Friday, August 17, 2012

Beth Casper's New Breeze on Life - Guest Post

By Kate Evans Erickson

Beth Casper didn’t set out to save the world when she became a bike commuter. She just wanted to get a little exercise.

“I saw a picture of this cargo bike somewhere and it was springtime and I was feeling like I needed to integrate exercise into my life better,” says the Oregon mom. “I was irritated by my commute and by having to wake up so early just so I could work out at the gym and I thought, ‘How can I change that?’”

Photo: Beth Casper
The answer: Her Uptown Breezer bike. The extra-long cruiser is tandem-style, with a seat and handlebars just behind the driver that are specifically sized for a small child, like her 4-year-old son. It also has a cargo area that allows Casper to secure a bike safety seat to carry her 2-year-old. The result: kid-friendly, cargo-ready, traffic-dodging commuter magic. Casper can cruise around town with both kids on board and still have plenty of room to haul groceries, day-camp art projects or whatever else her boys decide to drag home.

In the past two months, Casper put more than 200 miles on the bike. Last week, the family went absolutely car-free for the first time, quite a feat when you take into account that this devoted mom is always on the move. Consider her week: Drop-offs and pick-ups of her sons at day camp and preschool; research and interviews for her freelance journalism jobs; trips to the grocery store; play dates; park and library visits and everything else a stay-at-home mom is expected to manage. And Casper did it all by bicycle.

Biking with two kids aboard is safe, she says, as long as the kids are following the rules.

“I’ve had a couple of new challenges this week,” Casper admits. “(The 4-year-old) keeps letting go of the handlebars. And (the 2-year-old) just figured out how to unbuckle his safety seat.”

Always a problem-solver, Casper found a clever way to keep the oldest child on task: “I charge a dollar every time he takes his hands off the handlebars. It’s pretty motivating for him.”

Photo: Beth Casper
As for the toddler unbuckling himself from the safety seat, Casper plans on calling the manufacturer for help finding a solution.

“It kind of defeats the purpose of the seat if the kid isn’t strapped in.”

Originally from Staten Island, N.Y., Casper lived in Colorado and Minnesota before moving to Oregon in 2004. She worked at a daily newspaper as an environmental reporter then decided to stay home once her second son was born. Her husband, Michael, is an attorney and also a bicyclist. He was surprised by Casper’s sudden embrace of biking.

“He was always telling me I should bike to work but I never did.”

Turns out, all she needed was a couple of passengers to get her motivated.

“Some people are huge bike advocates with way more forward-thinking reasons than mine,” Casper says. “They want our transportation system to be less car-centric, they want walkable, bikeable communities, they don’t want to contribute air emissions and damage the environment. And those things are great. But my number one concern was figuring out how to integrate exercise into my daily life. My number two concern is that my kids see that you can bike places and that you don’t have to take a car everywhere. There are other options.”

Kate Evans Erickson contributes this story about writer Beth Casper. If you've got a profile or story about an interesting person or good neighbor who bikes in Salem, we'd love to share it!

(Chalk Drawing on a Salem sidewalk, probably for National Night Out!)


Stephanie Matlock Allen said...

Go Beth! (And nice guest entry by Kate!)

Anonymous said...

I saw a gentleman riding one of these in the Providence Bridge Pedal with two kids on the back. What a sweet idea.

Amber said...

Awesome! We love to see you around town, what a great example for your boys!

Anonymous said...

Great bike! The more Xtracycle's in Salem the better! We need a dealer in town! From one xtracycle owner to another, have fun out there.

Jeff Schumacher said...

Great bike! We are having South Salem Cycleworks put together essentially the same bike for us. It is almost ready to pick up.