Category Archives: Uncategorized

Je suis revenue

Earlier this week we came back from a two-week trip to Europe. It had more drama than anyone had expected: for example, when we landed in Paris, our son passed out on the plane, so we ended up entering the EU through the airport urgent care center. (He is fine now.) However if you are going to have drama halfway around the world, I think it’s better to take care of it at the beginning rather than the end. Also, we got our own immigration agent so there was no waiting in line for passport control. That part was nice.

We first went to Venice, which as promised had no cars. As a city it is astonishing although it has been loved to death; it has 60,000 permanent residents and every day of the year, tourists outnumber them. Often it was hard to find what was left of the city under it all. Then we visited friends in Bordeaux, who have basically transitioned to a car-free life thanks to the city’s bike share system and its gorgeous new electric tram. While we were there I saw a Philippe Starck Pibal for the first time, which looks just as weird in real life as in photos, and charmingly has a map of Bordeaux on the deck. Another first I spotted was an assisted Nihola trike, ripping along far too fast to photograph in pancake-flat Bordeaux.

Our final stop was Paris. Paris is Paris, although it has changed dramatically since we lived there. One change we love is the Vélib’ bike share system, and the network of protected lanes being built for its riders. A change we didn’t love at all was that people have switched from riding scooters to riding motorcycles. The insane driving and relentless smoking remain the same. The exceptional food and culture are unchanged. I love Paris so much that I can forgive a lot.

Catching up has been exhausting, but we are back, and with the shift to warmer weather, bikes are out in force. Bike and Roll to School Day is coming up in a week, on April 24th. You’ll find us on the Panhandle, en route to Rosa Parks, and happy to be home again.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

3 years, can you believe it?

That's a cat carrier in our Bullitt. There's very little it can't haul.

That’s a cat carrier in our Bullitt. There’s very little it can’t haul.

So hey, November 2nd was the blog’s three-year anniversary. And I forgot it. Then the next week, I forgot that we were hosting our son’s birthday party. What can I say? I’m teaching a new class this term and apparently there no room for anything else in my brain.

There was a time when I wondered if I’d run out of material or bikes to review, but that seems unlikely to happen anytime soon. Recently we’ve ridden a Bike Friday Haul-a-Day and a Kidztandem, and later this month I will be trying out a loaner Faraday Porteur (because one of these days I’ll be riding solo all the time). And I definitely have ambitions to try the Butchers & Bicycles MK1 tricycle, the first that has ever looked even vaguely appealing to me, the next time I’m in Portland, which for the record, will be in April 2015. San Francisco keeps building up bike lanes, my husband continues to wander around the world checking out bicycle culture on other continents, and we see more families join us on the road every month. So there’s still so much to say.

Over the years this site has evolved a lot. I’m certain that the only people who read at first were family members. Now I get interesting and useful comments on most posts, and hear from old friends near and far that they’re following along. Thanks everybody, for hanging in. I appreciate it.

7 Comments

Filed under family biking, San Francisco, Uncategorized

Punk’d

When we went to visit my mom for spring break, we brought our rain gear. It rains a lot in Seattle. Unfortunately I lost my rain pants while I was there. That was a bummer—they’re great rain pants—but not a short-term crisis. It rarely rains in San Francisco after February, and never after March. And this is a drought year anyway. I figured that if they didn’t show up by October or so, I’d have to buy new gear, because an El Nino year is on the way. And I had already promised myself that next rainy season, I’d try a Cleverhood, but it wasn’t exactly on the top of my to-do list.

I also assumed that California’s weather system had better things to do than punk me, like empty out the state’s reservoirs. I was wrong.

This morning we woke up to rain. Of course it is welcome, because of the drought, but I was vaguely annoyed about my missing rain pants. Rain in San Francisco is like hills in San Francisco: hard and intense, although it comes and goes. But how bad could it be? I thought, with the casual ignorance of someone who has not gone outside in suspicious weather without wearing full rain gear since 2011.

Really, really bad, it turns out. By the time we’d gone a few blocks, my pants were soaked. By the time we hit the Panhandle, they had dripped an inch of water into each of my rain boots. And because the boots are waterproof, all that water just stayed there. By the time we dropped off our son, I was shivering. When I finally got to work, I had to empty my boots into the kitchen sink.

There will be no pictures with this post. I look like I was fished from a pond, and I’m walking around the office barefoot. I am just grateful that typically only one other person works in the office on Fridays.

When people say there is no bad weather, only bad gear, they are basically right. Until today I’ve loved riding in the rain. Super-cautious drivers, empty streets, respect or actual awe from my coworkers: what’s not to like? Having good gear is like having the right bike. It makes everything easier. With the Bullitt’s rain cover, the kids have never had complaints about riding in the rain either.

But without it, misery is never far away. This morning as I was sloshing through the halls, I thought, “This sucks. Maybe we should buy a golf cart.” This is the route to madness! I should buy some new rain gear. Preferably before 5pm. If only Instacart delivered clothing.

