Weekday mornings at Lindsay Bliek’s house are a flurry of two-wheeled activity, as parents and kids pull on splash pants and bike helmets. Seven-year-old Marion and her dad, Desmond, are out the door before 8 a.m. The two cycle together the 2.5 km to Marion’s school, and then Desmond continues on to his office, where he works as an urban planner. A few minutes later, Lindsay navigates the Calgary bike trails toward kindergarten with her four-year-old daughter, Gloria. At the end of the school day, it’s the same in reverse, plus more cycling: to swimming lessons, to pick up groceries, or simply because it’s fun.
“I feel like I’m giving my daughters’ teachers a gift every morning by dropping off kids who have cycled to school,” says Lindsay, 38.
She estimates that the family logs between 100 and 250 km each week on their bikes. Even the cold Alberta winters don’t faze the family, though Lindsay admits at “around -27 or -28°C, I can start to have mechanical issues.” A snowfall of more than 8 or 10 cm will take the family off the road for the day. As with most winter sports in Canada, having the right gear — like pogies, specialized mitts that attach to the handlebars — makes all the difference. “Winter is actually a lovely time to ride in Calgary.”
The benefits of cycling extend beyond getting out the kids’ ya-yas before school. The school commute alone keeps Lindsay out of the car for around 90 hours, and on her bike, walking, or jogging for 200+ hours a year. “If I don’t cycle or exercise, I’m not a very nice person to be around. So, as a busy parent, [biking is] how I fit exercise into my day.”
Beyond fitness, Lindsay has also done the math: cycling or walking to school saves the family upwards of $1,000 a year in gasoline, parking, and car maintenance. That’s a significant amount for their single-income family. Lindsay, who left teaching when Marion was born, has been working as a cycling advocate, and hopes to develop that passion into a career. She’s training to become an Active School Travel Facilitator with the organization Ever Active, consulting with local schools on how to increase active travel for students.
Lindsay chronicles her family’s cycling adventures on her blog. More than simply a collection of family cycling stories (adorable as they are), This Mom Bikes is also a guide to the gear and the strategies that have served her clan well on their journeys. “I wanted to pass on the information and research I’ve done because I think a lot of people assume you have to give up cycling once you have kids.” People aren’t aware of a lot of equipment (like cargo bikes, long-tail bikes, or E-assists) that make it possible to cycle full-time with children.
One of the best things about cycling, says Lindsay, is the supportive community she’s found in Calgary, both on the trails and online. “I’ve been welcomed into an amazing group of cyclists.” She recently met up with a fellow cycling mom she met on Twitter. “Going out with a cargo bike is always a huge conversation starter. Really, I choose to cycle so that I’m not isolated at home or in my car.”