Getting to the urban audiovisual festival in Lisbon

Over the last three weeks, I have used more transport than I like to think about. But it was for a good cause and it wasn’t taken lightly. I am still not sure it was worth it and maybe you have your own opinions, but I am currently on the other side of the world to my home and I need to make the most of it. We came all this way to show a film, see the potential for collaboration with other filmmakers and academics and to visit family.

Three years ago we came back from spending four months in Spain, prepared to avoid too much plane travel in the future. Since then, we had one more child, I finished my film and I’ve been struggling to work out what to do next with my film and my career. My film was unsuccessfully entered in more than twenty film festivals and sent to dozens of transport academics and practitioners, before finally being accepted at the urban audiovisual festival in Lisbon, Portugal. I was suddenly faced with the opportunity to finally present my film at a festival, discuss the film with an informed audience and potentially find people to work on future projects with. I was also faced with a flight to the other side to the world.

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After unsuccessfully trying to persuade my husband to take three months of unpaid leave so that we could make the most of the flight and potentially test out some of Europe’s finest cycling tracks, I struggled with the idea of a short trip to Europe. I felt quite sick at the idea, but I also saw the opportunity to not only show my film but also to introduce my children to the Spanish side of our family and potential to get us speaking a bit more Spanish. The relatively short distance between Madrid and Lisbon pushed me towards ‘sky scanner’ and I suddenly found myself hunting reasonably priced plane tickets.

With a click of a button you find yourself about to be involved in a massively polluting activity. I had decided to book my tickets to stay for one month and then let my husband work out if and when he would come. This meant a long long haul flight with a 1 year old and a 3 year old by myself. Remembering the trauma of two parents taking our 1 year old on a similar flight three years earlier, this seemed quite insane. I am not sure if I was searching for some kind of nemesis for thinking my film was worthy of flying.

So I survived the flight, thanks to some magnetic blocks, a toy dump truck, countless walks around the plane, a couple of siestas and my breasts.  I still am not sure if I had jetlag because I was so caught up in the jetlag of the children and so tired from the trip, sleep could come any time that I could find the time. After a week of touring the playgrounds of Madrid, we were travelling again. This time I chose not to use the plane…

To get to Lisbon, we would visit the beautiful cities of Caceres and Merida, travelling overland in between. Now the train line in this part of Spain, is known to be unreliable, and we still don’t know what kind of animal we hit, but our trip to Caceres was an hour late. I was travelling with my mother-in-law who used up all her phone data on the train showing Dante Peppa Pig. The next day we had a quick walk around the walled city (which was stunning), before the objectives of the day turned towards croissants and playgrounds (which we struggled to find). Tourism with children makes you see the stunning streetscapes and architecture through your peripheral vision, with more pressing concerns being food and play.

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We caught the train to Merida, and enjoyed the arid landscape with scattered trees and rocky hills. There was also amazing amounts of produce being grown, with cherries and olives and all sorts of orchards. The temperature in Spain was finally reaching the ridiculous heights of summer where shade is a survival tool. This meant hibernating until around 7pm and even then we felt the Sahara was close by. We found a playground and some food before heading back to the apartment for dinner and bed.

The next day we woke up early enough to visit an aqueduct and Roman amphitheatre before the heat became too much and we sought shelter in the bus station. The kids played and we tried to find a balance between giving them the opportunity to let out their energy and the general peace of this place of waiting. After a couple of last minute toilet emergencies, we got on the bus to Lisbon. The children were exhausted and quickly found ways to fall asleep almost all the way to the bus station of Lisbon. We had made it!

The next problem was trying to work out what transport to use and how to get tickets. We ended up paying for each transport individually but I would recommend people buy a transport card as soon as they arrive. I won’t go into the details of our accommodation issues but we moved to another place the next day after walking through the enchanting streets of Alfama and yes, searching for a playground. We had a couple of days of site seeing and working out how compatible different modes of transport were with a pram. Indeed walking the narrow steep footpaths proved a challenge at times.

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The day before my screening, I dashed off to the festival to see “All else being equal” https://vimeo.com/309867679. After a last minute feed and a sprint to the metro I just missed the route planned by google. Instead I decided to get off at a metro stop a couple of kilometres away and walk. The place I found myself after coming out of the metro was nothing like anything else I had seen in Lisbon. There were wide long roads, surrounded my fields of no mans land, beyond which were basic tall apartment. While I had a memory from the map to help me guide my way, I had no idea where I really was and I started to question whether I was safe or whether I needed local know-how to go through this neighbourhood. I walked and then I talked … in Spanish to an old couple at the bus stop. I followed their Portuguese instructions and found myself at Marvila Library. I felt like I had conquered something – whether is was fear, confusion or just a slight transition in my relationship with the streets, it was a good feeling.

