Is your firm interested in collaborating on a bicycle, pedestrian, or transportation demand management project or program?
Or are you dealing with parking issues at your business or organization? Wondering how to get started (or get your employees started) doing more walking, biking, carpooling, or taking public transit? Or just thinking about your household and owning one less car?
Owned and operated by Sarah Cushman – a transportation planner, educator, consultant and former ASE Master-Certified auto technician – Cushman Transportation Consulting, LLC serves as a source of solid information and help with planning, promotion, and making transportation choices and changes.
- Exploration of individual and organizational transportation needs and financial impacts
- Training and consultations for using – and planning for and encouraging the use of – alternate transportation (biking, carpooling, taking public transit, walking, telecommuting, etc.)
- Environmentally-responsible and financially savvy car maintenance and driver education
- Bicycle, pedestrian, and Transportation Demand Management project and program assistance
The bad news we all know: fuel costs are tough to manage, an average of 19% of individual income goes to own just one vehicle, heavy financial burdens are being put on businesses and tax-payers for roads and parking, obesity rates are soaring, and 40% of local air pollution and climate-changing carbon emissions comes from transportation sources.
But the good news is that organizations and individuals have practical transportation alternatives – that save money and improve public and environmental health.
We (Sarah, my husband, Rob Levin, and our nine-year-old daughter, Cedar) will be bicycling across the country – Delaware to Seattle, or as far as we get. We’ll dip our back wheels in the Atlantic Ocean at Cape Henlopen, Delaware on the morning of April 2. And if we actually make it all the way, we’ll put our front wheels in Puget Sound in Seattle, Washington some time in late September.
This has been a dream of ours for the past 10 years or so and we’re feeling incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to try it – and be re-inspired for the work that we do by experiencing our country at a 10-mile-per-hour pace. We are keeping an online journal while we’re away and here’s a link to our route. If you’d like to receive occasional e-mail updates from our trip, please feel free to sign up for those here (and no worries if you’d rather not add more to your inbox!)
Amidst the day-to-day adventure, I’ll be using this time for some enrichment: informal meetings with local pedestrian, bicycling, rideshare, and transit professionals and advocates; review of various on-the-ground transportation and land use initiatives (suggestions welcome via our online journal!); and reading more from the field.
We’re trying to be good about really being unplugged from work, so I will not be checking work e-mail or voicemail. However, I look forward to hearing about ways we can work together when I get back in the fall.
Best wishes for a lovely spring and summer in the meantime!
Come on out for an exciting new workshop on March 30th – Strengthening Towns Through Great Streets: innovative approaches for municipal leaders! You can register here now.
Cushman Transportation Consulting, LLC is a steering committee member of the Public Health in Transportation Coalition and is co-sponsoring an interactive and inspiring summit for (and featuring) local appointed and elected municipal leaders and staff – and other interested stakeholders:
This is a free event where you can share your ideas and learn from other local leaders about smart, home-grown solutions to transportation challenges.
While serving as the director of Portland Greens Streets a few years ago, I helped organize an annual community-wide Get to Worship a Greener Way Weekend and associated Blessing of the Bicycles, in conjunction with Maine’s Commute Another Way Week in May. While there is often traffic getting to the synagogue or mosque on Friday evenings, car travel is much lighter on Saturdays and Sundays – so getting to worship a greener way seemed like a strange pitch to make.
However, from my experience with folks of various faiths and practices and through my Quaker meeting, I know that people heading to services are taking stock of their lives and their actions. And a number of folks are often already carpooling because of mobility needs, too. So it’s a great time to engage folks in trying alternate ways of getting around. (Disclaimer: you don’t have to be a part of any organized religion to do the same thing. )
This week I got to do a new little plug along the same vein, by producing and distributing a flier encouraging my home congregation, Portland Friends Meeting, to use METRO’s new Sunday service to get to worship. It’s not so new – METRO was able to start Sunday service on all it’s routes in August (previously it was only offered on a couple). As a one-car family, one of us often has to bike separately to get to an earlier meeting on Sunday morning or some other event. Biking isn’t a bad way to start the day and we’re lucky to not have mobility or other issues – except when the roads are slick in winter, rain is falling heavily, etc. Either way, Sunday service is a real boon to local congregations and folks who just would like to be out and about and getting somewhere on any given Sunday. Thanks for making it possible, METRO!