3 Comments

Filed under commuting, San Francisco, Uncategorized

Richmond Sunday Streets

On Arguello heading up to Clement Street

On Arguello heading up to Clement Street

Richmond Sunday Streets was last weekend, the last Sunday Streets of 2013. There’s a reason for that: it was cold. This didn’t seem to affect attendance much, but it made our kids grouchy and their noses run, so we didn’t stay as long as we might have otherwise.

For this event our son could ride his own bike without our having to keep an eye one him. Although most of the action was on Clement Street (aka Chinatown 2), Arguello was also closed from Golden Gate Park up to the start of Clement. In combination with the regular Sunday street closure in the park (and the fact that we live three blocks away) we rode the whole way without having to worry about cars except at a couple of intersections staffed by crossing guards. Even though it is always a bear climbing up Arguello into the park on the way home, it was worth it.

Spotted at Richmond Sunday Streets: skeleton bike

Spotted at Richmond Sunday Streets: skeleton bike

We used to live in the Inner Richmond, back when we were a one-kid family. We liked it then, although it eventually made sense to move closer to campus, but we’d like it even more now. Richmond Sunday Streets overlapped what is now a regular farmers market that takes over a few blocks of Clement Street every Sunday (now permitted to 2014). That didn’t exist when we lived nearby. And with Halloween coming up there were costumes as well. Even bike costumes!

Big Dummy with pirates--see what I mean? Costumes!

Big Dummy with pirates–see what I mean? Costumes!

We often see friends at Sunday Streets, and this was no exception—these days I’m starting to recognize bikes, at which point I stop to look for the people attached to them that I know should be around somewhere. As a bonus, we also got to meet a handful of new-to-us people with cool bikes. One family met us in Golden Gate Park to try out the Bullitt, even though they already own a pretty righteous Big Dummy. And I was reminded once again how much you can load on a Big Dummy, a trick that is evidently not exclusive to Family Ride.

Finally, I meet another triple tandem family.

Finally, I meet another triple tandem family.

People break out the big bikes for street closures. At Sunday Streets I’ve now spotted three different triple tandems—green, pink, and red—and this time we met the dad who rides the pink triple. He told me that he’d bought the frame used and built it up from there—he had no idea who manufactured it, but what a score.

On the way home we stopped at an intersection with a guy on a folding bike who told us our electric assist was “cheating.” I find this kind of thing pretty tiresome—since when are there competition rules in transportation cycling?—but Matt is more patient than I am. “We haul two kids up Parnassus Heights,” he said. “They should pedal on their own!” responded our critic. This is ludicrous—our son was on his bike that day, which is how we know that he can’t yet get up that hill on his own, even though he is a strong rider for his age. But after that this stranger told us that an assist was the right thing to do, and that he wanted one of his own. These moments make me wonder how much of the occasional grousing we hear about electric assist constituting “cheating” is simply envy.

How cool is this Bilenky?

How cool is this Bilenky?

But to sweeten the ride home, we met up with another cool cargo bike: a BionX Bilenky! I’ve seen a couple of Bilenky cargo bikes before, usually on the flats as the Bilenky front-loaders are not known as great climbers. But with a BionX it hardly matters. The rider told me that he lives above Buena Vista Park (for those unfamiliar with San Francisco, if there is a view, inevitably there is a steep hill associated with it). “I’m living the dream!” he told me.

This is the part of our new condo that doesn't need anything fixed.

This is the part of our new condo that doesn’t need to be fixed.

I’m now riding nearly every day, and walking without the cane. My limp gets a bit less noticeable every week. I keep meaning to write more, but I’ve been overwhelmed, mostly because (drum roll) we just bought a condo. Our new place is three blocks from our current rental, but every one of those blocks is downhill. And it is on a designated bike route, which means: a flat street. We’ll no longer need the assist just to get home. We won’t be able to move into the new place for months because it has… issues that need to be addressed (including the world’s most unusable kitchen). But we are counting the days.

And check out our new neighbors. I am so excited that we will be living down the street from these people.

And check out our new neighbors. I am so excited that we will be living down the street from these people.

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Crash

Last Sunday, while my son and I were riding in Golden Gate Park, we were rear ended by a car. The driver stopped, we have a police report, and our son was released from the ER that night. I have a shattered leg and will be hospitalized for some time. As much as I wish I could keep writing and riding, I’m going to have to take a break from both for a while. I hope to catch up in due time.

38 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

The city and the city

This is light traffic by the standards of a driving commute in San Francisco.

This is light traffic by the standards of a driving commute in San Francisco.

Today, thanks to a complicated sequence of planned afternoon events, I took the shuttle to work. I was surprised to realize that this is the first time I’ve ridden a bus instead of a bike in months.

The university shuttle, compared to Muni, is fairly palatial. You always get a seat, there are no stops between most destinations, and people are quiet. A lot of people work on the shuttle, but now that we drive so rarely, I’ve found that I, like the kids, tend to get a little carsick. So I looked out the windows instead, which helps.