The film showed transport from the perspective of woman, with a focus on the issues that tend to be more prevalent for women – from the fear of sexual harassment to the challenging transition between getting children ready and out the door to transporting them through the city. It was well shot and I could see some similarities to my film with a focus on the human lives in transport. I retraced my steps (with a different stride to my lost little lady moment earlier) to get back to my wild children, who were half asleep.

The next day was my film. We arrived super-early and let the children go a little wild in the library. There were only about 25 people who came to watch my film and I felt quite disheartened at that moment. If one person had turned up for every hour of travel I had made with two children to get there, there would be more people in the room. However, I just sat back and watched my film and listened for the reactions in the audience. I felt relieved when I heard the first laughs, because I had feared this audience might be a bit serious.

After the film, there were questions and comments. The first question was about the women who weren’t in the film, those that struggle with transport. While there are a few mentions of small struggles, my film had a focus on the positive experiences of our time on transport – it’s not a complete picture, but it’s a bit of a celebration, just like cars tend to be celebrate in the media. There was a lot of praise and discussion of liminality and non-spaces. There was even the mention that the film should be mandatory viewing for all geography and architecture students. It was interesting to hear discussion about my film that went slightly over my head. There were also questions about how I chose the chapters and what was my aim in making the film. I enjoyed the discussion and I have to keep remembering that when I question why I came so far.

That evening we were waiting in the chilly Lisbon air on the platform for the ‘hotel train’ to take us back to Madrid. We had a cabin to ourselves in Coche 3. Asking around for where might Coche 3 line up, I met a man who hadn’t slept for 36 hours and was waiting for a train back to Porto with a story that was too long to tell me there and then. But when the train arrived we had a pram, suitcase, backpack about 50 metres between us and Coche 3. We arrived to the door and started trying to get everything inside with haste. However, the pram was too wide and we created a bottleneck of baggage. It was all a bit hectic, and if you are ever taking a sleeper train, I recommend keeping everything narrow for entry.

When we were finally on board and moving, the children got quite excited by the cabin, the little cup holder next to the bed and the bed light. I managed to squeeze Tasio’s port-a-cot between the bunk beds while Dante was taking sips of water and turning on and off the light. Eventually they settled down to sleep while I found myself quite unable to. Perhaps it was the rattling shaking train or the glimpses of different lights through the window, or perhaps it was the feeling of not being sure where I am. As the train went through places I have never visited, I wondered where  I was and where to next for my film and for me.

 

 

Parenthood, what you learn beyond the colour of poo

This is not my typical post because it has very little to do with transport. However, I am going to be self-indulgent and tell you what’s on my mind…

I’m the mother of two adorable boys, the youngest is 15 months and I’m currently looking for a job. So when I get a chance (when a miracle happens and they are both asleep at the same time), I go online and see where and how I can twist my resume and skills to fit a job description. Having spent too long at university without putting my heart and soul into specialising in anything, it’s not always easy.

However, while I’m contemplating the selection criteria, I can’t help but being drawn to the experiences I have had and the skills I have learnt during my time as a parent. I have had to deal with competing tasks (dirty nappies, burning dinner and a toddler who has latched onto your leg with the grip of a leech), negotiate with difficult stakeholders (a three year old with a death wish at a busy intersection), researched (everything from rashes to how to stop your child becoming a tyrant), worked well in a diverse team (my hubby and I), developed innovative solution (fitting bikes, balls, scooters, snacks and shopping in a pram and the list goes on with project management and communication skills that will knock your socks off. Then I wonder what the recruiters would think and I go back to writing my boring experiences in the workplace knowing these don’t really reflect the potential worker I’ve become since being a Mum.

But perhaps I shouldn’t and the talents gained while taking on a caring role should be smiled upon in searching for an appropriate person for the job. My ‘gap’ in my resume should be seen as a time of upskilling, becoming the ultimate generalist with the patience and motivation to move mountains. I have also come to learn the perspective of the parent and being interested in transport planning (among other things), this has been invaluable in giving me a greater appreciation of accessibility issues. Spending much of my time with one child who is constantly coming out with crazy connections, and another who will make me laugh without saying anything, it frees your mind to actually be creative and exciting in ways that a normal workplace can’t facilitate. My poor husband has to listen to my next crazy theory or initiative after arriving home exhausted from work. And while most of my ideas are in a development phase with no deadlines, occasionally I manage to do something that I hope gives value to the world without having to be in the working world.

So, with Mother’s day around the corner I wanted to write this down for all the parents out there (mums and dads) who have taken time off work, I just wanted to tell you that while you are appreciated (mostly) by the small people you care for, and perhaps you grapple with your status (am I on parental leave, unemployed, a stay-at-home parent?), you are becoming more employable in my books. I actually don’t like to judge people by how much that can contribute to the formal economy and perhaps my books are not the reality, but if recruiters could see past the work history and examine life experiences I think they would be knocking on the doors of every playgroup.

