Four years ago I had no idea how I would travel with children

Four years ago a test came back positive. I was going to have a baby and I had no idea how this was going to change my transport (amongst other aspects of my life). I had been cycling around like a free spirit and I knew this wasn’t going to be able to continue without a hitch. But what was going to happen? Was I going to give up and buy a massive sports utility vehicle and live my life high behind a steering wheel? Or would I work out ways to stay free of this disastrous cliche.

Well, this week I’ve taken buses, trains, bikes and most importantly my two feet many miles with the two cutest children. My eldest son can hail a bus, mind the gap to the train, ride a balance bike to the park and he can spot a pantograph. It hasn’t been an easy or certain journey and I’m very much still on it, but I’d like to share some stories from the last few years and then keep you up to date with how I am going. Hopefully this will give you some insights and inspiration for your own journeys.

So let’s start with pregnancy. I kept cycling all through my first and second pregnancies. If it doesn’t feel right though, try changing your bike or find another way to get around. You will be able to ride again and learning to accept different situations for short lengths of time is a necessary part of becoming a parent. Having said that, I did find that cycling helped me stay sane and healthy as I slowly stopped higher impact sports.

During my first trimester I was extremely tired and sometimes I liked the look of the bus. However, I kept going with riding to work and I think it helped with some other symptoms, like reducing my nausea. Everyone is different though and I completely understand anyone who can’t find the energy to ride (or to get out of bed) during the first trimester. I actually went on a short cycle tour with my friends and due to my cycle pride I had to let them know that I had a really good reason for being a bit slower than normal. Don’t worry about not being able to keep up with your former self.  You are multi-tasking big time and you are giving a free ride to a foetus. If you want to keep riding but not so much, look at ways you could split it with public transport (bike to work one day and bus back then do the opposite the next day or put your bike on the train for a bit…). If you can’t ride, walking is also great for you and don’t feel ashamed to get off your bike and walk up some hills if you feel like it.

My second trimester was much better in most ways. I felt like I could almost ride normally but I did have a little bump in front of me. I think by your second pregnancy though, you realise this is nothing (after experiencing how big the bump will get). Just ride safely and confidently and you should be alright. At about 23 weeks I woke up in the middle of the night with a locked up knee – I couldn’t straighten or bend it completely and couldn’t bare weight on it. After contemplating surgery and a visit to the physio I was told that riding my bicycle was one of the best things I could do for recovery. Within a week my knee was almost perfect and I was so grateful I was still riding my bike and not having to go under a surgeon’s knife.

The last stages of my pregnancy did present little challenges to most physical part of my life but I kept enjoying my rides to work or wherever I needed to go. I did start walking my bike up the steep hill near my house and avoiding the hill near my work. It was important to be changing positions of my hands and getting out of the saddle sometimes to stay comfortable. My midwife was impressed with the position of the baby and actually thought the position on my bike might be helping. I did start to have a bit of social pressure to stop riding (not from any family or friends though). However, when I thought about how stable I was on my bicycle compared to how wobbly I was on my feet, it almost felt safer to stick with two wheels.

While I didn’t ride to the hospital, I kept cycling right up to my first contractions. After your baby is born, unless you are really lucky, a bike saddle doesn’t seem like so much fun. It is the last thing on your mind, so I hope you are lucky enough to be able to ride while you are pregnant. If you’re not, don’t fret. You soon will be riding with bike seats, trailers and other such fun things which I’ll talk about in another post.

Reflections on the road

Is the transport in india a cross between Vietnam and Kenya?  What a ridiculous question to ask, but sometimes I think these things.  Sometimes I am amongst the various wheeled objects on the road and I feel like I could be anywhere.  People are pushing forward in one way or another, there is noise, vehicles, movement and bitumen.  But maybe this is just me trying to reduce the beauty and culture of the road to something I don’t have to think about, because to be honest there is just too much to think about.  Subtle difference are everywhere but some of them are so hard to explain and that’s why I’m going to have to try and show you in a film instead (and then perhaps you can explain them to me after) :P.

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Beyond the physical appearance of the people, the vehicles and the streets, it is what is going on in people’s head that seems so diverse.  In India I found a place where people seem to be in touch with how they are feeling and relating to their environment and community.  This consciousness which I had only had glimpses of in other countries, was both beautiful and a little intense.  While I did see some people have little realisations while I was asking them about how they felt on transport, for many it seemed to flow from them naturally, like it was something they had already thought about.

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People would be considering the whole transport system as well.  This happened both at a strategic level and a street level.  Interviewees were keen to describe Pune’s transport, the changes that have happened and potential ideas for the future.  The people of Pune were also willing to help others get out of ridiculous intersections, which were like a computer game that involved reversing multiple vehicles, putting steering wheels into full lock and directing traffic to come within a millimetre of others.  People literally got out of their vehicles to solve the puzzle and get the traffic moving again.  So people do think about other people on the road from time to time.  It is not all a self-centred race to wherever they need to get to.  In Hanoi and Qingdao I feel like these considerations of other people also happen but at a less conscious level.

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But in every city I have visited there is definitely a lot of reflection that takes place on transport.  When I asked what people think about while traveling around their city, people would often describe thoughts that go beyond the mundane.  While in transit people have time and space to think and their environment, the dynamics and the community gives them inspiration to bring back memories, solve problems and perhaps dream or plan their future.  Seeing people of different walks of life were reminders to think about family and friends that you might not give the time to.  One girl told me that sometimes when she would see an old woman on the bus it would remind her to talk to her grandma more often.  A motor bike rider in India said he preyed when he passed temples, while another told me she thought about the environment as she passed beautiful nature on her bike.

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There is also the opportunity to clear the mind while traveling.  The speed and intensity of riding a motor bike has allowed people to ‘breath’ after a stressful day at work.  I guess the bus feels like a cocoon to others as they just let the world pass while they are protected and passive to it.  I guess I am having the most distracted and distorted mind of everyone as I travel trying to understand and capture the experience of transport.  However, I have to admit that I too feel my mind becoming free while I glide through traffic in one form or another.

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