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Mnookin: Winter Cargo Bike

I just biked after the first snow on our family’s electric cargo bike, and I’m planning to continue to ride through the winter with my kids.

Additional maintenance and caution are required during winter months, as are studded snow tires and bar mitts for the bike, plus what’s often thought of as “ski gear” - balaclavas, goggles, and snow suits - for us.

But we’re ready to embrace a “can-do” attitude with our bike as a vehicle both for transportation and for enhancing our community connections - because purchasing an “e-bike” and downsizing to one car for the family last summer has been a game-changer.

We’ve already put more than 750 miles on the bike and it’s now the main mode of transport for the children and me - they’re now 5 and 18 months - both because my wife commutes 20 miles by car and because I love getting around by bike.

Our kids love it, too.

In the car, there’s notably more complaining and disappointment, and my younger daughter will insist on clambering into her bike seat before she’ll go inside.

As a climate activist, I’m always looking for ways to reduce my consumption of fossil fuels - a primary factor in the decision to become a one-car family.

But now it’s less about what we’ve given up - namely the convenience of having two cars and the ease of traveling from point a to b - than having gained the pure, simple fun of being outdoors together; magical encounters with a doe, her fawn, and flock of bluebirds; my child’s exuberant greetings for everyone we pass along our bike routes, including other bike commuters, families walking to school, and the “Biscuit Guy” at his food truck.

Add to this saving money on gas and car insurance, no more feeding meters - or accruing parking tickets - and fewer traffic headaches.

Throughout this transition to e-biking, I’ve received support from our friend, Dave Cohen, founder of VBike whose mission it is to make bikes “more relevant for Vermonters and to encourage healthy bodies, vibrant communities and a sustainable vision for our planet.”

By choosing to bike instead of drive - sun warmed, rain soaked, and wind cooled - we’re choosing a different way of being in the world; not changing the world perhaps, but changing our family’s connection to it.

My younger daughter’s choice is already clear - calling for “goggles” as soon as we head for the door.

Abigail Mnookin is a former biology teacher interested in issues of equality and the environment. She is currently organizing parents around climate justice with 350Vermont, and lives in Brattleboro with her wife and their two daughters.
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