So I’m not encouraging you all to have children. In fact, for most of my life I was dead set on not producing progeny. However, for those of us that do, particularly for the men who often miss the opportunity, I recommend taking some time off if you can afford it. When you consider that we don’t understand how life began and the human species often forgets how crazy its very existence is, a child will teach you so much and make you want to be more curious and grateful.  And even if these things can’t get to a job (because perhaps our idea of work is all wrong), they will certainly help you complete the selection criteria for being a good person.  (Sorry for the cheesy ending, you can blame the hormones).

 

Baby on board – balancing babies and bikes

If you can even look at a bicycle seat in the weeks following childbirth, well done to you and your miraculous perineum. For a couple of months I just pretended that I had never ridden a bicycle and it made me feel all the more comfortable with my fragile bundle of joy and my even more fragile bottom. But this feeling doesn’t last and after a few months I went for a couple of solo rides for some fresh air and all the other good things that go along with being on a bicycle. Then I started contemplating how I was going to bring my baby along for the ride.

My researched started by just observing the brave men and women who had a small child somehow attached to their bicycle. I became fixated on the idea of having my baby in front of me. With him between my arms it somehow seemed like it would be the safest and cosiest way to go. I figured I’d still be able to put panniers on my back rack and this would allow me to even do the shopping by bicycle. I started to admire the people with such a set up and planned my comeback. I excitedly walked my bicycle to the local bikeshop (because I didn’t want to ride with Dante in the carrier) and asked for them to fit my bike with an attachment for a yepp mini. They looked at my touring bike and told me it might be tricky but said they would give it a go. To cut a long story short, after about five visits to the bike shop, I finally brought home the seat and put it on my bike. I soon realised I couldn’t straddle the bike because the distance between my seat and the baby seat was too small. I would either be having to dismount my bike every time we stopped or put my seat down so low I could straddle my bike while seated. Or I just wouldn’t use that bike seat and it would sit in our garage for three years gathering dust. I went for this option because I didn’t like the idea of compromising my stability and confidence in my ability to ride safely while I had a baby on board. I’m sure that other bikes and bike riders can make this configuration work but I couldn’t.

Meanwhile, I started carrying my baby on my bike on my back in the carrier (mainly because I got sick of walking my bike to the bike shop). He really liked it and I would try and I really liked that because he was attached to me, I didn’t have to worry about him falling when we were stationary. It was also great for him to sleep and give me cuddles. Hills were alright because he was still quite light and in general I felt quite confident. It isn’t legal in Australia to do this though and I did worry a bit about how safe he would be in a crash, but no more than some of the other ways of attaching a baby to a bike. I did come across a carrier with a shell type structure that might help get around my safety concerns.

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I remember at university a friend of mine asking me if I would ever put a baby in a bike seat on the back of my bicycle.  At the time I said no because I couldn’t actually ride a bicycle myself. I claimed it was because it was too unsafe, but I was just saying whatever I could so I wouldn’t have to admit that I couldn’t ride a bicycle to a guy I liked. Fifteen years later, I was working out the safest bike seat to prove my younger, less informed self wrong. I opted for the Hamax caress because it looked solid, had suspension to stop my baby getting shaken, and you could even tilt it back for when my baby started to doze off. I also met a couple with one and they seemed to be cool and well-informed. I bought it online to avoid the dreaded trips to the bike shop and assembled it quite easily. The only problem was the distance between my saddle and the baby seat was almost non-existent so the ability to tilt it backwards became a non-feature for me.

I had every intention to try first with a sack of potatoes to avoid my first wobbly revolutions involving a baby’s life.  However, I didn’t have any potatoes the day the bike seat came but I did have a baby. He survived as I slowly adjusted to his weight load sitting up high on the bike. With momentum on the flats I barely noticed and my previous experiences dinking probably helped. However, going up hills or coming up onto the pedals (off the seat) for any reason were a bit of a shock. It also shocked my baby and he had a good grumble everytime the bike rocked with my swaying effort. I resigned to stay seated on the uphills and just let my gears and my solid grip keep me balanced and get me up the hills. Stopping and starting were also a trick, working out how I could lean it against a wall or how I could somehow balance it on me. I had a kickstand but I couldn’t trust it completely once the weight of my son was on the bike.  I’m not sure what the best tricks are, but I just found a way to make sure the bike would be leaning on me and I would be able to stop any potential fall. Sleeping was an issue though as the initial gleeful giggles turned into sleepy grumbles, he would startle himself awake as he couldn’t lean back properly. If the reclining function had worked it may have been a different story but I ended up more than once putting him into the carrier towards the end of the ride.

Then there was the problem of panniers. Ever since I discovered panniers, I was emphatic in my dedication to these spacious bags you could clip onto your bike. I had shopped, toured and even moved house with the help of these wonderous sachels. But now, there was no space on my rack for my beloved panniers. Initially I resorted to clipping a small bag onto the back of the bike seat in a very unconventional manner. It sometimes worked but it was very clumsy and limited. Eventually I bought a front rack and some smaller bright yellow panniers to go with it. It worked well and I could pretend to be touring if I didn’t look behind and notice a small person there. I kept riding with this set up (including riding up our hill) until a few days before my second baby was born. By the end, even with a big belly, I was feeling stronger and longing to keep this configuration. I could carry my toddler wherever we needed to go, and even put the bike on the train to go further. Alas, I went into labour early and my days of riding with one attachment were virtually gone.

