Cyclist of the month: Tracy Cutchlow
Wheels: Specialized Roubaix road bike. “So that I have a chance of keeping up with [my husband] on his hybrid.”
Occupation: Freelance book editor/mother
This fall marks the fourth anniversary of Tracy and Luke Cutchlow’s decision to donate their Saturn to a church across the street and adopt a car-free lifestyle, a lifestyle choice they’re continuing to live even after having their first child.
“We were living in San Francisco at the time and it was more of a pain to have a car than not,” said Tracy, a Cascade Champion. “And we haven’t needed one because we bike so much. It’s our favorite way of getting around.”
That doesn’t mean that it was an altogether easy decision.
“When we first gave up the car, there were months and months where we thought, ‘Can we really do this?’” Tracy recalled. “I tracked how much we spent on a car–the gas, the repairs, even all the little costs you forget about like licensing, emission tests, and car washes–and how much we drove it and where to. We were already biking to work at the time and really, it was more of a mental barrier. It was cheaper to just rent a car or take a taxi than own a car.”
While it was the math that led them to sell their car, it’s the joy of biking has kept them car-free.
“It really helps doing the math on how much it costs to own a car. It changes your perception about paying for a rental or taxi. [The decision to sell the car] was all about the math at first but then what we found was that we really loved it. You spend a lot more time in your neighborhood, interacting with people, and buying locally,” she said.
As an adult, Tracy was reintroduced to the practicality and sheer joy of bicycling while living in one of the most bikeable and walkable cities in the United States: Portland.
While working at the Oregonian, Tracy decided to participate in the newspaper-sponsored Cycle Oregon event, a weeklong bike tour throughout Oregon.
“I was working as a copy editor at nights and weekends so I had all this time during the day to bike,” she explained. “It gave me such a sense of freedom when I was riding,” she recalled. “It was like a 16-year-old getting their first car. I just kept biking because it makes me smile.”
Riding her bike became an integral part of her daily life and she became an avid bike commuter, even well into her pregnancy.
“I’m just waiting for the moment that Geneva turns one and her head can support a helmet.” Tracy said, adding that’s she’s already been browsing Craigslist for child seats.
While she admits to being more scared now than before her pregnancy, she won’t let it keep her from riding bikes with her daughter.
“Becoming a parent changes everything but you just have to be more careful and start slow and safe,” she said. “Seattle does have some good cycling roads, and just think about how good it feels to ride and how you would want that for your kids-for them to have that freedom to get around on your own volition and have fun.”
And she wants everyone to experience that freedom and joy.
“Spandex and jerseys with a whole bunch of logos scares people away. People should feel like they can incorporate biking in everyday life. It doesn’t have to be about going fast, comparing bikes, and needing special gear,” said Tracy.
What is needed, however, is a welcoming bike culture and better infrastructure, she said.
“Living in a walkable, bikeable neighborhood is key. If infrastructure were better and people saw regular bicyclists all the time, they’d be less afraid of biking and it would become normal,” she said. “And that’s why I support Cascade. Because they’re working on that.”
Know a cyclist who deserves some special recognition? Nominate them for cyclist of the month! Send your ideas to Anne-Marije Rook at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interested in joining Tracy in becoming a Cascade Champion? Contact Tarrell Wright for more information at (206) 240-2235 or email@example.com.