Portland is brimming with folks working on making the region sustainable and the Natural Resources Council of Maine recently produced a report on some of these efforts, titled, Portland: Connected by Nature. It looks at innovations and people connectors and includes sections on local food, waste, livable community, energy, water quality, climate change, and resources.
It was an honor to be included as a “connector” in these pages. Congratulations to everyone profiled and gratitude for the many, many others who work daily to make our little piece of the world more resilient. Sorry to miss the party while in DC at the National Walking Summit!
Note: a version of this article was reprinted in the Fall of 2015 Maine Cyclist, the news magazine of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine.
Summer is in full swing and I see families out biking on all kinds of equipment – some traditional, some not. Our daughter, Cedar, is eight years old now but I remember well that first year or so of trying to navigate possibilities for getting around by bike with a very little person.
On top of that, there are a number of suggestions for when it’s appropriate to start (like when a baby’s head is strong enough) which I found a bit paralyzing, too. The good news is that in 2012 the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition produced a fantastic Family Biking Guide for every stage from pregnancy on up. (I wish this had been out when we first started!)
Bottomline: what works for each family and each rider’s comfort level – and budget – is completely personal.
Just in case it’s helpful, I’ve used the following:
- Age 1-5 – A single-passenger Burley trailer that was passed on to us (I still use it as a trunk for lugging stuff around town – like 80 pounds of tomatoes from the farmer’s market. Okay, that might be a bit over the official weight limit for the trailer.)
- Age 3-4 – An Adams Trail-a-Bike passed on to us. This was great for short trips but more than about an hour around town and she would often get sleepy – of course this entirely depends on your kid.
Ages 4-5 – A WeeHoo i-Go – for about a year of around town commuting and then our 4 month family bicycling sabbatical through Atlantic Canada and Quebec. You can read more about our experience with the WeeHoo and my retrofits for traveling here. When our daughter became more interested in riding by herself, we then passed the WeeHoo on to our friends and god-daughter, Karah – it was perfect when she was too scared to start biking on a Trail-a-Bike.
- Age 5-6 – A Trail-a-Gator to hook her up when needed for about a year until I bought a bike with a front tire that couldn’t clear off the ground. It doesn’t work with all bike models.
Age 5 through the present: We put her on my poor-man’s cargo bike stoker set-up. It’s a Stoker Bar from Xtra-Cycle and a heavy-weight touring/commuter bike and tough rear rack set-up, with a foam pad strapped on. She’s still only 45 pounds, so it’s worked well since she was 5. Our apartment set-up makes it impossible, space-wise, to have a separate cargo bike (plus there’s the extra cost). In terms of having passengers on the back of your bike who have to hang on, go based on how you feel about your kid paying attention. In the beginning, I had her straddle the rack and put her feet in the panniers because I worried about her forgetting and letting her feet get caught in the spokes. Now she rides sidesaddle and does tricks back there.
- Age 7 through the present – We hook her up with a Follow Me when needed. It was pricey but is super solid and fit her updated 20” bike when the Trail-A-Gator didn’t – plus it saved us multiple times a day when we did a 2 week bike camping trip in Quebec last summer.
- [3/1/2016 – Update for 9+ – in December 2015 we upgraded her to a 24″ Islabikes Beinn (thankfully they run a little small). So we’ve outgrown all the standard attachments like the Trail-a-Gator and the Follow Me. Thus, we decided to try a little-advertised and seemingly quirky towbar set-up, called the X2Cycle Tandem Rack. We experimented with it briefly before the snow really settled in and it works, although it’s a lot jerkier of a feel getting towed this way and Cedar can’t totally check out and rest (she still has to steer). She’s not a fan but still wants to ride her own bike as much as possible – so we’ll work with it for now.]
Biking on Their Own:
- Age 3-5 – A cheap pedal-less Walmart balance bike – but plenty of kids get started on them younger.
