How Bicycles Helped My Family

his is the first in a series of posts showing real life examples of how the proposals in AURA’s Transit City report can benefit Austinites.

I advocate for better transit and mobility options so that all Austinites have choices to go “car lite” and reap the benefits of a healthier, greener, and more affordable lifestyle. This is my family’s story of how we have saved money, gotten healthier, and had less impact on the environment through our transportation choices.

I didn’t own a bicycle 7 years ago. I didn’t really think about it, honestly. But my husband did, and he kept nudging me to get one so we could go out and ride together on some of the beautiful trails in Chicago (where we lived at the time). I relented at some point, “letting” him get me one for my birthday about 6 years ago. Once I got back on, I had this sense of “wow, this is FUN!” I had somehow forgotten that cycling is actually really fun (and way faster than walking).

I rode throughout my first pregnancy and only really stopped when it got too cold in Chicago. When my daughter got old enough, she went in the bike trailer and we flew past all the traffic and parking messes of Chicago to hang out lakeside. It was freedom, and saved us money and headache too!

My husband got a job as a professor at UT in 2013 and we moved to Austin. My daughter was very confused about the lack of sidewalks and why she had to walk in the street. For the first time, she also regularly had to be in a car (we did not own a car in Chicago). She was not too happy about this change, and made it known to us, as preschoolers do. We chose a living situation that meant we could get by with one car; we had already had to purchase one and didn’t really have the money to buy a second. My husband was able to take the UT Shuttle, the 1 or 101 bus, or ride his bike to work so that I could have the car during the day.

Mary and her family biking to school

We moved after about a year when we bought a house but again, we didn’t want to buy another car, so we chose a place that would be near a frequent bus line and close enough to still bicycle to work.

Now, we have two girls and we take them to school and daycare every day on the bicycle (except for thunderstorms of course). The little one *loves* the bike and has been known to cry when told that we need to take the car. If the girls are cold, they wear sweaters/jackets. If it’s hot, we just go slow so as to not overheat ourselves. My husband can also put his bike on the bus on those particularly hot summer days. Thankfully we have still not needed to buy a second car and we hardly use the car we have. The car gets about 150 miles/month while we get exercise, time with our family, and cost savings from having one car instead of two.

An added (and unexpected) benefit of all our cycling is the relationships and community that come from going a bit slower. We often see the same families biking to school. We chat and wave. We’ve added another child in our neighborhood to our “bike train” and gotten to know our neighbors better. I was riding my bike last week and someone called out to me and asked if I was Mary. I said yes and they said they recognized me from AURA. These sorts of interactions are hard to quantify, and definitely wouldn’t have happened if I were in a car.

With more options for walking, cycling, and transit, we can make Austin a more friendly, healthy, green, and affordable place.