The sacrifices we make for family cycling

The average city has very little land left that has not been given over to driving, and all the activism in the world will not change that fact while my children are still in my care. So wherever I move with my brood, I need to find accommodation that gives the kids easy access to safe routes for cycling, to school, on family outings, or just for their own sense of freedom. If you have followed my blog for while, you will know this idea—that devotees to bicycle transport are limited in where they can live—is central to my theory of urban design. 

But here’s where it gets tricky. I have moved to a steep basin-shaped city, where for a century people with means have been living on hilltops to be above the smog in the valley. For the first 60 years trams hauled people home, while for the past 60 years those tram routes have been used as screeching race tracks for cars. We have been renting at 70 meters elevation since June, and my wife and kids have barely left home on their bikes. I ride to work, but as a family we head out on foot, or more often in the car we bought when we moved here.

So I’m sorry, but by the time you come to visit, we will no longer be living at 70 meters elevation. Nor will we be able to welcome you to one of this city’s quintessential addresses, with bay windows and finials, perched on a 30% gradient, costing $8 in petrol to reach from the valley.

You will more likely find us 8km out along the river side bike track, in a seventies growth area, waving from behind aluminium windows with canvas sun shades. Forget about polished tassie oak floors. We’ll have ride-on vacuum cleaners on every floor, quilted brown vinyl bars for entertaining, a dug-under rumpus room for you to reconnect with your asthma, a country-style kitchen that only serves meat…

Our sons with have names like Elijah or Josh, and go to evangelical schools. We’ll have jet skis and drum kits and a shed full of shit, including, of course, our collection of bikes, that at least we’ll be able to ride. Oh god I wish architects and developers would hurry up and build better housing on land with good access to bike tracks.