I spent many hours staring at online bicycle catalogues, between trailers, cargo bikes and everything in between. Should it fold up, convert into a pram, have three wheels, or two, handle well, be able to fit onto a train, be heavy or light, carry lots or just enough, be good for the rain, the wind, hills, siestas? I probably over thought the prospects of how I would carry two kids on a bicycle. In the end I went with a Thule chariot and while I searched for a secondhand one I ended up buying it new. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to have once extra bike trailer in the world. So far, I have enjoyed pulling my two children. Momentum is amazing – when you first start off you feel like there are a couple of logs dragging behind you, but then you forget there is anything at all and sometimes it even gives you a kick along when you go slightly down hill. While we are moving swiftly the kids tend to be happy, but they hate stopping and starting and the problem with two kids together in a confined space is they have to cope with each other. Well, sometimes they entertain each other which is fun to hear. Uphills is a slog but the stability of the extra wheels on the trailer mean I’m not trying to pedal and virtually trackstand at the same time. By the time I’m home they are usually both asleep and I can’t believe how angelic they look. I can get out of my seat and I can use the panniers which is great (I prefer to keep the trailer for the kids and light things and use the panniers for anything heavier). Getting in and out is not as easy as I first thought with my bike falling over as a jiggle the kids into the trailer. I have learnt to lean it agains a wall or something solid. As for converting it into a pram, it’s possible but sometimes I’m flighting with the bits to make it work. I’m sure there are more pros and cons to this and all the other bike configurations I’ve tried. I’m keen to hear about yours so please comment (I am trying to put together a more general list of configurations for bikes with babies and may put together a survey but in the meantime check out https://thismombikes.net).

Taking baby steps to getting back on your feet after having a baby

I wasn’t good at pronunciation when I was a child. So I get told the story of how I was insisting on going in the troller while my Aunt kept trying to tell me it was a stroller. I ended up frustratingly saying, ‘OK I want to go in the fram‘. Prams, strollers, carriers, backpacs, arms, shoulders and the shopping trolley, call them however you like, but they have all come in handy for my expeditions on two feet with my little ones.

I was so excited to be able to walk again (and see my toes), that I went for a walk to the beach the day after I got home from the hospital. This was probably not a good idea  because you need time to relax and heal after giving birth. But I did love getting back on my feet and finding a bit of rhythm and fresh air to make me feel alive. So, when you feel the time is right, get walking with your baby, but take it easy and enjoy the places closest to your house to start with.

What to carry the baby in?

We had a bassinet pram for our first baby and it was great for the first few of months. It doubled as his bed at night and we could go out walking, have some dinner, come home and put him next to our bed without him waking up. The bassinet is also good for them to be able to have some time to stretch and play on their backs which I regretted not having with my second baby. Instead by second baby has become all too familiar with what I’m wearing, as he is often snuggled against my shirts in a carrier.

At some point we realised that we wouldn’t be able to keep our first born in this convenient multi-tasking bassinet for the rest of his life and we found ourselves with a pram he could sit in, slouch in, put his feet up on the handle bar and finally become a little houdini and slip out of the seat belt and climb out of while it was moving! I am no pram expert, and everyone will want something different from them (facing you, facing the world, lightweight, lots of space, storage space, easily stored, trendy, can leave it anywhere and no one will steal it.. and the list goes on if you drink coffee) so I’m not going to review different prams etc. We live on a hill so I was just excited to see that prams have leashes to stop you having to chase runaway prams down steep streets. Our street is so steep I actually had to make sure blood didn’t rush to his head when we climbed up.

I was also excited by the built-in storage capacity. I have carried almost all my groceries in prams since I became a mum and learnt how to play 3D tetris to fit a weeks worth of shopping in the bottom of the pram (sometimes I kick the toddler out and it turns in to one mighty shopping cart). I have occasionally had library books and pasta fall out onto the road while I’m trying to mount the kerb, but in general the pram has held together through all the abuse I have thrown at it. I have even used it to move furniture! I almost feel like I wish I’d had a pram without having a baby, they are very handy and make car drivers more careful around you.

If you go down the baby carrier path, when you have it on, it’s this amazing feeling of constant snuggles and adoring looks beaming up at you (it can feel a bit too cozy in summer though). You will also start to put a bit more bounce in your step, realising you have become a walking talking bouncer with a heart beat. You will also have to work out how to put it on. Depending on which one you go for, you will be testing your material management skills or whether prenatal yoga has paid off and you can actually tighten the straps, that are at the point on your back that is the most difficult to reach. Several times I asked people to help and they loved the chance to have a small interaction with a baby and to feel helpful in a world we often feel unhelpful to the strangers around us.  Just a word of warning, unless you are happy to go to the toilet while wearing a baby (which I soon discovered that I was), go before you put them on – that extra pressure on my bladder would often hit the spot that made me need to rush for the closest public toilet, or any establishment that would let me use their facilities with a baby strapped to me.

One day this back clipping business was just not working for me at all – my fingers were feeling numb from the effort. So in an effort to fight of a baby blue moment, I looked up videos of how to put the baby on your back (that way I figured the clip would be on the front and all would be good). So kneeling on the bed surrounded by cushions, I twisted and contorted until I managed to shuffle the baby and the front of my shirt onto my back. I raced off to the shops hoping there would be no reason to get my baby off my back because I had no way of getting him back on. And then I had this amazing feeling of being a teenager wearing a backpack in love with a band called gerling. I felt slightly free for the first time since I had become a mum and it felt slightly wrong that it was because I was equating my baby with with vegemite sandwiches, disorganised folders and all the other inhabitants of my school backpack.

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Then you have the option of wearing them in front of you, which is a favourite amongst the dads. It’s less snuggly but a whole lot more playful as you can pretend that you are a robot being controlled by a smaller, more human version of yourself, neon genesis style. Or you can just enjoy moving their arms and letting them shudder with the excitement of seeing the world hovering a metre above the ground with their legs dangling in space.

Whatever way you end up carrying your baby be aware of your back and try and make sure things are adjusted to be as comfortable for you as possible. Afterall, hopefully you are going to be walking everyday so it’s worth getting it right

No gym membership required

Since having my second baby I have done almost no other exercise other than walk. And while I don’t have a perfect figure or fitness, I’m pretty happy with where I’m at. I love that my exercise starts the minute I leave my house and it varies with the terrain and the kids (sometimes it’s more of an exercise in patience when my toddler starts stopping to examine every pipe he sees). And while the hill to our place is a killer, it gives me time to work on my strength and will (especially when I’ve bought over 20 kg of groceries) and tell myself that this is all good training for climbing in Tasmania or the Pyrenees. And while I don’t have a gym instructor barking at me to keep going, I get lots of encouragement along the way. It gives me a confidence and makes me believe I deserve all the chocolate I bought down the street.

Getting familiar with your neighbourhood

I thought as a cyclist I knew the streets around me quite well. But as a lady from Berlin pointed out in my film, it’s not until you start walking that you really notice the little things – the details that make you really feel part of your neighbourhood. Firstly, you will want to become a close penpal of the council as you see all the missing footpaths, pram ramps, pedestrian crossings, cars parking over footpaths and many other impedimence to a safe and pleasant walk. Do it! Write to them, call them up. It might be a chance to talk to an adult during the day, let off some steam and they will listen to you because everyone has a soft spot for sleep deprived mums. Beyond this, you will notice lots of interesting and banal things, like where the shadows fall at different times of the day in different seasons. You will know the faces of more and more of the people you pass and the buildings, the cracks in the pavement, the trees, the slopes, the windows and much more.

On the days I don’t walk, I feel like I am missing something. So, if you have a baby  remember you are only one step away from some fresh air, exercise and maybe even sanity. And if you don’t have a baby, see if you can borrow one to take for a walk. People look differently at you when they think you have a baby and then differently again when they see your pram actually contains five months worth of soft plastic you are returning to the supermarket.

Can you be too young to take the bus?

Before I went into labour, I had ideas about taking the bus to the hospital to give birth. To cut a very long and painful story short, those ideas didn’t become a reality. I also didn’t take the baby home by bus. However, days later I found myself returning to hospital (as you do), and I took the bus!

Before taking the bus I had looked all over the internet for rules or advice about taking a new born baby on the bus. I had even contacted the local transport authority. There was nothing to say you couldn’t take the baby on the bus, but there was nothing telling you how to do it. Meanwhile, people pay good money to get car seats fitted by experts so it seemed like there was a bit of a mismatch of advice on care in our community depending on how you travelled. I don’t have all the answers but I can at least tell you about my experiences.

The first time I took the bus with my little one, I took a car capsule. Short of bringing the whole car attachment, I found a way to wedge the capsule between me and the seat in front with the baby’s head towards the front. It felt quite safe and while I was in the bus it was comfortable enough. However, carrying a capsule around is hardwork and unless you have the pram for it, I would be reluctant to do that again. In spain, we actually came across a a baby seat integrated into the bus, although it wasn’t such a hit with my baby.

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Instead, the next time I took him in a carrier, huddled again my chest. It was a baby bjorn so had a bit of structure to it but I was still very wary of what way we might be flung if the bus stopped suddenly. If you choose to take a baby carrier, just be aware of what’s in front of you and possibly hold onto a bar or handle. This will help cushion the impact, if something was to go horribly wrong. You could also put the nappy bag between you and the seat in front to give an extra layer of softness. I often sit in the priority seating at the front where you are sideways and take the seat closest the back. In general though, it feels really fine having your baby close to your chest and once they get a little older you can start to look out the window together, or just spend the time entranced by your babies smile. A bus has only once slammed on the brakes with such force that it scared my baby. I was holding on and the baby didn’t get hurt at all.

