CARGO-BIKE TO SCHOOL!
How cargo biking can wake your kids up and save you a ton of time
Bryce Weber, Rider Care Specialist at Red Rock Bicycle Co., and his family got a Yuba Boda Boda Cargo bike just a few weeks ago. His wife Jennifer’s broken arm almost derailed the plans, but they decided to move ahead with the purchase regardless. They considered that they would need to get the bike before school started to get into a bicycling routine right away: “We figured that without a routine we wouldn't be able to adjust as easily.” They were right. The whole family slipped into a nice routine, and cargo biking turned out to have some huge benefits for them.
We talked to Bryce about his experiences and reasons for getting into cargo biking with his six-year-old son Orion.
"Orion enjoys being on the bike more rather than just being in the car. The car is a continuation of sleep, which is not the best way to deliver him to school. After riding, he’s awake and he's moving.
Bryce and his wife Jennifer began to bicycle commute a few years ago because the cost of parking at their workplace in Iowa City was high:
“Parking at the University of Iowa is insanely expensive. They are starting to get that here at DSU. It used to be 'come and park for free or get a $5 parking pass. Now, they are increasing to $75 or $100 for the parking pass this year, and this is only going to go up. In Iowa City, the parking pass was something like $300 for the year for the economy lot, and then you still had to take a bus in to get to the university.
“Here in Saint George, it's mainly that we enjoy biking. And you can do it year-round. I think some of it is also enjoying the way to work, the cost savings on parking, the availability of parking which will decrease, and Orion enjoys being on the bike more rather than just being in the car. The car is a continuation of sleep, which is not the best way to deliver him to school. After riding, he’s awake and he's moving.
“Orion is really enjoying the rides. It's fun to have someone to talk to on the bike. When I picked him up in the car last year, we'd ask him to tell us about his day and he'd respond “Nothing, I don't remember.” Now that he's on the bike, he seems a little bit more engaged. It's fun.
“When I first got the bike, we went for a big ride, 10 or 15 miles in the morning, and then later that night he wanted to go for another big ride. At 7:30 PM at night. But you can ride for 30 minutes, still get some miles in, and have some quality time together.
“The only negative for him is that now riding on the back of the bike he can look around, side to side. When he got back on his mountain bike he was looking around and ran into a fire hydrant. After that, he's gotten a little better, but there was a moment of forgetting that he's in control of this bike, not just along for the ride.”
The Yuba boda boda
Judith: What do you like about the Yuba Boda Boda?
Bryce: I really enjoy it because it's shorter than other cargo bikes. It feels more like a normal bike. And we just have one kid, so I don't need a longer bike. I really enjoy the breadbasket, that's super handy right now for backpacks and lunches. Orion will wear his backpack to school, but during pick-up when it is hot, I can put his backpack up there.
I almost wish we had more Boda Bodas at the shop. There are a lot of single child families, I see a lot of cars with one adult and one kid at Orion’s school. You could take up a lot less room with a cargo bike. A Boda Boda fits one kid and lots of stuff.
Judith: How much does it cost?
Bryce: $3,800 for this bike, the Yuba Kombi E5 is around $3,200 and is rather similar to the Boda Boda. You have a lot of options for how you arrange the cargo portions of the bike. Bags, seats, handle bars, running boards, baskets... these are all little extras you can choose to add or not add to your bike.
Judith: That’s still definitely an investment.
Bryce: Yeah. I mean, people spend $2,000 on gas in a year just for one car. not to mention the cost of the car, insurance, registration, and its maintenance. And biking is way more fun.
Judith: You're riding from your doorstep. What factors go into your route planning?
Bryce: Human cargo. Although I think I have a slightly higher tolerance for what is acceptable than some other people. I like smooth surfaces. With its current tires I'm not taking Orion over gravel. But I merge in with traffic for left hand turns because that is all there is in some areas. On some routes, I was hoping for crosswalks, but they don't exist, so I merged right in with traffic yesterday and Orion seemed ok with it. The other drivers were slightly ok with it, they didn't hit me on purpose. But yeah. It's been ok.
I've been trying to stay up on the sidewalks with him a little bit when I can, it just gets a little bit bumpier there and less cared for as far as trees and overgrowth go, so there are a couple of sidewalks I avoid because there are plants growing over the top of them and they smack him in the face. But it's not too bad. I found some better ways around. Some places you're on the side of the road and there are mounds of gravel and huge rocks, so I have to join traffic or take a spill. I am avoiding those sorts of things.
“The time that I am off work to get him from school now is the same that I spent in the car. The fastest I ever got driving my car last year was 45 minutes. That was a 15 minute drive, a 15 minute wait, and then another 15 minute drive.”
Judith: And how do you find your routes?
Bryce: A large part of the major mileage I got during these first few weeks was timing routes, just figuring them out. I asked Ryan Gurr for his input and that's been helpful. Especially from the shop to Little Valley area where Orion’s school is. The bike path has been helpful. Especially when you’re crossing the river. Crossing under the Interstate right now means going along 700 S. If I could avoid that, I would. I've timed it. Going down Bluff and hitting the bike path and going all the way around is just about as fast as going through town and hitting the bike path.
