'Social Engineer' Your Kids (with Chariot Child Carriers)

This is supposed to be about bike trailers of a particular brand, that carry children, and happen to be on sale right now from my employer.

I wasn’t sure how to approach this article until a few minutes ago when I saw a friend of mine post this on Facebook:

The concept is so simple I don't know why I didn't think of it before. No more hunting around for a parking space. Find the farthest corner, park, and stroll to my destination. I'm happy, my dr's happy. Less stress, more activity?This is an actual friend of mine. We were neighbors when we were kids. This friend of mine is trying to lose weight. A lot of weight. And he’s starting to get creative with his approach. He’s succeeding.

This is the comment that I typed in response, but did not send:

You didn't think of it because you were raised in a society that discourages utilitarian effort.I didn’t send it because it felt like one of those hit-and-run quips made by arrogant pricks. I didn’t send it because it would be read by people other than my friend — people who wouldn’t understand the context of my comment; who might not know the meanings of big words such as utilitarian, effort, or because. (No arrogance here.)

I didn’t send it because the right thing to do is to “like” the comment and say, at most, “Way to go, Jake.” (Settle down. My friend is not really Jake Gyllenhaal). The right thing to do is to resist the urge to scorn while standing on my little social-critic soapbox.

Yet I believe it. I believe we live in a society that discourages utilitarian effort.

Some opponents of bike infrastructure like to call it “social engineering,” which is ironic, because our cities and towns have been engineered around the needs of automobiles, making us dependent on cars, not allowing us the choice. The people who can’t get their heads around cycling and walking — they are the results of decades of social engineering.

If I’m wrong, why does it seem so natural to certain members of Congress that transportation infrastructure shouldn’t require sidewalks, crosswalks, and bikeways as well as roads for people sitting effortlessly in motor vehicles?

Bicycling and Walking in the United States 2012 Benchmarking Report, Alliance for Biking & Walking
Graph: Alliance for Biking & Walking

If I’m wrong, then why has a program that helps kids get to school safely, under their own effort, been eliminated completely from the proposed transportation budget?

(You might have sensed that the part about bike child trailers being on sale is coming up. If you don’t make it to that part because you were motivated to click this link right now and tell your Congressman to vote NO on H.R. 7 (the Transportation bill), and tell your Senators to Support the Cardin-Cochran amendment, I won’t hold it against you. You can always come back here later and finish.)

Now imagine how different society would be if we’d always seen adults — our parents in particular — getting around on human power. Imagine if we could raise kids who didn’t ask, “Couldn’t we park any closer to the door?,” and asked instead, “Why did we drive to the store?”

These kids would become the adults who find it ridiculous to privilege motorized driving over walking or cycling the short distances that make up 90 percent of our trips.

So let me tell you about Chariot Child Carriers.

Chariot Cougar2 Bike Child Trailer

One day at work, a customer called and was having a hard time deciding between a Croozer brand bike child trailer, and a Chariot. She had a fixed budget, and wanted some advice.

I suddenly heard myself saying, “It’s like this: Would you rather have a fully-loaded Honda, or a stripped-down Lexus?”

I was both impressed with myself for totally nailing the analogy, and embarrassed that it was a car analogy. I too am a product of my environment.

If non-motorized transportation were as thoroughly infused into our lives as is motorized transportation, then the Chariot brand would be as well known as Lexus. Chariot is entirely dedicated to the outdoor transportation of children. Their products scream quality louder than a toddler in a cheap Wal-Mart bike trailer. And when you buy one of their carriers, its up to you to decide whether it will be a stroller, a jogger, a rickshaw, a sled, a bike trailer, or some multi-use combination.

And Chariot, somewhat like a car company, likes to come out every year with some exciting new colors and features because new means better in the minds of many consumers. Rather: New model means buy in the minds of many consumers.

So we, at Campfire Cycling, decided to grab up as many of the 2011 models as we could and offer Lexi at Honda prices.

2011 Chariot Sale 20% Off while Supplies Last
And we made a bunch of banners about it too. Coming soon to a bike blog near you.

Parents who make cycling a normal part of daily life will raise the kind of kids who see cars as just another of their mobility choices. These kids will become the adults who see it as self-evident that biking and walking should be accommodated in transportation infrastructure projects.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is this: If you have young kids, do your own social engineering, beginning with bike trailers. If you want a bargain on a really high-quality bike trailer for your kids, now you know where to get one.

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