Why I Ride: Nicolas Fauchier-Magnan

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By Jennifer Ann Gordon

Parisian bicycling beginnings

Davis resident Nico Fauchier-Magnan’s love affair with bicycles goes back a long way. Growing up in Paris, he says, “Biking gave me a lot of independence. I rode my bike to the library, to my activities, to my friends’ places…basically, everywhere. A bike is often faster than the Metro and busses. Back in the nineties, Paris was just starting to build its bike infrastructure; I remember the first bike lane in my neighborhood was quite a novelty. Now Paris has come a long way. Look at the success of the Vélib’ bike-share system: it is one of the most-used in the world, with 100,000 trips per day and four times more docking stations than metro stations.”

Nico’s parents and three siblings, still in Paris, are avid bikers. “Everybody in my family rides bikes now. Our grandma calls us ‘the bicycle family.’ My dad is in finance; he rides his e-bike to the office in his suit and tie, and to meetings with clients. It’s so cool! My brother bikes five miles to work every day, rain or shine, and takes his son to daycare in a child seat on his rack.”

The Magnan biking tradition continues

Nico and his wife moved to Davis from Switzerland when she accepted a professor position at UC Davis. Nico found a staff position on campus. And the whole family rides! The couple commutes to work by bike, rain or shine, and they also take their kids to daycare by bike. Their one car rarely leaves the driveway, except on the weekends for family road trips.

Faster than driving

“One of the reasons we bike to work everyday is that it’s so much faster than driving. By the time we drive, park and walk to the office, we could have already been there if we had biked. There are all these shortcuts, too—the off-street bike paths and tunnels are so nice and direct, and you rarely have to cross traffic. Yes, they are so nice!”

More economical than driving

The family has recouped the money they invested into getting the right bikes for their family by saving on parking fees—approximately $800 per year—on top of all all the other costs of driving, such as gas, maintenance, and depreciation. They also have pay-per-mile car insurance to take advantage of their low annual driving mileage. Nico said, “Biking has paid back financially and in fun.”

The ongoing quest for better street design and engineering

Nico lived in San Francisco in his twenties and volunteered actively for the local bike advocacy group, the SF Bicycle Coalition. When he moved to Davis, it was only natural for him to become active in Bike Davis, a bicycle advocacy group that promotes bicycling through advocacy, encouragement, education and design.. One major aspect of Bike Davis’s work is the ongoing quest for safer streets, with better design and engineering. Nico said, “In Davis, 20-25 percent of all trips are made on bicycle. We have an amazing infrastructure already, but there are still some gaps in our bike network.”

A family that bikes together has more fun

Nico and his wife purchased a family bike from Nihola, a Danish company, in Old Town Sacramento. The bike incorporates a front cab that can seat two children, with a strong emphasis on safety: a strong metal frame, and the same durable material used around ice hockey rinks, make the cab feel bullet-proof. “My kids love sitting in front, they get to see everything. The three-point harnesses are great, and the raincover is amazing: it keeps them dry even through heavy rain,” Nico said.

Nico’s 3-½ year old son already rides a bike with no training wheels. “When he was two, my brother gave him a balance bicycle. By the time he was three, he was well-balanced. He had learned how to pedal from riding a tricycle, so it was natural for him to put it all together to ride his bike.”

Nico’s advice for families who want to bike together

“Start small and build up your confidence,” he said. “Get a trailer or a bike seat for your child and try it out for a week. And, make it playful for the kids. Sometimes, my son and I pretend that our Nihola bike with the cab is a submarine and he’s the pilot. Trees become whales, other bikes are octopuses… he loves it!”

This series of articles was produced by The Bike Campaign. For more information about how to “Drive Less. Enjoy More” Contact Maria Tebbutt at funmaria@sbcglobal.net or www.thebikecampaign.com


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