A friend recently pointed out that while we often talk about culture in making walking, biking, or transit more viable options for our transportation, an equally important component may be planning.
This statement especially resonates when traveling with kids. If I don’t make a solid plan, weather, time constraints, and just plain life are more likely to sweep us back into our car. So here are a few ways planning helps us in our resolve.
#1: Plan for secure, convenient storage: I have been absolutely loving our garage for the past few years (see below for how we hang our bikes in a convenient place near the doors for easy grab-and-go) and I recognize what a privilege it is.
But we also spent 7 years in a 3rd floor condo, during which we kept our bikes locked to the bike racks outside. Sometimes, we did have to deal with unfortunate bike part theft, but we learned that a u-lock/cable combo did the trick in keeping it safe. I kept my daughter’s bike seat in a closet so I could easily grab it on our way down for a ride.
Planning for as much convenience for ourselves as possible in the way we store our gear makes a big difference in our active transportation goals.
#2: Plan for gear: As the saying goes, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just wrong gear.” I used to think that in order to ride in the winter, I would need a ton of crazy gear. Now I know that if I keep a few simple items on hand, it’s more doable than I realized.
I also like having flexible choices available for our active transportation. Sometimes, I want to walk to the bus station, in which case our folding wagon is fabulous to hold the kids and fold away on the bus or at our destination.
Sometimes I want to bike with just one of our kids, in which case I like the seat; other times we use our trailer.
#3: Plan for maintenance: Teach kids to get into the habit of checking their brakes and tires each time they go out. Fill tubes with high-quality sealant like Stans Sealant to help fight thorns. And keep a small pump and patch kit handy (consult Youtube if you aren’t sure how to patch your tube).
#4: Plan for distance: I often plan my entire day based on how long my biking, walking, or transit will take me. I start with the appointment time and work backward with the expected travel time, using Google Maps as a general guide.
Though it is true that this takes more time than just hopping in my car, I always see it as an investment because of all the exercise and family time that it builds into my day. Of course, there are times when jumping in our minivan just makes the most sense, but overall, if I’m in the habit of structuring our day to include walking, biking, or transit, it’s more likely to happen.
#5: Plan for making the most of when we do use the car: When I need to purchase bulk diapers, I try to think of other bulky items I’ll need soon and purchase them in the same trip. If there are several errands I need to run, I try grouping them together in one car trip (see Utah’s Clear the Air Challenge strategy of “trip-chaining.”)
During one of our recent trips to University Place via walking and the new UVX bus line, my kids and I got talking about why we walk, bike, and use transit so often when a car is faster. As we passed the holiday/rush-hour gridlock and packed parking lots, we contrasted that with how we were warmly snuggled along the back row of our bus. I told her that for me, holding my little ones’ hands and cuddling, reading, or snacking during a pleasant walk or ride fills my cup (whereas fighting stressful traffic drains it).
And that is worth planning for.