When author Sarah Sweedler decided to replace her minivan, she drew up a list of criteria for her next vehicle. Fuel economy and environmental friendliness ranked high, as did versatility. She needed something that could shuttle her two daughters to school and schlep groceries for a family of four. And having driven her ultra-practical family van for the past 11 years, she wanted her new ride to be fun. After kicking tons of tires, watching fuel prices and global warming soar while the economy plummeted, Sarah chose something practical, yet sporty--a Surly longboard bike. "This bike is totally versatile," Sarah says. "It's huge and sturdy. What I love most about it is that every errand fulfills multiple goals--fresh air, exercise and no more feeding the meters and dealing with parking tickets. It's great." Sarah points to bicycling's long history as a vital transportation mode in America. Whether racing, winding up mountains or cruising beach boardwalks, bikes have always metamorphisized to suit their environments. The longboard, funny-looking though it may be, is just one more incarnation. Besides helping Sarah increase her fitness and decrease her carbon footprint, the longboard supports Sarah in modeling healthy, admirable behavior for her children. "My kids are getting the message to get out in the world and move around because it feels really good. There's such beauty in riding a bike--the continuity of going somewhere, the sensory experience of seeing, feeling, smelling. I love the fact that you understand the landscape better. The whole gestalt of it is wonderful," Sarah says. Sarah's daughters, Sophia and Alex, enjoy the ride as much as Sarah; perhaps even more, since they don't have to peddle up the steep hills that characterize the Bay Area. "My girls are always telling me we don't need a car. They think the bike is a hoot." Riding a bike as part of daily life, rather than strictly for exercise, is deepening Sarah's relationships with her children, the environment and her community. "When I pull up to a stoplight, people talk to me. I'm not hiding out in a metal box," Sarah says. Since much of Sarah's riding takes place in city traffic, she's forced to pay attention to her surroundings in a way she rarely managed when driving the minivan. "Bike riding is very meditative," she says. "Being totally present is part of the joy. When it comes to this bike, there is absolutely no downside." If you're thinking of emulating Sarah, take care to follow her safety tips. Always wear a helmet and make sure your kids always wear theirs. Ride defensively--never assume that motorized vehicles with which you share the road will look out for you. Stop for red lights, stop signs and pedestrians. Whenever possible, choose the least trafficked routes. Equip your bike with a horn and wear a whistle. Always stay alert.