Name: Madeleine Novich A.K.A. @cargobikemomma
Location: Manhattan, NY
Occupation: Professor of Sociology, IG Influencer, Mom
Vespertine NYC (EM): What inspired you to join the (electric) bike community?
CBM: Great question! We decided to get an electric bike after we spent the summer in the Netherlands. We’re very fortunate that we go to the Netherlands every summer. A few summers back, we had access to a bike, the front-loading kind of cargo bike that I have. We realized how much freedom the bike gave us. How wonderful it was just to be able to dump your kids on a bike and go where you needed to go. When we came back from NYC, after having the cargo bike the entire summer, it felt like moving in slow motion. We were just like we need to get a cargo bike. In New York, of course, it makes sense to have an e bike because we have some hills, we have heavy kids, and they only get heavier as they get older. We decided to do it for the ability to have more freedom, to be able to efficiently, safely, and easily get from point A to point B.
I think it’s important to know that we picked this particular bike- the front loading, what they call a “long john cargo” style, cargo bike, which has a very low center of gravity, because I am very petite. I am five feet tall and found the rear loading, or what they call a "long tail bike" really hard to manage at my size. So we picked this bike because it is intelligently engineered and easy for me to manage. But also, this particular bike is great for safety because it has a sealed, reinforced frame. It’s large so it’s quite visible. And it also has a very thick frame foam. So if any impact happened, I’d feel fairly confident that the kids would be OK. And actually, I had to have it built, because it’s such a big bike. They’re totally fine because they’re in the bucket of the bike.
Vespertine NYC (EM): Your work as a professor not only includes teaching the next generation, but also diving into sociology studies regarding gender and mass incarceration. What made you want to zero in on these topics?
CBM: That’s a very complicated question! I’m going to do my best to answer it! So, like you said, I am a criminal justice professor and I do research in the criminal justice space. I'm in a sociology department but I operate in a criminal justice research sphere. I specialize in teaching gender and mass incarceration, but my research focus is police, gangs, and communities of color. So, I think if you don’t mind, I just finished writing a book chapter for Oxford University Press: Policing Gangs. Which is not exactly what you asked- but there are some elements that overlap because gang members tend to be under the guise of policing, so they tend to be incarcerated disproportionately higher. Or they're not in gangs, but they become incarcerated and join gangs when they become incarcerated. I think that what I'd love for the readers to know is one: maybe rethink how we operate in terms of crime and punishment. We need to understand that mass incarceration is a systemic racially- deeply racialized topic, and very, very problematic for communities of color, low-income communities of color-especially what I would term “undereducated” (meaning they may not have completed high school, men of color, black men). We have very high rates of incarceration in that population, it has very negative effects that last for generations by removing individuals from their households, by removing them from the ability to get legitimate employment, removing them from the ability to skill build and build complex networks that allow for a life that does not involve crime. Mass incarceration only perpetuates a cycle of more incarceration, and we need to rethink as a society what our goals of crime and punishment are. We need to realize that each person going through the criminal justice systems is a human and to rehumanize the system so that we can have more empathy and understanding so that we can build a criminal justice system that’s actually beneficial and for the greater good.
Vespertine NYC (EM): You can be spotted transporting your children all over New York City and manage working as a professor full time. How do you do it?
CBM: A really good question. One- I think the bike saves a lot of time, it makes me much more efficient, so when I have kids going to doctor’s appointments or going to martial arts or play dates it is far easier for me to get from point A to point B because I have the bike. That really makes mom life much easier for me. I think that being able to manage 3 kids, working full time comes down to having a really supportive partner, which my husband is.
