A few weeks ago, I joined Temecula resident Zak Schwank for a couple bicycle rides around town. My legs nearly gave out on the steep hills as I struggled to keep up. I wouldn’t have been too embarrassed if Zak hadn’t been towing some extra weight: his three kids.
Last year, Zak and his wife, Jennifer, decided to sell one of their cars and focus on getting around by bike, a challenge with young children. After some research, they purchased a Madsen cargo bike, which would allow Zak to transport all three kids, including 8-month-old Owen, to and from school, soccer practice, grocery stores, doctor offices and more. Zak, who cares for the kids full time, estimates he now rides 80 miles per week on the “bucket bike” while Jennifer teaches at a local elementary school.
“There’re people who think we’re insane,” says Zak of family and friends. Others are very supportive and many are surprised because they hadn’t considered the possibility of getting around motor-less.
As far as reactions from drivers, Zak says some people don’t understand that he is legally allowed to ride in the street. He’s been yelled and honked at. Some motorists freeze up and block traffic when they see him.
“I’m just trying to get somewhere, just like everybody else,” he says.
The Schwanks plan to continue their cycling lifestyle well into the future. As the kids grow, Zak says he will experiment with tandem bikes and other solutions. Eventually they will be able to ride on their own. Emily, 7, already pedals her own bike on shorter rides and Jack, 4, can last a couple miles on his single-speed two-wheeler.
Zak posts regularly about cycling on his Twitter page. You can connect with him at twitter.com/SchwankyTown.