The Family on Two Wheels (Each)

In her now seven-plus years of biking around New Haven, Cristin Siebert feels that “generally people are more used to bikers. In the beginning, I felt like there weren’t that many of us.” Though she wishes there were [more] proper bike lanes, she thinks New Haven is becoming more of a bike town.

Cristin WebWhen her daughter Sofia was younger, she rode with her in a child seat on the back of her bike. They were known around town as “that mother and daughter on their bike.” People would ask Cristin for tips about biking with children. She has since noticed an increase in the number of people biking with children.

Cristin and Sofia live with husband/dad, Eduardo, in Westville near the Yale Bowl. Sofia is almost 6 now and learned to ride her own bike this past summer. Every school day, they make their way over to Edgewood Avenue to the Edgewood Magnet School where Sofia is in first grade. Sofia gets to choose the route—so it varies. Cristin notes that a lot of other parents continue on [by bike] from the school after leaving off their kids, who are on their bikes. The bike racks are full. Upon arrival at the school, they lock up Sofia’s bike, and Cristin continues down Edgewood to her job as Director of Student Affairs for the Jackson Institute.

Cristin has chosen the quieter streets for her bike route – and says that “people wave [her] through on the roads with less traffic.” She’s very cautious with Sofia – letting her ride on the sidewalk. She says that “Motorists don’t realize how close they get to cyclists,” but they did give her a wider berth when she had the child seat attached.

Cristin commutes about 40 miles per week. For her birthday her husband got her a new set of panniers/bike bags that hook on to the rack on the back of her bike—significantly more comfortable than a shoulder bag—and which she says “have changed my life.” She has reflective leg bands that keep her pantlegs out of the chain, and lights to illuminate the way when the days get shorter.  She makes sure biking can fit into her life as much of the year as possible—biking year round with the exception of snow and black ice. She bikes on really cold days as long as it’s above 20 degrees, and loves riding in the winter. As long as she’s bundled up, Cristin says she feels great.

In addition to yoga, this is how Cristin gets her exercise. She sees urban living as very logical and doesn’t want to be reliant on a car. “In other cultures where you see people walking, taking public transportation and biking,” she says, “you don’t see as many people with weight problems.”

To drive for 10 – 15 minutes or to bike for 15 or 20 minutes? The choice is obvious for Cristin. She feels good and she has energy without having to go to the gym (which she’s not into). “We should be doing exercise naturally, as part of our daily routine,” Cristin remarks. She doesn’t understand peoples’ lack of motivation, observing that “at Yale, most staff don’t have to wear suits. There are ways to do it – bring an extra shirt,” she suggests. She guarantees you’ll feel better if you get out and be active. She adds that for parents, “it’s also a good way to teach your kids to be active.” As a busy parent she doesn’t have to figure out how to fit in time to exercise. She’s multi-tasking like a pro.

Cristin’s husband shares her philosophy. He carpools to UConn 2-3 days/week with other colleagues. He met Luke Rogers, a Yale Math PhD (’04) who lives in New Haven and also teaches at UConn, and through Luke, “it’s just extended” [he has since met a whole network of other New Haven area folks employed at UConn] to 4 or 5 others.

Eduardo has benefitted greatly from “getting to snooze” on the way to or from work. And on the days he has to drive, he’s got people in the car for conversation. He seeks out carpool partners every semester. “It’s better financially” as well, Cristin says.

The days Eduardo is local, he often comes to Yale’s campus to work. On those days the whole family bikes together. The morning of the interview, someone shouted at them “go riders go.”

Holly Parker