- Age 5 – She started riding her own pedal bike – again, passed on to us. We’d had multiple small bikes with training wheels and she’d been fairly uninterested – giving them a go every few months for a time or two. Then one Sunday night in the apartment she asked me to take them off and, after ten minutes of flying toward furniture, she was riding. There are kids who are comfortable way younger than that and others that hit their stride riding their own bike at age 8 or older – whatever works. I’m a big believer in not pushing.
Age 6-8: A 20” six-gear bike to get around. Height is as important as the child’s age when determining the best size bike – I like this simple sizing chart for thinking it through. And of course, the final test is to make sure the frame fits comfortably between their legs, with at least an inch of space to spare at the top with their feet flat on the ground.
All the standard safety stuff holds for family biking (maybe more so as a parent?) That is, being visible and predictable and confident with biking in traffic – behaving as a vehicle and following the rules of the road. I highly recommend all teen and adult riders take a Cycling Savvy course (even those of us who feel fully comfortable riding). It’s a great skill-building experience, taught by thoughtful and caring instructors, and a real game-changer as a rider. I’ll make sure Cedar takes it once she’s old enough.
We are also a traveling freak show with our visibility: neon yellow reflective vests worn even during the day and blinky ones at night, bright flags (I love this ATV flag that’s been adapted for bikes) and triangles, orange sidebars you can extend just a bit past your panniers, superflash blinking taillights, reflective material sewn into various pieces of gear, reflective spoke ornaments, reflective stickers on our helmets, etc. It’s total overkill but I notice that my eye picks this stuff up more as a motorist.
It’s a lot of mix & match. Experiment with what works for you and find a way to get out there with your family. It’s not easy every time out there and every moment, but mostly it’s a real liberation and joy! And if you’ve got a set-up that’s really worked for you – please leave a comment and/or reply to my Twitter post.
Hope this helps and feel free to let me know if you have questions or are trying to think through something specifically – we could talk more in person.
A few other blogs to check out:
- Totcycle blog – I’ve enjoyed this over the years and gotten some good ideas – a lot of first-hand reviews, too.
- Here’s a fun list of different family biking blogs – some of which I’ve read and others not.
You’ve probably heard, but the Bicycle & Pedestrian Program Coordinator position was axed from Portland’s city budget for next year – and local advocates have been trying to push back on the decision before it’s finalized. (Which can be tough, considering positions and funding are about to be cut for the homeless, New Mainers, school dental care, and other much-needed services as well.)
It been fairly clear from different Councilors’ comments over the past several weeks that they believe Bruce Hyman (the former Bike-Ped Coordinator – who is, granted, a rock star) will somehow be able to keep up with all the bike-pedestrian work he used to do, as part of his 175 new responsibilities as the city’s Transportation Program Manager.
It’s also apparent that once the position is lost as a line item in the budget, it will take an Act of Congress (well, not really – but likely some kind of long-shot grant funding) to bring it back.
This isn’t a frivolous position – it’s damn important – for all the reasons we know:
- you need someone advocating all the time for the inclusion of bike-ped accommodations in every infrastructure project – In fact, other city staff have expressed deep concern about meeting bicycle and pedestrian project needs without a staff person specifically assigned to tend to those pieces.
the coordinator can (and does) bring in far more in bike-ped planning and infrastructure funding than the cost of the position itself – City staff have put together a list of bike-pedestrian infrastructure projects that were brought in over the past 4 years of the coordinator position and it was about $1 million. And that’s just infrastructure – it doesn’t reflect different study monies like the EPA Bikeshare Feasibility Study, etc. that the position secured as well. Cutting the cost of this position actually means cutting long-term planning and infrastructure revenue.
- a dedicated bike-ped staffer makes things happen – I had been doing Safe Routes to School consulting work in the region for a year before the Bike-Ped Coordinator position was created and for 11 months I tried to track down a bike rack in the city’s inventory for one of its elementary schools. I finally got a “no, we don’t have anything.” Within two weeks on the job, Bruce had found three racks in deep storage and made one available to the school.