The city that I saw on the shuttle is very different than the city I see on a bike. The bus got caught in traffic at one point, which was unnerving (San Francisco keeps postponing the implementation of Bus Rapid Transit lanes). And most of what I saw on the way to work was roads and cars, an endless expanse of gray asphalt and metal. It was unpleasant. The bus is high enough that I could look down on cars, which were filled, almost without exception, with drivers texting on their cell phones. I did not find that reassuring. And from my perspective, every car I saw, even the “compact” cars, was comically oversized for its typical load of one or two people. People on foot sprinted across major intersections. The city I traveled in today is filled with noise and fumes and traffic. It feels dangerous and unwelcoming.

At the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park

At the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park

I normally ride to work through Golden Gate Park and on back streets, and aside from a few transitions on major roads, the trip is quiet. I ride either in the park or on back streets lined with trees. My city is mostly filled with bird song and nature and brief conversations with people walking to work. “Please,” I say, “go ahead.”

No cars allowed

No cars allowed

I live in one place, but it contains two cities. I realize now why I haven’t ridden the shuttle in months. Why would I want to?

Leave a comment

Filed under commuting, San Francisco, traffic, Uncategorized

The end of the world (or at least the end of the year)

I miss November.

I miss November.

It’s the end of the world. It’s the winter solstice. It’s the last day of school. And at the end of the day today, my office will turn off the heat until January 2013. It’s a giant hint that we shouldn’t be here, and after last year, when I had to come in anyway to work on a grant proposal, I’ve learned my lesson.

When the weather's better, they want to try riding with both of them on the tube (I don't, though).

When the weather’s better, they want to try riding with both of them on the tube (I don’t, though).

It hasn’t been the easiest December. It is often hard for me to get on the bike in the winter, even in temperate San Francisco. Temperatures have been lower than usual many days, and when it hasn’t been cold, it’s been pouring rain. Drivers are rushed and rude, passing too close and gunning though red lights. And in the afternoon and evening, there are delivery trucks blocking the bike lanes on every street and pushing me into traffic. The racks at the office these days hold only two bikes, mine and my friend Libby’s. For the first mile of any ride, I am always grouchy. The other day, for the first time in months, I thought “maybe I should just take the shuttle home.”

This is the Bullitt's Splendid canopy, worth every penny.

This is the Bullitt’s Splendid canopy, worth every penny.

But it gets better after that first mile. I have gear to handle the rain, and our kids are content under the Bullitt’s (awesome!) cover for the whole ride.  And other people make it easier. My friend Libby admired our dynamo lights when I left the office yesterday. On the Bullitt the other day I was fuming after my son and I were trapped behind two FedEx trucks, when another rider came up behind us. “I love your cargo bike!” he yelled. “It’s fantastic!” This morning, in the pouring rain, I saw Matt coming back from dropping off our son as I returned from dropping off our daughter, and we stopped to talk. One of my daughter’s preschool teachers walking to school stopped on the sidewalk next to us and shook her head. “You guys,” she said, “are so cool.” Who knew?

The fake snow at the Academy of Sciences is the only snow my kids have ever seen.

The fake snow at the Academy of Sciences is the only snow my kids have ever seen.

San Francisco is a big city, but on our bikes, it’s a small world. And it’s a friendly one. Thanks, everybody.

It can't be overstated how much kids love Engine Engine Engine.

It can’t be overstated how much kids love Engine Engine Engine.

There is so much I still mean to write about. What it was like to ride in Seattle and Portland (Families Ride again!), and both cities’ cargo bike roll calls (which were completely different); trying out new ride share services; how we set up our Bullitt; our son’s new bike and how he learned to use gears; how using the electric assist has made me a stronger rider; our trip to Davis and the World Cycling Hall of Fame; my battle to get more bike racks at our son’s afterschool program because the current ones are packed with family bikes. People have asked me to put together a summary of all the child seats we’ve tried; thanks to all those bike rentals, we’ve tried almost a dozen.  We have two friends who switched from driving to family biking just this month (in December! They rock!) San Francisco is adding bicycle infrastructure at such a rapid pace I can’t keep up. Next year, we hope to try our first cycle truck, a Workcycles Fr8, and a tandem or two.  And in April, when Golden Gate Park closes the streets to cars on Saturdays again, I’ve promised myself I’ll organize a Kidical Mass ride.

Another day at the Rosa Parks drop off, which has less and less room for all the bikes

Another day at the Rosa Parks drop off, which has less and less room for all the bikes

But it’s been a big year already, so for the rest of it, I think I’ll be taking a break from everything except family. If you’re in San Francisco, you might spot us at museums around the city over the next two weeks. Just look for the “one less minivan” stickers on the bikes parked by the front door.  And if you’re not in San Francisco, hope to catch you in 2013.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized