Karsten Heuer and Leanne Allison are our family adventure role models. A few years back they set off from their home in Canmore, Alberta, with their then two year old, to follow a route across Canada – by canoe, train, truck and sailboat – in a path created from famed Canadian author Farley Mowat’s books. They created an award winning documentary of their journey called Finding Farley that took the Banff Mountain Film Festival by storm and won audience choice awards across the country.
When Derek and I saw the film, we loved the honest way they showcased adventure travel with their son – super fun, sometimes a lot of work, occasionally a gong show but with tender, magical moments thrown in.
Having embarked on a number of canoe trips both with our kids and with other families, we could relate to the pace of the film. The scope of their journey inspired us to start planning our own extended trip.
Before their son entered their lives, Leanne and Karsten migrated with caribou herds and hiked great stretches of trail in support of wildlife corridors. They are working to preserve huge, connected stretches of habitat – in addition to parks – because migrating animals need safe routes for their journeys. You can read more about their adventures and advocacy at Necessary Journeys.
Riding through the Davis Bike Loop-a 12 mile connected loop through the city, mostly through parks with a few sections on quiet residential streets, I thought a lot about wildlife corridors.
The Davis Bike Loop connects neighbourhoods with UC Davis, elementary schools, middle schools, at least one high school, and so many places people, especially kids, would like to go. Like softball fields, swimming pools, community centres,at least one theatre, skate parks, tons of playgrounds, churches and grocery stores. I’m sure locals would be able to tell you all kinds of other places they get to following this route.
We rode it both during afternoon ‘rush hour,’ when school let out and during the morning commute. There was always a steady stream of kids Anna Sierra and Jasper’s ages (12 and 9), without any parents because the paths are safe and connected. The kids could picture riding with their neighbours, Max and Zella, and being able to go anywhere they wanted. The possibility of wandering kids-only bicycle adventures blew their minds. Usually in a new city Anna Sierra follows a parent. But in Davis she lead the way, following the route signs painted clearly on the ground.
We’ve seen infrastructure like this in the Netherlands, but this was a first for us in North America.
A friendly cycling advocate – Steve Tracy – chatted with us while we were riding. He was designing a bike route to take folks on a tour of backyard/schoolyard chickens!
Anyway, apparently the bike modal share is 20-25%. We also rode through the magical mayhem on campus and were amazed at the vast quantities of people cycling.
Steve pointed out a wide bike lane on a street and said he had helped collect 2000 signatures on a petition to have the lane at its current width, a width that was designed so that a parent could ride beside a child. Because that’s what you need to do when they’re learning to ride with traffic.
I wonder if folks have been doing studies on public health in Davis. I bet physical and mental health is higher than average with all the lovely daily travel opportunities around town in their green corridor.
We finished the day at the home of our warm shower host, Brian. He was off on his own cycling adventure down the coast, but his daughter let us in and showed us around. We had a very relaxing evening of laundry, reading Adventure Cycling magazines, playing San Francisco Monopoly (Anna bought the Golden Gate Bridge!) and catching up on emails.