As a newly-anointed mother who has recently tapped the never-ending wellsprings of maternal generosity found in my mother and mother-in-law, I find myself much more nostalgic this Mothers Day than most. Thus, it is only fitting that I deposit a few words here about a remarkable woman who in addition to being an extraordinary mother happens to have helped to inspire my current perspective on bicycling in the most basic of ways.
My mom, Carolyn Leftwich, was responsible for my earliest exposure to the bicycle. Photographic evidence more than three decades old that pre-dates my consciousness depicts me, a barely-coherent blob of a nine-month old, propped behind my mom on her now-vintage Trek road bike. From before the time I could walk or talk, Mom, a college student at the time, would transport me around town on that bike, a scene that certainly would have stood out in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which even today is one of those quintessentially car-centric communities not unlike most in this country. (I should note that, thanks to the valiant efforts of an array of impressive actors there, things are changing for the better.)
Mom would bike me over to the babysitters house, to and from anti-nuke rallies (she and my father were fairly typical hippies of their time), and to meet my dad at his office on campus. And while she was never preachy about her mode choice (I only asked her recently to explain why she decided to bike back then: in part to avoid paying for parking on campus, it turns out.), Im certain this early experience helped to fundamentally mold my own thinking about transportation, opportunity, and the joys encountered in on two wheels that is today such a very strong part of my identity.
Im hopeful that my own lifestyle has a similar effect on my one month old son, Hudson, who has not yet – outside the womb, anyway – experienced life on a bike, though his bike-free days are numbered. Its also a reminder of the many subtle ways in which we influence those we love, and for this reason and so many others I am forever grateful to my mom. Happy Mothers Day to you, Mom, and to mothers everywhere.
Emilie Bahr is an urban planner and writer who lives in New Orleans. She is the author of the book Urban Revolutions: A Womans Guide to Two-Wheeled Transportation. Follow her on Twitter at @EmilieBahr.