Managing being a full-time working mom of 3- I accomplish it one: because I have a really supportive husband who is very involved, he picks up his shift of childcare, he’ll leave work early to do doctor’s appointments- things that I just can't manage anymore. My husband is great, and we also have a great urban family. I have a network of moms and families in the neighborhood and we all sort of help each other out. We all take care of each other, and I think because we’re in NYC, often we don’t have immediate family that’s here all the time. It makes it doable when you have your own urban family. I have this great cohort of moms (that's my best mommy find), we all met when our kids were all 2 and under, and it’s been years. One of my mom friends, I met her she is also a cargo biking momma- we met when our kids were like 6 months old. Now, our oldest are 8, and turning 9, so we’ve been friends for a very long time. We all take care of each other, so when I had Sloan, Jack, my oldest, went to my girlfriend’s house while I gave birth to the baby, and he stayed there for like a day or two. I do have some family that is close by, and they help when they can. The other part of this is I find my professor life very flexible, so one of the reasons I chose my career’s trajectory is because I work sort of on the academic year 3 days a week, and then I have 2 days off where I can be there for my kids, there is a lot of flexibility with my jobs which makes it easy. I can bring my kids to the school campus with me and then I have all these amazing students who are ready to help me. I love the college where I work, they are so family friendly, and very supportive. Typically having all these elements in place allows me to be able to be a successful working mom and a professor.
Vespertine NYC (EM): Do you have any advice regarding time management as a working mother?
CBM: I am very OCD and organized with my time, which for me comes naturally and for others might be a work in progress. But I think if you can have as much organization and routine in your schedule, it makes it so you can accomplish things for yourself and your kids. I am non-negotiable, I work out 20 to 40 minutes every single day. That’s my time, it is just a priority. I’ll make sure I'll do it before noon, but I work that into the schedule when the baby goes to sleep- that's what I'm doing, I'm not cleaning my house. I prioritize myself, my well-being, my kids and then we are fortunate to be in a position where I'm able to hire housekeepers, but I know that that’s a luxury and that’s something that I recognize. We make lists, we have checklists, we delegate different tasks to each other. For example, today I got the girls, I’ll be picking up my son at 2, we’ll do homework from 2 to 3, we’ll have quiet time from 3 to 4, then my husband’s coming home to take jack. Then we’ll have dinner by 6:30, we eat from 6:30 to 7, bath time is after that and then bedtime is at 9pm, lights out. While we’re not super rigid in our schedule we do make sure that we have like check backs of what gets done around the same time each day so everyone’s kind of on a schedule and things get accomplished. I think having as much childcare as you can afford can be super helpful. When I'm working during the school year, I make sure that our daughter goes to school and then goes to after school. Milo is in school for 3 days for the day care that I'm doing- I think that also helps with being able to get things accomplished in time. When it comes to kids, they undo everything that they’ve already done. Getting out the door can take 20 to 30 minutes-I'll pack up the beach bag and then all of a sudden, I'll look around and beach bag’s contents are completely empty. I guess that’s sort of a tangent –laughs-. It boils down to just being as efficient as you can, having some sort of schedule, hiring what you can, just to make life a little bit easier and, being okay if things aren't getting done. It’s perfectly okay if your house is messy, you have to order in or if the kids are getting cereal for dinner every so often, that’s also okay too.
EM: In what ways has using sustainable transportation changed your life?
CBM: Sustainable transportation has become part of my identity. Cycling has become part of my identity, as much as being a professor, as much as being a mom, I’m also a cargo bike mom. It’s really changed the way that I operate in terms of our day-to-day lives, our weekend plans, how we travel, where we travel.
It’s really become a huge part of my identity. It also changes the way that we interact with NYC. We can get to places that we couldn’t get to very easily. We have become friends with different biking families that we may not have connected with otherwise. We do different events because we’re bikers. We’re friends because we’re cargo bikers. It’s really become so important and a huge part of my life.
Vespertine NYC (EM): Do you have any words for those reluctant to start biking in NYC (or elsewhere)?
