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Meet the Culver City Bike Mama Who Rides to Campus

Continuing Lecturer and Bike Commuter Tara

Dr. Tara Prescott-Johnson, from UCLA Writing Programs, could easily teach a course on bike commuting. The continuing lecturer – and mom of a one-car household – is all about encouraging this low-cost, environmentally-conscious way to travel among her fellow Bruins. Learn more and get a lesson from the Culver City Bike Mama here.

Describe your commute to campus.

My route is about 6 miles each way and takes about 30 minutes. That’s less time than taking the bus or a car when you factor in traffic and parking. Before I started commuting by bike, Culver City seemed a lot further away than it is!

Living in L.A. warps your sense of time and distance because we all know that something 6 miles away could take 40 minutes or longer to drive. Once you start riding a bike, you realize how close things are – and how many driving trips could be accomplished by bike. 

Talk about the Culver City Bike Mama moniker.

Culver City Bike Mama

Because my teaching schedule is much more flexible than my partner’s work schedule, I’ve always been the primary person to drop off and pick up the kids. Taking two kids to two locations, dealing with rush hour, parking, plus taking them in and out of car seats is a lot. I quickly figured out a cargo bike made my life easier. Culver City is flat and has lots of bike lanes and a dedicated bike path to the beach. 

I’d bike the kids around, then take the bus to UCLA. Eventually, I learned about ebike company Wombi. They rent pedal-assist cargo ebikes – you still pedal, but the motor helps a lot. Suddenly, I could schlep both kids and their backpacks, ride to work, get groceries – do everything. The kids play with each other, I zip past traffic, and everybody gets fresh air and exercise. It’s great!

As for the Culver City Bike Mama name, I just decided that if I’m going to be a two-wheeled human minivan for the kids and wear a ridiculously neon safety vest, I may as well fully embrace it. There are many caregivers with kids riding around town. I love seeing folks getting exercise, cutting carbon emissions, and having fun.

As a professor, what lessons about biking would you like to impart to your fellow Bruins?

You don’t have to be an ultra-sporty cyclist in racing gear to enjoy biking. I ride in my work clothes. You don’t have to spend a ton of money. Cars certainly cost more.

To students I say, resist Ubering to class. Wear helmets. Learn the perimeter bike routes. And if you want to borrow a bike, I recommend heading to Santa Monica and biking down the beach path.

Many of us faculty members make long commutes to campus. If you’re close enough to bike, take baby steps: make it a goal to bike once a month, or once a week. If you’re too far to bike, consider biking to public transportation.

You teach a course on science fiction and fantasy author Neil Gaiman. What is magical about biking? 

When I’m coasting down the beach bike path, seagulls riding the breeze to my right, my kids giggling, singing, and blowing bubbles behind me, leaving a trail of rainbows in our wake, it’s as close to riding a magic carpet as you can get.