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Then comes the pram… The first time I caught a bus with a pram I was worried I wouldn’t be able to even get the pram on the bus without tipping my baby off. Luckily, these days most buses lower the platform for you and it’s only a small step up.  Once you’re one the bus you need to look for the seats facing sideways that you can flip up to make room for your pram. Always park your pram backwards and as close to the front of this section as you can. Once you’ve shimmied your pram into place, put on the brake and use the belt to secure your pram (usually put it around the handle bar). Then sit near your pram and I usually thank the driver for not leaving until everything is secure. Where we live you have to tap on and off and these days I leave that to my toddler to do, but if it feels like a juggle to get your card out while you have the pram, just wait until it’s secured to deal with payment. Most bus drivers are pretty nice.

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You can either leave your baby/toddler in the pram or for the older more curious ones, they might want to get out and look around. My toddler has established a love of the front seat near the door, so he jumps out of the pram (usually while it’s still moving) and claims his prized spot if it’s free. Every baby is different, and there may be some tears but there will definitely be lots of laughing and smiles with both my children taking on the challenge of trying to get as many people on the bus to smile. I have also found myself doing squats (well, I stand up and sit down like a yoyo) while the bus is stopped to calm my baby. We may have also sung various versions of “the wheels on the bus” on every trip for a few months as my toddler went through a singing phase. One time there was even a chance to jump in the drivers seat while we waited to go through a tunnel.

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The great thing about a bus, that you don’t realise until you need to use a car, is that you don’t have to transfer your baby. If he is asleep in the pram or carrier, you can keep them asleep and enjoy a peaceful journey. As my babies grow, it has been fun to get them involved in the rituals of the bus, from hailing the bus, to ‘tapping on’ and pressing the stop button. My toddler has even reminded me that our stop is coming up when I have been in a bit of a daze (which can be common amongst young sleep deprived parents).

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When it’s time to get off the bus, if you have a pram, reverse it out through the front doors and don’t forget to tap off (if you need to) before you get off. There could always be possible problems, like no space in the pram/wheelchair area or a non-accessible bus. Sometimes there are ways around these problems, like folding up prams or jamming a pram between seats (my pram was just the right size to do this) but once or twice I have decided to walk instead. But walking with kids is fun too and I will write about that another day.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Using one’s head to help people use their hearts and their feet to shift their minds and their world

Six years ago I was riding my bicycle to work along a shared path and as I past the old lady, who looked so grumpy but would greet me so sweetly, I realised that this moment needed to be captured. For it was that moment that gave me hope, both as an advertisement for getting out of a walled vehicle with a petrol motor, and as a way to see beauty in connection.

For years I had been trying to get people out of their cars after I had realised that indeed cars were responsible for so much destruction, waste and greed. I had thought that if I was smart enough I could find a way of engineering, planning, pricing or coaxing people out of the cars and then the world would become a better place. However, it wasn’t a new vehicle design, or city plan or travel demand management strategy that gave me hope that people could or would want to get out of cars. It was that moment – two ordinary looking people, with their own insecurities and struggles, smiling with each other on a daily basis.

I had been sifting through psychology and sociology literature related to transport use in an attempt to build up a framework of how to understand and shift people’s transport habits. The work examined values, norms, attitudes, emotion and perceptions of efficacy, as well as a better understanding of habitual behaviour. These could be classified as determinants of behaviour and had been shown in various experiments and case studies to affect one’s mode of transport choice or other lifestyle choices. I put this together with the particularities of transport behaviour (e.g. it’s routine, complex, uncertain, takes place in public, takes time and can be emotional) to build a more comprehensive picture of the mechanisms which could be determining our transport behaviour.

I then took a step further to better understand some of the transport-related messages we were receiving that could be influencing these determinants of behaviour. And I looked across a broad spectrum of the messages from planning information to sustainability campaigns, from what we directly observe on the street to what we see in films. It was while searching through mass media that I saw that almost nothing in the mass media was encouraging people to use non-car modes of transport. Meanwhile, carefully crafted car advertisements were everywhere and they were perpetuating various myths which made car use seem normal, exciting, innovative, responsible and affordable and more.

At the end of my thesis I came up with a few policy recommendations. However, it was a recommendation I was giving myself that I was most excited about. I had decided to try and make a film that was going to help shift people’s consciousness, blow their minds, save the whole damn world!!! Well, it’s not as motivating to say I’m going to make a video that a couple of friends will watch it and say sweet things about.

