Publisher’s note: Let’s give Shannon a hearty welcome as our new Family Biking columnist. You might recall her from a little profile we shared back in June. Shannon is a 36-year-old mom of four who lives in downtown Hillsboro and I cannot wait to share more of her work. – Jonathan
When Jonathan asked if I’d be interested in taking on the Family Biking column, I eagerly said, “Yes!” Then privately thought, “Sh**! What was I thinking?” A friend shared my apprehension: “But you’re not a biker,” she reminded me.
“If it weren’t for this community, I’d probably be giving up right now.”
True. I wouldn’t call myself “a biker.” (Yet.) I know almost nothing about biking, or bikes, or family biking. But I have a Family, and we have a Bike. (So there.) By Family, I mean I have four kids under the age of eight and I’m pregnant with baby number five. Biking under such conditions doesn’t sound like a good idea. Sitting on the couch with my feet up sounds more fitting. I also feel compelled to disclose that I’m not very strong, and rather out-of-shape, though I’m somehow carrying three kids on my cargo bike, plus baby-in-womb. Let’s just say, I’m not the image that comes to mind when I think, “biker.”
I happily blame Emily Finch. If you don’t know about her, prepare to be inspired: She’s the supermom profiled on BikePortland in 2012 who biked six (or more) kids around everywhere, with no motor vehicle, or e-assist. She’s the reason I got this bike. She’s the answer I found while roaming the internet looking for ways to bike with four children, plus more to come. But, unlike me, I think she’s a biking superhero with a lot more guts, and probably way bigger calf muscles than I have. But even Emily was new at this once too, right?
I’m a total newbie. And my family conditions are such that it feels like I should be quitting, instead of beginning. If it weren’t for this site, and this community, I wouldn’t have bought my cargo bike (used, Craigslist, made-in-Portland, passed along from another mama to me). I wouldn’t have had the courage to try it out, carrying three children in the large front cargo basket, rolling around town, gathering gawks nearly as much as if I were dancing through the streets in a bright red dress and six-inch heels (and having just about as much fun as that sounds!). But, as fun as it is, it’s also hard, especially with pregnancy and heat and feeling defeated by the normal trials of motherhood. It’s quite tempting to park the bike permanently for the year, relegating it to the portion of the garage used for impulse buys that never go anywhere (inflatable kayak, I’m looking at you.)
Indeed, if it weren’t for this community, I’d probably be giving up right now.
“But somehow the bike ride makes me happy. And judging by my kids’ smiles, it makes them happy too. And that makes it so worth it.”
But here I am, writing the Family Biking column. And you know what that means? We have to go for a bike ride. Do you have any idea what that means? It means that I need to become a temporary superhero myself! With powers to make a mean picnic, assemble a gaggle of little people, find at least four pairs of passably matching shoes and get them onto resistant child-feet, fill as many water bottles as we can scrounge, gather helmets, assemble the troops, go potty, remember to pack my cell phone, and whatever else we are definitely forgetting — diapers! — and still have energy left over to pedal somewhere.
I mean, seriously, getting into the car takes basically the same amount of work. And even staying home and doing anything takes a whole lot of effort. Even doing nothing is exhausting, when it involves a two and three year old. But somehow the bike ride makes me happy. And judging by my kids’ smiles, it makes them happy too. And that makes it so worth it.
So despite being new and looking absolutely ridiculous most of the time. Despite all of the mistakes I will make. And in spite of a baby that will be making its appearance in late December, we’re here, we’re going for this ride, and I’m really hoping you will keep helping and encouraging us along the way. And maybe, in the process, we can pass a little encouragement on to someone else who needs it. (I mean, if I can get on a bike in this condition, surely some other hesitant, and otherwise encumbered, “non-biker” person can too.) Hopefully we can also throw some light on Hillsboro and the West Side, share tips for fun family-friendly routes and destinations, and even encourage the development of a few more bike lanes, slow speed limits, and crosswalks. We sure need more of those out here.
Well, if I could raise a glass to the good things to come, I most certainly would. Cheers y’all!
— Shannon Johnson
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Shannon is a 36-year-old mom of five who lives in downtown Hillsboro. Her column appears weekly. Contact her via email@example.com