CBM: Yes! Start with a buddy. Find a friend, if you're cargo bike curious or e bike curious. Connect with somebody who is a seasoned biker and let them take you for your first ride around the city, so it doesn’t have to be so scary or daunting in the beginning. Starting from zero and then trying to bike can be extremely scary and the city can be a scary place to bike, so my advice is always to find a friend. Go with that friend, ask questions on the way, let them show you how it’s done, that it doesn’t have to be nerve-wracking, that NYC is actually a very friendly place to bike once you do it a few times. I also say, join the Facebook group- I have a Facebook group- join your local groups! Follow people on Instagram that can share some advice and tips like what I do on Instagram. You’re not alone, it’s about just getting over that initial fear, and you don’t have to do that alone.
EM: Do you have any insight on where one can start his or her (electric) bike journey?
9) A lot of people are unsure on what bike to get, and e bikes are very expensive, so it can be very nerve-wracking to decide on a bike and have concerns about making the wrong choice. One thing I always recommend e bikers do is go to your local bike shop and test out a bunch of bikes, find friends or people in the community with different kinds of bikes and try them all out. We host cargo bike meet ups for people who are curious about cargo bikes, and they can try many different types. They can try trikes, longtails, front loaders, electric, non-electric, and once you have a chance to try a bunch of different e bikes, it can make the decision process much easier.
Vespertine NYC (EM): What are some essentials when it comes to becoming a cyclist in New York City and elsewhere?
CBM: In terms of gear of knowledge?
Vespertine NYC (EM): It can be either one honestly, it’s free range!
CBM: For knowledge, know the laws, that’s important, to understand the biking laws, local laws, that’ll just help you navigate your space and environment more easily. I think it’s essential to learn where the best bike lanes, the protected bike lanes are. This is something you can learn from a friend; they might be able to tell you where the best protected bike paths are, or the best routes to get from point A to point B, in the safest way.
The essentials also include learning how to signal and bike safely with good strong messaging with the cars and the pedestrians around you. I think it’s also essential to have fun, if biking gets too stressful then it’s not the right fit. Biking is really fun, one of the most fun things we can do with our family.
Some bike gear essentials from my perspective are dependent on the bike you have; I have a front loader so for us it’s the rain cover. If you see our bike, there’s a bucket and then the rain cover allows us to bike all year round. There’s a saying: “There’s no bad weather, just bad clothing”. So having the right outfit and the right gear is important. We bike year-round, we bike when it’s raining, we’ll bike when it’s winter, we’ll bike when it snows as long as the roads are clear. Although, some people bike with studded tires, so having to make sure your bike is fit for the season is important.
In a biking community like NY, it’s helpful to have high-vis gear which is where Vespertine NYC comes to play. Having bright vests, and bright jackets- I tend to wear all black because I’m really into fashion and NYC style which is all black usually. Vespertine NYC makes sure that I have style but also high- vis which is important. Good helmets are also important, I work with Lazer (Lazer sport) and they have great rated helmets for grownups and adults. I have the visor, if you look at my Instagram my helmet has a visor and I'd never bike without a helmet with an eye shield ever again. If it starts to rain or if it’s sunny and you forget your sunglasses- you always have a shield, it’s great. Panniers - good bags, good bike bags I think are important. Then, of course we always have a speaker for music. Those I think are my essentials.
Vespertine NYC (EM): You're known for being a very stylish Cargo Bike Mom! What are some ways you ride in style?
CBM: Vespertine NYC helps, I have the reflective Vesper Jacket in the red, cinnabar flash color. I think it's really beautiful and stylish. The vest really allows me to have my own style and then still have high vis because you can put it on over other whatever. I do a lot of research about the types of style- I have more of an edgier style so I'll make sure that my clothing is all bike friendly. I use a lot of ripped black jeans, I wear a lot of leopard print, and having good shoes that are great for biking but also stylish I think are very important. I'll use the Ariat Chelsea boots which are weatherproof, I'll also use Converses in the summer, spring and fall. I use Birkenstocks because they have grip, a good biking shoe is when it’s very grippy. I really love fashion, but I don’t think you have to trade fashion for biking gear, I think they can be the same. Just as long as you make modifications to be able to bike comfortably, however you're comfortable.