Judith: And you're trying to avoid the short stretch on 700 S under the bridge?
Bryce: Yes, just that one little thing. Going through town there are also stop signs to yield at, and other things that slow me down so I can't just cruise at 18-19 mph. Whereas down Bluff I can ride 25 mph on the side of the road.
Judith: And being fast is a factor because you are picking Orion up from school and bringing him to the shop. And you do that during your lunch break?
Bryce: Yes. I still take a lunch, but just a 10-minute lunch, and then I take an hour to get him. Time is definitely a factor.
Judith: That sounds like a significant commitment overall. Finding routes and all those things. Do you still think it's worth it?
Bryce: Oh totally. The time that I am off work to get him from school now is the same that I spent in the car. The fastest I ever got driving my car last year was 45 minutes. That was a 15 minute drive, a 15 minute wait, and then another 15 minute drive. While they were working on River Road and the bridge, the trip took me an hour to 70 minutes just because of traffic.
The entrance and exits to Orion’s school are terrible for pick-ups. It's on a busy road, and there is only one entrance, and then there are two exits. Everybody is trying to go in at the same time, and no one can leave until the students are dismissed, but the people who get there first might not be in that first dismissal.
They are trying something new, they are stacking it by five minutes, so even grades go out at 2:45 PM, and odd grades go out at 2:50 PM. But it doesn't matter, because everybody is still showing up at the same time. And then there are people who show up early and just go in the ‘do not enter’ lane in the back that's supposed to be an exit only. That was my way to cheat it while I was driving.
Judith: Now your way to cheat is just riding by?
Bryce: Just be on the bike, yeah. I'm still having to lift it over a couple of curbs there at the end, because there is a sidewalk but no way up it, but yeah. I was there too early this last time, it took me an hour yesterday, but I could have shaved off 20 minutes honestly. I was there at 2:35 PM because I wanted to give myself some time, and Orion didn't get out of school until 2:50 PM. I could have left 20 minutes later. I was so worried that I might not make it.
Judith: Do you have any fun goals with that bike?
Bryce:I haven't really set any. I have already hit my 1000 miles a year goal, so I'll have to up that. I want to see how well we'll be doing over the winter.
Judith: Have you had any issues with too much weight on there yet?
Bryce: Not yet. It's noticeable when he's on there. Climbing a hill, I slow down when he's on the bike, with all his books, and bags, and stuff.
Judith: How long does the battery last you?
Bryce: I haven't maxed it out yet. I've gone about halfway down. Yesterday I was a little concerned because I forgot to charge it one night. I was starting at 2 bars. And it's 10.5+14+6 miles. I was fine, but I was worried about it, so I brought the charger with me to work.
Judith: What would you tell other parents who might be curious about this?
Bryce: The cargo bike saves us a ton of time on the drop offs and pick-ups. And I super enjoy it. It is the best way to dip your toe into the Cargo bike waters. Someone who hasn’t done a lot of biking can pick up their kid or drop them off, or both, and see the instant benefits of skipping the long line of cars and being engaged with their kid or kids on the way to school.
“Getting out of that line of cars is totally doable. I don't even have to get in line or weave around them. If they could get rid of more cars, they would have a much shorter day. And there is plenty of room. I was the only one biking.”
Judith: And have other parents approached you about this?
Bryce: Not yet. But the faculty are pretty pleased. I think they enjoy seeing us. Because right now, there are no buses, and there are very few carpools at that school. They have an hour of their day after teaching when they do pick-up. It adds a full hour to their day.
The Executive Director of the school gave me a thumbs up when I rode in. The first time I dropped Orion off I went through the whole car line and dropped him off, now I just skip it and use the sidewalk and drop him off at the end. Getting out of that line of cars is totally doable. I don't even have to get in line or weave around them. If they could get rid of more cars, they would have a much shorter day. And there is plenty of room. I was the only one biking.
Judith: I'm sure parents would be concerned about safety. What would you tell them?
Bryce: I have not felt unsafe. And Orion’s school is probably the busiest place to do the cargo bike pick-up in the city. Very busy, lots of cars there for pick-up, but you can skip all of them. I have a nice shoulder all the way north on 3000 E. It's a little littered with some asphalt, but it's not undoable, and people aren’t going super-fast, because there are a couple of stop lights, some turns in the road, and merging out there has not felt unsafe. People are still attentive while merging with other cars.
There is a stop light when you're heading out of the school and you are going north, and that traffic is pretty much backed up all the way to the school, because that's the way they have to leave, they have to turn right, everybody has to go up to that stop light, and when that stop light turns red, I just ride along by everybody on the side of the road, try to keep smiling and waving and no one’s upset yet, but I certainly get out of there a lot faster.
Judith: So how can one get started with this?
Bryce: I think I need a T-shirt that says “ask me about my cargo bike” or something like that. If you see people out on their cargo bikes, ask them. Even the grouchiest person loves to talk about their cargo bike.
*Interview by Judith Rognli