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Alma Libby Photo

How I Roll: Libby Kacich, The Commuter Mom

In her office on Green Street, Libby Kasich is confident, polished and a little amused. The Director of Creative Services for the University of Illinois doesn’t even consider herself a cyclist, and here is Bike Writer, messy hair on head and bicycle notebook in hand, bounding up to ask questions about her daily commute.

How did we get here? A name drop, an email and a reply of “yes.” Very generous on Libby’s part to accept my meeting. She’s a hardworking woman and not associated with any bicycle organizations or advocacy groups. She’s just a mom who always wears her helmet and wants her children to live healthy active lives.

“I’m not really a cyclist,” she says.

“But you ride your bike almost every day.”

“Yeah.”

“You bike your two small children to school.”

“I do,” she says, and I want to wait for her to admit that 1+2=cyclist, but instead I ask her a lot of questions about her family’s home-to-preschool-to-work commute.

The answers:

Caroline and Birdie

3 ½ and 1 ½ respectively

With a bike trailer

80 pounds

8 miles round trip

Champaign

Safe

They really enjoy it.

My husband rides to pick them up.

Libby bought her husband, Bob, a bike when they first started dating, but she admits it took a while for him to hop on it. However, once their children came into the picture, he too wanted to promote a healthy lifestyle for his family. Now at the end of the day he pedals the 80 pounds of Caroline, Birdie and the bike trailer from preschool to their home in Champaign.

Apparently the girls love riding in the bike trailer.

“Oh it’s far easier than the car,” Libby says, laughing. “Getting them into their car seats is hellacious. Getting them in their helmets—I don’t even have to ask.”

In a year and a half, the girls will attend different schools which means a longer route and a complicated decision about equipment. This is what gets Libby excited, the creative problem-solving of her family’s commute. She’s talking faster, listing the various options: who to drop off first, trailer or no trailer, Caroline on her own bike or not? I’m wondering if I should mark my calendar to follow up in two years. But the Kacich family will, no doubt, figure it out with Libby at the handlebars.

Understandably, I’m pretty amazed that this family has woven cycling seamlessly into the fabric of their days without often consciously identifying with the cycling community.

“Yeah, it’s just not a part of my identity,” says Libby, and then she mentions commuting by bike from Queens to Manhattan when she used to live in New York. She describes the trucks whizzing by, her unbelievable sense of youthful immortality that no longer exists in her. I don’t say anything, just smile wide.

“I’m actually a breast cancer survivor,” she says, and I’m extra in awe. “So health is really important to me. That motivates my cycling right now, nothing else. I just want my girls to grow up healthy. I just want to be a good mom.”

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