I had watched many documentaries and a film called the age of stupid, which felt like they had been designed to give us lots of facts and make us feel disgusted and hopeless. However, if all the psychology and sociology literature I was reading was worth anything, this filmmaking approach wasn’t helping us help ourselves. It’s probably the type of film I would have made at the start of my thesis – a film showing how bad cars are, how prolific car use was and how we are all fucked because of all the money and political power is wrapped up in the continuation of car use. However, I did learn a couple of things from those dubious social sciences that I tried to keep in mind while making my documentary.

Firstly, we don’t need to (and we shouldn’t) tell people about how many cars there are on the road. Yes, people see it every day – the one thing about transport is that (even privately owned) transport is very public. We only have to walk out on the street to know there are a lot of cars. It can be harder to know how many people are on buses and trains unless you are in them. The advertisements on buses that hide the people inside haven’t helped in this respect. The understandings we get about the prevalence of different behaviours, known as descriptive social norms, has been shown to influence behaviour. We somehow form an idea that a type of behaviour is acceptable because it’s so normal, we might forget some of our other values and focus on the value of being normal. So, if I wanted to encourage people to get out of their cars, the last thing I would want to illuminate is how prolific car use is. I would want to demonstrate that using other modes of transport is also normal. To do this, I would visit various cities where I can film the use of different modes of transport, and hone in on bicycles, pedestrians, motor bikes and public transport users.

Secondly, we need to put the audience in the shoes of people using different modes of transport. For the population out there that hasn’t had the privilege of using various modes of transport, their lack of familiarity may be stopping them. By seeing and feeling what it’s like to use different modes of transport, one can start to believe that they can successful have a go themselves (i.e. they have a higher perceived self-efficacy). This has also been shown to influence behaviour. Before I started catching trains I didn’t really know what it would be like inside a carriage and I had a strange fear of not being able to open the doors and missing my stop. By showing how all sorts of people manage to navigate their transport systems and exposing the audience to the environment of these people, perhaps this would elevate one’s self-efficacy and increase their potential to give a new mode of transport a go. It can’t hurt to empower someone with all these extra perspectives.

Thirdly, we need to show the emotional and aesthetic beauty of the world of sustainable transport. I have no desire to dictate how you live your life, any more than a car advertiser does…  Just like the advertiser, I don’t want you to think that I’m making decisions for you. But unlike the car advertiser I’m not going to create beauty using fabricated footage filmed by an amazing cinematographer. Not only can I not afford this but I don’t think it’s that ethical or necessary. There is so much beauty that is a natural part of the experiences of walking, cycling and taking public transport that can be captured even with my unsteady hand. It is through embracing this beauty, both the emotional and physical, that will help us transition our way of life away from car use – more than any feeling of sacrifice for the greater good. If we truly want a cultural shift, we need to love where we are going with it. Emotions are naturally shared, so we need to make sure we are spreading the good stuff when it comes to our future transport.

Finally, we need to demonstrate just how much you and the world will benefit from trying a more sustainable mode of transport. While self-efficacy is the ability for you to successfully carry out a type of behaviour, outcome-efficacy is the potential for this behaviour to lead to a desired outcome. By interviewing people about the positive parts of their transport, not only did I find out some personal benefits (like the joys of reading on the bus or feeling free on the bike), I also came to realise there were some cascading positive outcomes. For it was the use of more public and open modes of transport that helped people feel a part of a wider community and closer to their environment. These are vital precursors to creating a more caring, sustainable, liveable and just world.  And it turns out that an elevated perception of outcome efficacy also influences our behaviour.

Of course, my film has its flaws but perhaps other documentary filmmakers with a little more talent than me can use some of these ideas and make the mind altering film I had dreamt about. I don’t ride my bicycle to work along that shared path anymore but I hope that grumpy old lady is still inspiring idealistic cyclists with crazy ideas.

Thank you for watching my film

I am grateful for everyone who has taken the time out of their busy lives to watch a film by a completely unknown director, shot and edited in a very unorthodox way, that proved to be a bit too different for any festival to take on. My one month of free film watching has been extended to three and maybe forever (if I can’t bring myself to create a financial barrier for anyone to watch it).

I have enjoyed the conversations that the film has triggered and really happy with the different messages and inspiration that people have found within the film. I have put together some of the feedback below (I left out the names). Hopefully a few more people will watch my film and provide other ideas…. please keeps sharing the film around, especially while it’s still free.

I love this film. It glows with authenticity as the citizens of varied cultures reveal their common understanding of who they are and how they are shaped by the ways they navigate their cities. Transport systems connect us in many ways beyond the physical. Stunning images and engaging dialogue held together by crisp editing. Congratulations. This film is an excellent achievement.

It really gives a good feeling, obviously about transports but not only and not any one type of transport especially. and one feels like having been on transport for an hour!
after so much positive interview, one feels optimistic 🙂 your sound designer is really good.

There are a tons of beautiful stories in there. I love how we are all different and have very different lives and experiences but somehow connect on how we view our transport.

Just a quick note from Norway to let you know that I found your film very evocative and enjoyable when I saw it at your Sydney screening and that I think fondly of it from time to time, especially when cycling

Preciosa e inteligente mirada sobre los medios de transporte colectivos. Esperamos otras entregas..

