On Monday I took my son to school on the Bobike Junior. I am not the primary school drop-off parent. And we live at the top of a giant hill. This was my first run down it with him as a passenger, and as others have noted, there can be braking issues when you add kid-weight to a bike. So I overshot the line at a 4-way stop at the bottom by a couple of feet when I stopped. I’d say I’m not doing badly for a first-timer, but that’s me, Sally Sunshine.
The taxi driver coming up on the cross street stop looked angry and waved me on. Okey dokey. And as we went by, he pulled halfway into the intersection, the better to yell out the window, “It’s dangerous and stupid to ride with your kid on a bike!” Both my son and I burst out laughing (I swear I wasn’t even thinking of this poster at time). Like I’m going to take road safety advice from a cabbie!
Biking the boy to school
I don’t have much chance to walk on the wild side now that I’m a parent, so Monday, at least, I was living the dream. If only I’d had both kids on board! I could have made the roads safer for years to come when his head exploded.
I told another parent at Rosa Parks about what happened when we got to school. He said, “That always happens to me too! The first time I try something, no matter what it is, someone always says something obnoxious.” Augie, if you ever read this, you’re awesome.
Not that it’s needed, but this is just further confirmation of my long-standing belief that when people toss out insults they’re holding up a dark mirror to reflect back the things they dislike and fear most about themselves. There was someone dangerous and stupid on the road that morning, and I think we both knew who it was. In the meantime, my son laughed all the way into the park. It was, overall, a pretty nice ride.
Matt told me it was supposed to rain today, and as a new bicycle commuter, see above, my rain gear isn’t all that it could be. So I took the shuttle to work, and planned to take Muni to the SF Bicycle Coalition’s Biking Your Kids to School class. It is the first time they’ve offered it, and I’m so glad! There are some obvious first generation issues with the class (e.g. neither instructor had a child over the age of 2, awkward talk-amongst-yourselves moments, blank slides) but it’s part of their new family biking initiative, which couldn’t be more awesome. Seeing and recognizing their bikes (Xtracycle with stoker bars and Omafiets + Bobike Mini and Maxi) made me feel like I was not quite such an ignorant wretch. The one non-parent stopping by the class for some road tips said she had no idea what most of us were talking about most of the time–what’s a Bobike? what’s a stoker? It is very rare that I feel informed while discussing bicycling; granted, at your average SF hipster bike shop, I know more than the 20-something employees about child seats, but their attitude clearly communicates that that’s roughly equivalent to knowing more than they do about sewage treatment. I think I visited 7 bike shops before we finally found a parent, two parents in fact, one Dutch (a shout out to Ocean Cyclery). Anyway, the weather today has been great, and oh my god, I resented taking the shuttle and bus today! Slow, crowded, boring! Of course, in Matt’s defense, now that I’m back at the office the skies look grim indeed.
Not to mention, the bus is cold. Whatever else I might say about the hills of San Francisco, I have yet to feel cold after climbing a few of them by bicycle, particularly my bicycle, which was not light to begin with, got into Workcycles territory with the addition of 2 child seats, and is easily the slowest thing on the road when I put both kids (75 pounds!) on board. Heck, usually it’s the slowest thing on the road without two kids on board. As was discussed at the bike shop, it is very fortunate that I am not heavyset. My bike is rated to carry 300 pounds, and when you total up 130 pounds of me + 75 pounds of kids + 20 pounds of child seats + whatever else we’re carrying, well, I’m glad I found reviews from very large men who ride the same model claiming that the bike will, in fact, take the weight without complaint. And it does. Slowly.
Nonetheless I managed to get up the 16%? 18%? grade (really, really steep!) hill that goes up to our home on the first day I rode the bike with both kids on board; I have a great granny gear. And according to my sister, all women in our family have legs like French ponies, which aesthetically speaking leaves much to be desired but evidently has some practical advantages. However I have since found better routes; by going a few blocks out of my way, I can keep the grade ~8%, which is the kind of thing that I view as a big success, now that I have apparently completely lost my mind.
Nonetheless I am still pumped that I made it up that hill even once carrying 75+ pounds of kids without needing a walking break. Probably this is a greater testament to the gearing than to my personal strength but I still kind of wanted to find some guy wearing lycra and say, who’s living strong now? But I was too winded to speak. There were many of them in Golden Gate Park that day, loading up their bikes onto SUVs in the late afternoon as we meandered by, both kids eating Arizmendi pastries and laughing. These erstwhile riders looked at us like we were crazy, disbelief coming off them in visible waves. But why would anyone put a bike on a car when they could be riding in the Sunday sunshine?
I really, really hate the only panniers we have found so far that fit on my rack after installing the Bobike Junior. Kid hauling is also cargo-hauling, and mine are small, linked together so they are a bear to install under the child seat, and are too floppy to hang straight and too stiff to hook to the bottom of the rack easily. Wrestling them on and off takes several minutes and is the least pleasant part of my biking day. But the footrests block most of the rack and so it’s hard to find any bags that work. I need some kind of rear rack extension? Does such a thing exist? The Oma-rider at SFBC has the same problem; the Maxi is too close to the seat to allow her to carry a messenger bag without smacking her son in the face, the footrests block her from hanging bags off the rack, the brake cables and Mini footrests make a front basket impractical. Surely we can’t be the only people who occasionally want to carry snacks and a water bottle as well as the kids.
[Update: I think I have figured this out. Or at least other people have, and I plan to free-ride on their good ideas.]