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Biking Through Life

Updated: May 24

Rebecca with her daughter (photo courtesy of Oren Miller).

This month, we are adding a new feature to ZappaWheels: Bike Commuter Profiles. The focus is on bike commuters and their stories. We want to share your story, whether you bike to work all the time, one day a year, or use the bike just to get around,

Today's story is about Chicago resident, Rebecca Resman. ​Her evolution as a rider is a great example of integrating biking through life: first as a commuter, then advocate, and finally champion of family riding.

Rebecca's story starts when she was working full-time. Back then she was an avid bike commuter, riding to work regularly for over a dozen years. She became an advocate for bike safety issues. In 2010, she lead the efforts to create a Crash Support Hotline while she was an employee of the Active Transportation Alliance. ​But then changes started happening.

Transition to Family Riding

Rebecca's wheels for family biking include a removable cover during the winter months.

When we started the interview, Rebecca had just finished running an errand on the bike with her two young children, who were napping. Considering it was late January in Chicago, this was no small feat. 

Rebecca shared with me that after she became a mom, her work scheduled changed as did her biking situation. She noted that after she had children, it wasn't an issue if she was going to ride, but rather how could she make it work. As a mom, she was also looking for ways to integrate her family into biking.

She acquired a Dutch-style cargo bike that she uses with her kids.The cargo bike can hold 150 pounds which carries children, groceries and whatever else she accumulates along the way. For solo rides, she uses her Jamis bike. And instead of biking a regular route to work each day, she made the mental to shift to biking wherever she needs to go.

Once she got the cargo bike she was amazed at how many people were excited and interested to see someone riding with their babies. A lot of people were intrigued but also nervous about riding with children. This situation spurred Rebecca into action.

Advocate for Family Biking

She co-founded and today co-organizes (along with Leslie Tweedy from Roscoe Village Bikes) the Kidical Mass ride in Roscoe Village Her motivation was to provide a safe and fun environment to get involved in biking as a family and to help inspire other families to get involved. She also sees the Kidical Mass ride as a way to encourage older children to learn safe riding.

Kidical Mass is a national movement to encourage families to ride bicycles for transportation, exercise and fun! Kidical Mass started in Eugene, OR and has grown internationally with over 45 U.S. cities having a presence. The group's stated purpose is to teach kids, parents and caregivers safety skills and provide a ride in which to practice them. They are creating awareness for the growing presence of kids and families on bikes and the need for all road users to respect other users of the road.

For Rebecca, safety in numbers was part of the logic behind getting group together. The Roscoe Village Kidical Mass ride has grown into one of the largest in the world. They typically draw about 40-60 riders although 120 have shown up on past rides.

Rebecca points out that Kidical mass rides exist all over different neighborhoods in Chicago. Her group meets monthly at a local school and rides April through December. The rides usually last 2-4 miles and are preceded by time at the playground and a brief safety discussion. Some future rides themes are the super-hero ride, ice-cream ride, and pool-party ride, More information on the rides is available on the Chicago Kidical Mass Facebook page.

Photo courtesy of Oren Miller.

Rebecca recounted the story of a mom who showed up with three kids and a new bike she bought specifically for the Kidical mass ride.The woman had not ridden since having children. Rebecca was amazed at the woman's motivation and very gratified to see the impact Kidical mass had on her participation. She points out that the bigger mission is to help people understand how act and behave better on the streets. ​

​Rebecca has also founded the Chicago Family Biking Facebook group for people interested in family biking regardless of their level of involvement. It's a place for people to share stories, ask for help and interact. Her enthusiasm for family biking is palpable and her commitment to promoting it is impressive.

Lessons Learned from Bike Commuting

Rebecca offered the following biking advice to her younger-self (and anyone interested in her experience).

  • "I know you love your route and you have memorized each light along the route to get home as efficiently as possible, and you find it thrilling to improve your time on the ride home each night. But don't be afraid to change your route more often and discover other ways to get to work and home. There are lots of other gems that you pass by and don't even know exist because you are taking the fastest route possible." In other words, enjoy the journey and not just the destination.

  • Layer with technical fabrics especially in the colder weather. Instead of trying to bulk up with sweaters try clothing like warmer gloves, fleece-lined warmers and technical fabric jackets. Here's some additional advice on getting started on biking in colder weather.

  • Lastly, know what you need to do in the event of a crash.

​At this point Rebecca told me her personal story of being hit by a car that ran a red light. She was so upset and freaked-out by the experience that she pulled her crumpled bike out from under the car and ran away. She contrasts this to later bike accidents when she was doored. In those situations, she knew her rights and was an advocate for herself. Her 2012 crash helped to inform changes to the Illinois law.

Today, she is an advocate for other bike riders when she encounters the scene of a bike accident. She notes that as a biker (or even a pedestrian), you are at a disadvantage when compared to the insurance provider that represents a driver. She shares that the immediate actions taken at the crash site have a significant impact; things such as the way a story is told to a police officer, or refusing medical treatment. Good advice indeed. See the crash support hotline for more information.

Rebecca's own evolution as a rider is a great example for all of us. Have a biking story that you want to share? Tell us.

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