An Inspirational Story from the BTA blog about family bike commuting

From the bta blog:

An inspirational article from Angela. Please read and comment on the bta blog website. We need greenway trails, but we also need more bikes on the roads for a safer city for our children.

I need your help to keep my daughter safe

Posted by: Angela
Mar 28 2008, 12:23 pm

I love to commute with my youngest daughter. This is my precious Libby.) Pulling the bike and trailer out of the garage every chilly morning and loading up with toys, computer, lunches, rain gear and everything else we need for the day brings me joy. But lately my own happiness, confidence and safety have been threatened and I’m very frustrated.My daily commute takes me from the inner SE Buckman neighborhood to SW 12th and Market to drop my girl at preschool. Then I head back over to NW for work. Like most cyclists in Portland I’m very cognizant of traffic laws as well as the traffic around me, especially when my kid is in tow. Libby has even taken to honking her frog horn “when adults aren’t safe”.
But, a few weeks back after dropping Libby off at preschool I was tailgated, harassed and yelled at: “That’s against the law!” the disrespectful motorist yelled, I yelled, “No it’s not!”, she yelled “it’s a good thing there’s no kid in that trailer!” Once I arrived at work I had to take a walk to calm down. I had never been openly judged for commuting with my kid so it was a new experience for me to have to reconcile. I spent the day wondering if it’s worth it to have to deal with uneducated drivers who are a far greater threat to my child and me than most anything else on the road. I talked it out with coworkers and friends and came to the conclusion that, if nothing else, that run-in just makes it even more important for me to continue to make the choice to go by bike with my daughter. The fact is that the more cyclists there are on the road, the safer the road is. All was well in mama commuting land until incident number two. On my way up SW Clay with Libby in the trailer I was harassed again. At the top of the hill a tailgating driver buzzed by me, passing in my lane within inches of the trailer and therefore both my daughter and me, and then slammed on brakes in order to avoid hitting a pedestrian in a crosswalk. A block later the car stopped and the driver got out. She glared at me shaking her head, so as I passed I said in as diplomatic a voice as I could summon, “You should really slow down, you’re going to kill someone driving like that.”
And she yelled at me, “You should really find a better mother for that child.”Whoa. Ever have one of those earth-stopping moments when your vision starts to swirl and you feel like everything you believe in has just been crushed?
Thankfully Libby pulled me back to reality by honking her frog horn.Libby will bike commute someday, too.We made it to school OK, I made it to work OK, and then I broke down. How dare anyone judge me as a mother for choosing to make a transportation choice that fits my values and is protected by law? Even Libby has declared that when she grows up she will always bike “because it’s just better mama.”
But how dare that driver threaten my child and me with her car and her words? It’s hard to understand, but this mama bear is ready to swat anyone or anything else that comes near my cub. Because of my recent experience I fear there will be a life-threatening or deadly crash involving a cyclist and trailer occupant in the near future so I’m asking anyone who reads this for help. Get on your bike and commute to work so that Libby and I can be more safe. Also, sign up to participate in this May’s Walk and Bike to School Challenge Month or just bike with your children and teach them to ride safely on their own. Whatever you choose to do, please follow the rules and best practices of the road. And in case you’re wondering, I refuse to quit commuting, so if you get stuck behind me and get frustrated, well, you can just kiss my big fat trailer’s fanny.

My fancy bike trailer

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One Response to An Inspirational Story from the BTA blog about family bike commuting

  1. curits March 30, 2008 at 8:17 pm #

    Angela, that is such an inspiring story–thanks so much for sharing. I think your attitude is absolutely correct; if we stop biking then we are no longer part of the solution, and would thus forego the opportunity to make the bike commute environment and associated impacts on so many other things better for others and our children. It is just sad the stakes and risks are still so high. I hope others will join us to raise the collective awareness of drivers and safety by staying on the bike!

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