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Utilitaire for Moms – Coming Soon! (I hope)

March 29, 2012
by Erin B

Way back at the end of January, Chasing Mailboxes DC started a Utilitaire Challenge.  Twelve places to go to on your bike, a minimum of 1 mile away, six weeks to get to all 12.  It is the sort of thing I would LOVE to join, but it was almost February and we still had a week or two of -50c coming, plus weeks of too much snow.  It really felt unfair to run it when ….  well, let’s put it this way, most (but not all) of the participants didn’t have snow and none of them had as much cold and dark as I did.

The few trails we have up here aren’t cleared during the winter.  In fact, most of them are left holding the snow heap when the plows push all the snow off the street and onto the bike lane.  But that’s a whole different article.

I made a mental note to try the challenge once I was out biking again and just kind of left it at that.

Now, at this exact moment, I’m not biking anywhere.  The previously mentioned cold is mostly gone, but I still have that post viral cough that takes a while to go away.  I’m giving it another week before I get back on my bike, but it is HARD. 

I have been looking forward to biking to pick up my CHEP good food box since I signed up.  Now that I have all the gear to be able to do so, it really bothered me that I had to drive to pick up my food.  I know that most people wouldn’t think twice about that, but picking up the food box is the ideal bike ride.  It is a nice distance.  There is good bike parking.  I have a rack and baskets to carry stuff home.  Perfect, except for the cough.  Now I have to wait two weeks before I can try out the new grocery set up.


Anyway, I dug out the challenge card.

When I really look at the list, it isn’t really set up for stay at home moms anyway.

1. Work. –  I can not bike to work.  My commute it up one flight of stairs, then I’m there.

2. Breakfast or Lunch. – I can’t afford to eat out and there are no picnics in February

3. Dinner – see above

4. Sporting event or concert – the closest I could get would be a puppet show at the library.  However this is likely a conflict with Number 9.

5. Grocery store – I can do that!

6. Any store that isn’t a grocery store – I can likely do that.

7. Community meeting – check!

8. Bike shop – oh yeah!

9. Museum or book reading – as long as using the the library for three of my destinations isn’t cheating.

10. Library – I kind of think that using the library for three of these is cheating, since the whole point is to encourage people to bike to different places.

11. Movie – there is a Movies For Mommies program in town, but it is mostly geared to little babies and women still on mat leave, they only rarely offer kid appropriate movies, and the bike parking is pretty much non-existent.

12. To get your hair cut – In theory, this one is fine for Moms, but the place I go, the place that Little girl will let them cut her hair, is over an hour away on bike and involves a freeway underpass that I’m not sure I would be comfortable bike through.  But that is my issue and not every SAHM has to worry about that.

I think I will try to put together a list of twelve places that would be free to attend and suitable for small children and see if I can make my own challenge.  I think the “Free to Attend” part has to be included.  Commuter cycling is often criticized for being elitist.  You have to be privileged enough to:

a – have a bike suitable for commuting.

b – live in a neighbourhood where you feel safe biking

c – not have to bike through or around any neighbourhoods that are not safe for biking

d – be able to afford house with in a reasonable distance of your work.

e – be lucky enough to live in a place where the weather allows for all season biking or have a back up plan for if it doesn’t.

f – be able to lock up your bike while at work and have a reasonable expectation that it will still be there at the end of your work day.

I recognize that I am privileged to be able to meet most or all of those qualifications.  Even if my route to achieving a bike suitable for commuting is a little unusual.  Most people in my families income bracket wouldn’t be able to rebuild a $20 auction bike, and there is no way I could afford a $3000 Bella Ciao Superba.  Heck, even the Gazelle proved to be out of reach.

But I digress.

If you want to challenge everyday people to bike to new places, you have to (IMO) make that list of places one that anyone could, in theory, bike to with out it costing them money to participate.  Yes, I could bike to a sporting event or concert then turn around and bike home…. but that is kind of rubbing my nose in the fact that I can’t afford a ticket.  Free events tend to be held outdoors, but not in February.

A long while ago, I found this tool:

My neighbourhood is only 42% walkable.  The makers don’t really have a bike score option (that I found).   I was hoping to use it to find some ideas for destinations, however a quick look shows that most of the places it tracks are shopping too.

So, I’m working on it.  More information later.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 29, 2012 10:51 am

    I really enjoyed running the Utilitaire 12 challenge, and I’m glad it caught your eye. (I do wish you would have asked permission before using my images.)

    When I wrote concert or sporting event, I did not intend for it to necessarily by an event that required fee for entry. It could be something like a junior high basketball game or an elementary school band.

    In the D.C. area, we are fortunate that so many of our museums are free, and we have a good mass transit system that allows multi-modal commuting. That is not the case for other places.

    Good luck putting together your own challenge. Like I said, it was a lot of fun and kept the winter blues at bay!

    • Erin B permalink*
      March 29, 2012 1:32 pm

      My most sincere apologies! I only linked to your images. I made a point of not copying them and of course since you have concerns, I have taken them down.

      To anyone who subsequently reads this, the original challenge was a really good one for working people without kids and I encourage you to go check it out!

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