of cycling families and we were absolutely flooded with love from the beautiful cycling community that exists internationally on Twitter.

We took it one step further and sent out a survey for families who bike and received 265 responses in about four days! [The results are here.] We were floored. Our hearts were full with the outpouring of love from this thoughtful community.

And it was so validating. Our challenges are your/their challenges. We are not asking anything out of the ordinary. We all need better connections, better infrastructure, amazing snow and ice control (SNIC). Yes, we surveyed a highly specific group of engaged individuals in the Twittersphere (and some from Facebook cargo biking groups); no, these aren’t the average citizens. But this data is proof that we are out there: families are cargo biking; pregnant women are cycling; babies are cozy in trailers or bakfietsen; and, kids want to ride. And the more this community gets normalized, amongst a plethora of other motivations to get rolling, the more this demographic will grow.

If they build it, we will come. If they build it and maintain it, we will convert fair weather cyclists to year-round cyclists – even those schlepping around babies and young kids.

Conclusions

It was emotional to present personal stories, both the joyous memories and the difficult challenges. But that was fitting. Personally, I felt vulnerable and that is how I feel on the road in certain places or under certain conditions, which was appropriate for the occasion. I hope that was conveyed to our audience.

Some of the people who attended the panel, plus us in front.
Photo credit: Paul Fesko

Here is a link to our detailed outline for our presentation.

And this is our slideshow! Thanks again to all of the lovely families who contributed xoxo.

*As this was the Winter Cycling Congress and we were given SO. MANY. AMAZING. photos, I think we took almost all of the pregnancy and baby ones and then filtered the kid ones down to just wintery pics (otherwise I think the slideshow would have been 400+ slides long!!!). I really should collate all of those pics in to yet a glorious slideshow anyway though, eh? All of the photos we received (except those sent privately) are found in these heart-warming Twitter moments: pregnancybabies, & kids.

*Please not that some images have been removed from the slideshow, for example those privately messaged, texted, or emailed as some who did so explicitly asked that their images not be shared on social media etc. If I missed one of your images (sorry!!!) and you would like it removed, please please PLEASE let me know (thismombikes at gmail dot com).

^5 A Policy is essentially the all-weather version of triple-A or 3A (all ages & abilities). That is, all ages, all abilities, all the time (even in winter). Thus, the SNIC version of triple-A.