Gaston & Catawba

Families find two wheels are better than four

It's the most energy-efficient way to travel, hands down. It's healthy, good for the environment and fun.

Bicycling is the way of the future, two Hickory moms believe. They and their kids have made a commitment to commuting to school by bike, as well as biking to do errands – and they hope to encourage others to join them.

Drivers in the Oakwood School area may have spotted Carie Kahn pedaling her bike and pulling a buggy festooned with a waving orange pennant and brightly colored streamers. “I don't want anyone to miss seeing us,” Kahn said with a grin.

Inside the buggy is son Conner, 4, or sometimes son Brooks, 61/2. Brooks usually rides his own bike, Kahn noted, but she gives him a ride if they have to go on busier streets.

Sometimes, the buggy even comes in handy to haul groceries home from the store, Kahn added.

Also biking to Oakwood School are Nina Keck and her children Rachel, 10, and Robert, 8. It was the Kecks' example that last year first inspired Kahn to try taking her kids to school and preschool by bike on good-weather days.

“Then I started seriously when gas prices started to go up,” Kahn said.

Cycling is a winning proposition, both moms agree. Besides costing almost nothing after the purchase of bike and helmet, Kahn and Keck say bicycling pays big dividends.

“It helps fight global warming and doesn't contribute to pollution,” Kahn noted. “Also, the average person loses 13 pounds the first year of biking, without even changing the way they eat.”

“Plus it's fun to do as a family,” Keck said. “And it's also something you can do for your whole life.”

It's a matter of changing one's habits, both agree.

“You get in the habit of jumping in your car for short errands,” Keck said. “But when you think how many places are within a mile or two from home, you realize you could just as easily get there on your bike.”

To visit spots such as the YMCA, the science museum, the library or downtown, both say they've discovered round-about ways to get there: riding through a cemetery, down various side streets, even sometimes through the woods.

“Plus, we have a lot of sidewalks in this neighborhood that make it easier for young children to ride,” Kahn said.

According to Kahn, people ask if she feels safe on a bike with her children. “Hickory drivers have been wonderful – they see the buggy and they go way out to get around me,” she said.

“Actually I think I'm safer on my bike than in my car because I'm not using my cell phone, breaking up a fight or handing out a sippy-cup,” she added with a smile.

Kahn and Keck both have hopes that city officials will add more bike lanes as more people use them. Bike racks are also an issue, both agreed. Their presence makes a location more welcoming for cyclists.

“The library has one by the front door, and downtown has one at either end of the Square, which is great,” Kahn said. “If we could get more people interested in biking, the city will do even more.”

Also, Kahn said, “I spoke to someone in the City Council about getting some signs and crosswalks put up on Sixth Street N.W., and I really hope they can do that,” she said.