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Juggling work, life, and three kids — by bike

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

Joe Hagedorn, with sons Cole
and Carter.
(Photos © J. Maus)

[Publisher’s note: This family biking profile comes to you from our newest writer, Alaya Wyndham-Price. Stay tuned for a bike-friendly business profile and other stories from Ms. Wyndham-Price.]

“We bike whenever we can,” Hau Hagedorn said. I sat with her and her husband Joe discussing their family’s commitment to bike commuting over tea this week. Hau and Joe are both professionals with jobs in downtown Portland, and are also parents of three young boys; Carter, age six, Cole, age four, and Hendrik, just 9 months.

This is the story of how they became a biking family.

The couple began easing into bike commuting about two and a half years ago, after Hau decided to participate in the Low-Car Diet by giving up the keys to the family car for two weeks while Joe was on a business trip. At the time, it meant balancing the schedule of her two older sons, her job, and doing regular errands by bike.

One of the many configurations the Hagedorns can put to use.

The challenge was daunting without Joe, but once rolling, Hau realized how much more biking the family could do. When he returned to town, Joe began riding to work as well. Slowly but surely, the Hagedorns began to make regular bike commuting a goal, realizing that their neighborhood (Overlook in North Portland) was ideal for the transition because everything they need — grocery store, library, restaurants, and schools — are within a couple of miles.

The older boys like being able to pedal and feel like they are a part of the family’s commute.

According to Hau, it’s often a better option to load the kids on bikes because they are either active or at least entertained (depending on the setup they use) as opposed to being bored and fussy in the car. The older boys like being able to pedal and feel like they are a part of the family’s commute.

Hau bundled up the kids for
a below-freezing excursion last week.

Let’s face it, kids like to move, and bike commuting is the perfect solution to expending extra beans. (And with three boys, Hau and Joe can tell you: there are plenty of extra beans.)

One thing that really helped them commit to bike travel, explained Joe, was building a ramp and a storage area in their yard (complete with a cemented in, industrial-strength bike rack), which makes bike access super easy — and most importantly, just as easy as hopping in the car.

Friends and neighbors have also been key to keeping the Hagedorns motivated to ride. “We have some good family friends that have been an inspiration, and who have helped us take it to the next level,” Joe explained.

Hau finds the Xtracycle
deck makes a nice
changing table.

The recent cold weather has posed the greatest challenge for the Hagedorns, who also admit that the total daily commute for the entire family by bike can be overwhelming. From home to Carter’s school, the ride is an easy mile, which Carter looks forward to. From there to the younger kids’ daycare and then on to Hau and Joe’s workplaces downtown, it’s another five and a half miles. This distance can be complicated to navigate, but doable in nice weather. But when temperatures reach down below freezing, it becomes much more challenging to appease the younger kids for the long distance.

“We definitely need to work up to getting braver in the cold,” Joe said. But understandably, when the kids are along for the ride, they aren’t warming up like Hau and Joe who are doing the pedaling. So how do they get to work and school when not riding?

“We’re a multi-modal family,” Hau said. In addition to bikes, they go by bus, train, foot, and yes, occasionally they take the car (although they sold one of them last summer). Often they use a combination of several of these modes of transportation during one commute, but bikes are used at some point most days.

Speaking of bikes, the family’s collection is worth a nod (family-friendly bike nerds beware, you may drool a little). Here’s the full list: The Hagedorns own an Electra Townie with an Xtracycle extension, a Madsen bucket bike, an Adams single trail-a-bike, an Adams tandem trail-a-bike, a Chariot bike trailer, a Bobike mini seat, a Bobike maxi seat, two kids bikes, a Skuut, plus two adult commuter bikes and two adult road bikes. Pfew!

With all of these options at hand, their own custom storage system, and supportive friends, the Hagedorns will be riding in snowstorms before we know it. And even if they aren’t, we still think they are pretty awesome the way they roll right now.