Traveling by bike is good for our wallets, our planet, our bodies, and even our mood. Britt Tanner, Project Manager for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) and mother of two, knows all this firsthand. At work she spends her time making San Francisco’s Market Street safer & more vibrant and bringing bus-rapid-transit to Geary Street. Before she gets to the office each morning, she takes her two children, Kai and Nilsa, from their home in Albany to the kids’ school and day care. Unlike many moms who sit behind the steering wheel for this daily trip, Britt takes her kids on a bike.
In honor of Bike Month, I spoke with Britt about what family life is like on a bike.
How long have you been taking your kids to school & day care by bike?
We only started biking this year. Before Kai started elementary school last fall, we were commuting with them to San Francisco on BART. Navigating BART with two kids and a double stroller was tough. Once we switched to schools in Albany, we started biking and it’s been great.
Why did you decide to start taking the kids on a bike?
Driving is stressful – I don’t feel that same amount of stress when I bike. You can feel the fresh air on your face and you’re moving your body. You still think about traffic when you bike, but not so much when you ride on the Ohlone Greenway. It’s one of the more pleasant times of my day.
What do Kai and Nilsa think about going to school on the bike?
The kids usually like it. They like seeing the garbage trucks, which they call “garbage monsters,” and they have fun with that. They fight with each other on the Xtracycle sometimes – but they fight in the car too! [Laughs]
What kind of bike do you ride?
At first, we had a standard bike with one kid in a bike seat, one in a trailer. Then we got an Xtracycle with an electric assist and it has changed my life. We commuted really easily with one kid on a regular bike, but it makes things tougher with two kids in both the trailer and seat – it takes a long time to get everyone situated.
That does sound challenging. Is there anything else you find challenging about biking for transportation?
My biggest challenge with biking the kids around on the Xtracycle is finding a spot to lock the bike. The lack of secure places to lock up that bike is frustrating, and Bike Link lockers are not big enough for cargo bikes. To solve that issue, I bike the kids to school on the big Xtracycle, bike it back home, and grab my regular bike (which is easier to lock up) to get to BART for my commute to San Francisco. Other than that, I really haven’t experienced too many barriers. It hasn’t been raining much, so that has not been challenging!
What is your favorite ride?
The Ohlone Greenway is utopia for biking – it doesn’t get much better than my daily trip with the kids! But what’s really special is a trip we take to Point Reyes every year. There is a three-mile hike along a fire road to get to the camp where we stay. Since the kids have been three they’ve biked in so we don’t have to carry them. Now they ride their own real bikes in, and they have a great time.
Do you have any advice for people who want to bike more for transportation?
Two things have made my biking life easier: foldable wire baskets – I have two and they each fit a grocery bag – and skewer locks, which makes it much faster and easier to lock up your bike.
Learn more about our work to make California a more bike-friendly place. Where do you bike? Who do you bike with? Share your bike stories in the comments!