It’s so awesome Jacqui! I didn’t want it to end. I had to giggle at the start when someone said that when they forget to take a book on the train, they try to read their neighbours’ book – I have totally done that!

This is wonderful!

The idea of watching a film about transport is slightly painful for me as my daily commute is about 3 hours! But, I loved that this film reminded about all the great things that a commute can bring. Embrace the positives.

Wow what a great doco Your sister has captured what i always feel when i travel.People are the same no matter where we be in this great big world,we are no different in our thinking,even when we don’t speak the same language .Well doneJacqui you now have a fan keep up the great work you are doing

Thought provoking, truthful, compelling.

This film is dedicated to what might seem an unlikely subject: what we do and think during the time we spend getting around. It is a tender and respectful film that pays tribute to the experience of a remarkable variety of people from around the world. Hicks draws out many whimsical anecdotes and passionate accounts from these individuals that convey both the private and social pleasures of urban travel.

What a lovely film that captures and celebrates the universal themes of people getting places. Thank you.

An exploration of connecting meanings and interrelationships via transports and shared unfolding interludes. Bringing the personal back to the public and back to humanity. An exciting interlude of screen journey’s to savour.

Media Release: A way we go Sydney screening

Transport is a city’s living, beating soul. Even Sydney’s transport is not without its hidden charms, as lovingly depicted in ‘A way we go’, a documentary feature by Jacqui Hicks.  With an unconventional format emphasising the wisdom and emotions of everyday people, it captures the audience’s attention with a bubbling flow of ideas and images and a vivid dash of humour.

In 2013 Jacqui travelled to ten cities, including Sydney, to film what goes on as people travel from A to B and delve deep into the footpaths, highways, tramways and bikeways of these ten very different hubs. Four years later, ‘A way we go’ will be screening at the Ritz Cinema in Randwick on Sunday 10th December. Meet the characters who love the way they move (or don’t move) around the city, and connect the cities with their people and their very essence.

Jacqui became interested in transport when she noticed the extent to which her daily train commute to uni—twice as long as a car trip – enhanced her wellbeing. She was meeting new friends, having a delightful walk to and from the station, and getting to relax or knit or read for a considerable chunk of the day. Lovely! Since then, she has studied and worked in the world of transport and become an advocate for cycling after learning to ride a bike on the cobblestoned streets of Paris – no mean feat.

‘A way to go’ shows urban transport is much more than time and money. Transport can play a role in helping create more fun, creative, healthy and caring cities and individuals! On her travels Jacqui was struck by how insightful and inspirational people were in discussing their travel time. But the most surprising part was how much people enjoyed talking about transport and their daily commute.

The kindness of strangers provided her with most of her accommodation, translations and local knowledge in all the cities she visited. In Hanoi, she was lucky enough to stay with three sisters living on the outskirts of Hanoi, who took her on their motor bikes, and even let her drive one. She was made to feel like another sister. She left slightly broken hearted but with a farewell that included karaoke, Vietnamese cuisine and a ‘ride through’ ice cream shop that made her departure bittersweet. In Pune she was lucky enough to stay in the leafy campus of the Film and Television Institute of India where she learnt about the composition of shots and how competitive film students are at ping pong. Bicycles were borrowed or bought in every city so she could experience the freedom of two wheels. Cycling in Ankara was so bad she thought about staying to write a cycling strategy for the city.

Jacqui travelled light, and incorporated some ridiculously long train journeys including 40 hours to go from Guilin to Qingdao, in China, which tested her resilience. She also managed to include some cycle touring while travelling between Berlin and Madrid. She picked a very wet September for this leg of the journey but she could enjoy dramatic skies over striking landscapes, and with her rusty French she was helped along the way.

During her trip she had some wild adventures including riding a Boda Boda (a motor bike taxi) through the unfinished back roads of Nairobi. ‘To be honest’, Jacqui said, ‘I had to check the footage twice after I thought we had ridden past a corpse’. The final stretch into the centre of the city was a zig zag through a colourful maze of Matatus (buses). In Casablanca she was intrigued by the system of shared taxis, ‘Les grand taxis’: old white Mercedes you hail with hand signals to indicate where you want to go. The hand signals worked to Jacqui’s advantage because they were easier than trying to pronounce the names of her destination.

Jacqui made many friends along the way but it was in Madrid where her host made the biggest impact on her life. After showing her the city and taking her hiking in the Picos de Europa she decided to share his morning commute one day. Waking up before sunrise with him and seeing his world may have helped spark a special connection. A couple of weeks later he was quitting his job and booking a one way flight to Australia. They are now married with one child and another on the way, and Jacqui finished editing her film with a baby on her lap. That baby just got his first bike.

The film will be showing at 6pm on 10th December at the Ritz Cinema Randwick. For more information please visit the website www.a-way-we-go.net or email Jacqui jacquelinehicks@gmail.com.