- walking and bicycling are low cost transportation options that many city residents don’t just want to use, but need to use – This winter, I was biking in the dark early one morning on West Commercial to catch a bus to Boston at the Portland Transportation Center and I was passed by a crew of workers on bikes leaving their shift at Barber Foods. I suspect they weren’t on bikes just for the fun of it but because they need them to get to work. The position also advocates for equity and access improvements for all, including those of us who are disabled. And there’s no doubt that every city resident, worker, and student is a pedestrian at some point in the day.
- Last but not least, bike-pedestrian improvements are a boon for economic development – drawing both businesses and customers. As one city staffer shared, “There is no doubt that Portland does well economically when we are multi-modal.” In late April the city hosted a visit with the national Bicycle Friendly Communities Program. Its representative was clear with city staff that Bicycle Friendly Community status has become a standard draw for everyone from families to corporations. And that the loss of the bike-pedestrian coordinator position would be a real step backward for the City and the City’s Bicycle Friendly Community status.
There is some hopeful news that’s just surfaced amidst all this. (After testifying at budget and Finance Committee meetings a couple of weeks ago I thought we were at a dead end.) There are a number of already funded bicycle and pedestrian projects in the City’s queue that are not moving forward due to a lack of staff to manage them. A bicycle-pedestrian coordinator could be funded via those projects and complete them. While that might limit what the person could do, that would at least maintain the position on the books and keep it moving forward. Even if it means reduced output, we would be incredibly fortunate for this to be the case.
What’s that mean for those of us who live in the great City of Portland? It’s fairly simple. We need to show up in numbers at the City Council’s budget discussions meeting on June 1st, 5:30pm in the Council Chambers on the 2nd floor. And, during the public comment period you can keep it brief: state your name, your street address and your request that the city maintain the Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator position, even if only part-time. If for some reason you can’t make it (but please try!) then definitely e-mail the Mayor and Councilors the same request.
Thanks to Tyler Kidder, the Sustainability Coordinator at the University of Southern Maine and Nancy Grant of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, Portland hosted a visit in late April from Steve Clark, specialist with the Bicycle Friendly Communities Program (an initiative of the League of American Bicyclists).
There are designated Bicycle Friendly Communities in every state in the country (Bath and Brunswick are listed as Bronze). Places like Boulder, CO and Davis, CA are at the highest Platinum level (not a shocker) – but other cities like Chicago, which lagged behind in bicycle improvements for a long time, have shot up in the rankings due to concerted on-the-ground infrastructure and programming efforts in recent years. It’s clear that a community’s Bicycle Friendly Community status has become a standard economic and liveability draw for everyone from families to corporations.
The application is lengthy and then followed up with on-site 3rd party assessments – one of which I’ve done here in Maine. Portland was disheartened to apply twice for Bicycle Friendly Community status and only get Honorable Mention both times. (And I’ve personally questioned how Bath – where I’m from, so I’m a supporter! – and Brunswick have Bronze and Ogunquit received Honorable Mention and yet Portland hasn’t moved up in the rankings.)
The meetup with Steve involved a group ride to review built projects and places needing improvement and we really covered some ground (route map here). Staff from the City of Portland, PACTS metropolitan planning organization, and the local Federal Highway office also participated in the tour.
This was followed by an in-office consult session with Steve at the Bicycle Coalition. Steve has a broad biking background – including serving as the Bicycle Coordinator for Boulder, Colorado and program manager for the Non-motorized Transportation Pilot Program in Minneapolis. (I went on a bike facilities tour that Steve led around Minneapolis at the 2011 National Safe Routes to School Conference.)
He had plenty of input to offer on ways for Portland to grow more visible in bike friendliness. Even more helpful than I thought it might be – sometimes I feel like we’re all talking in an echo chamber and to the choir – and I admit to a bias of thinking mid-westerners have way more land and right-of-way to build what they want. I found Steve a good mix of grounded and no-nonsense – offering multiple perspectives from his trips around the country and fresh, concrete ideas.
Steve was impressed by all that’s going on and/or planned and funded for Portland, too, and he encouraged us to share more about it all in our next application. He also made clear that the proposed loss of the City of Portland’s Bicycle & Pedestrian Coordinator position would be a real step backward for the City and the City’s Bicycle Friendly Community status. Here’s hoping we can bring the position back asap!