Tag Archives: Rosa Parks Elementary School

A series of family biking events, 2014 edition

There is a lot to do if you are interested in family biking, mostly in San Francisco but also beyond. Here’s everything I know about this summer so far in date order—and don’t miss the good stuff at the end.

July 13th (11am-4pm): Richmond Sunday Streets

We went to Richmond Sunday Streets last year—this was a great event for kids to ride their own bikes because it was car-free all the way from Golden Gate Park to Clement Street. We had no worries about cross-traffic for miles.

July 19th (11am-5pm): Fiets of Parenthood and the Disaster Relief Trials, Portland, Oregon

We are finally going to make it to Fiets of Parenthood, which will be held at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry on July 19th. Come to compete or to test out cool cargo bikes—Splendid Cycles claims they’ll have a Bullitt with the new extra-torquey BionX D system to try. There is also a new class in the Disaster Relief Trials, the non-competitive Replenish division, as well as the competitive classes competing for time (we are so not doing that). To participate in Replenish you have to haul a non-pedaling passenger (no tandems). Our California contingent will be easy to spot, as we’ll all be on child seat-equipped Bromptons. Go Grizzlies.

August 24th (11am-4pm): Mission Sunday Streets

Our first Mission Sunday Streets in 2012

Our first Mission Sunday Streets in 2012

Mission Sunday Streets is the first we ever attended and it’s always the most crowded, but it’s no less awesome for that. We usually hightail it to Dynamo Donuts first thing in the morning, then turn around and return at a more measured pace. Our bikes are easy to spot if you’re looking for us.

September 2nd (10am-11am): How would you make buying and using a cargo bike easier? A conversation with Vie Bikes at Koret Playground in Golden Gate Park (look for the sign near the Carousel)

Vie Bikes is a new company formed by three San Francisco cargo biking parents intent on making it easy as pie to find, buy and use the best cargo bikes on the market. Among other things, Vie will offer month-to-month leasing, and built-in quarterly service that comes to you. Vie is planning to launch in San Francisco in the coming months, and expand in to new cities thereafter. Stop by Koret Playground to talk with Vie’s founders, including long-time Hum of the City reader Kit Hodge. Vie is looking for feedback from both people who have cargo bikes and people looking for them regarding key aspects of our service.If you went through the process of shopping for a cargo bike again, what would you change?If you’re in the process now, what are you finding challenging? Be part of shaping a company that will transform cargo bike use across North America. RSVP to info@viebikes.com. Can’t make it but want to weigh in? E-mail info@viebikes.com with your thoughts. We’ve known Kit for a long time and were very excited about the idea of a cargo bike leasing company, which is both totally novel and totally cool. I hear there will be sample bikes to check out as well.

September 14th (11am-4pm): Western Addition Sunday Streets

Western Addition Sunday Streets 2013

Western Addition Sunday Streets 2013

Western Addition Sunday Streets is one of my favorites because a large section of it goes through neighborhoods rather than a major commercial strip. It’s also much less crowded because the route hauls people up over Alamo Square, so beware. We usually start at Chili Pies and Ice Cream and wander over toward Japantown.

The final two events are only relevant for Rosa Parks families, but if you are such a family (or you’d like to be eventually), please feel free to join our community even before school starts.

July 12th and August 16th (11am-1pm): Rosa Parks Incoming Kindergarten class family potlucks

Family bikes round up in the lower courtyard. Incoming kindergarteners can meet and play with each other and their future teachers. These are fun events—at the August potluck, classroom assignments should be out as well. We may miss the August potluck because of our Camp Mather trip, but we’re going to try to make it to both. Hope to see you there.

Happy riding this summer.

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Filed under Brompton, destinations, electric assist, family biking, Portland, San Francisco, Xtracycle

How we roll

Riding the Brompton with a kid never gets old

Riding the Brompton with a kid never gets old

We have had some crazy weekends lately—as mentioned, we recently dragged ourselves over to Berkeley, and next week I’m flying north with the kids to see my mom while Matt goes to Australia on business—but most of the time, we keep it local. Usually weekends mean riding around doing whatever it is we want to do. Sometimes we take Muni downtown instead of the bikes. But as we learned at Santacon, riding bikes means never having to worry about traffic or street closures. We wander into whatever event is happening and wander out. There is always an event of some kind in San Francisco.

Painting flowers for the garden

Painting flowers for the garden

If it weren’t for the times we rent cars, we would have forgotten entirely what it was like to get stuck in traffic or be unable to find parking. We never have to pull over on the bikes to let one of the kids throw up into the gutter. When we see something interesting we stop and check it out. When we run into friends on the way we ride with them for a while and chat. We spend bupkis on transportation. It’s difficult to overstate how much of a difference all of this has made in the quality of our lives. The only downside is that occasionally we get cold or wet, unless we want to rent a car instead. This seems like a more than fair exchange.

She learned how to mix in white paint to make light colors.

She learned how to mix in white paint to make light colors.

Last Saturday was a garden fundraiser at Rosa Parks, so we rode over with the kids to paint flowers for the fence. There are so many biking families at Rosa Parks now that we are, I’ve recently learned, sort of our own gravitational force. We attract a few more families away from their cars every year. For this event the organizers put the entrance next to garden courtyard, expecting that there wouldn’t be space for all the bikes otherwise. That assumption was correct. The school finally got that extra bike corral rack in front of the building, in red because the district had run out of blue racks. It fills up too.

They're finally getting over the daylight savings switch, but they still get tired sometimes.

They’re finally getting over the daylight savings switch, but they still get tired sometimes.

On Sunday we wandered down to the farmers’ market and then down the street for brunch. Matt and our son rode out afterward to pop popcorn for a school fundraiser, then to the library and the grocery store (we won’t run out of milk THIS week). I made nettle pizza with our daughter for dinner and then the kids and I made tortillas. Movies were watched and books were read. Everyone got a nap at one point. It was the kind of weekend I had imagined when we first thought about having kids. They come more often now.

We sold our car almost two years ago. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long.

 

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Filed under Brompton, car-free, family biking, San Francisco, traffic

Looking for a kindergarten in San Francisco?

Welcome to Rosa Parks

Welcome to Rosa Parks

If you’ve been reading here for a while, you may already have read one of my many paeans to my son’s school, which will also be my daughter’s school next year. Rosa Parks Elementary School and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition are two of my favorite institutions in the city. I realized when we went to pick up a kindergarten application form today that I hadn’t mentioned that it is currently school tour season. If you are a parent facing down the school lottery in San Francisco, I hope you’ll consider coming to visit our son’s centrally-located program in Japantown. There are two more tours before kindergarten applications are due at SFUSD on January 21, 2014.

  • Thursday, December 5, 2013
  • Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The school is on a cul de sac at 1501 O’Farrell Street, and you can schedule a visit by calling Nanayo in the front office at (415) 749-3519. Parents meet on the lower yard during morning assembly at 7:50am.

More of the bike parade whizzes by, and Rosa Parks smiles above it all.

The bike parade whizzes by, and Rosa Parks smiles above it all.

For a somewhat out-of-date and incomplete list of reasons we are so happy with the Rosa Parks Japanese Bilingual Bicultural Program, you can read a very long summary here. Rosa Parks JBBP is a citywide language program so there is no neighborhood preference.  Historically the school was laughably easy to get into—in the year we applied there were about as many applicants as kindergarten spots available—although applications increase each year. Back in 2009, it was a completely undiscovered gem of a public school.

Family bikes rolling in.

Family bikes rolling in.

I’ve had child care issues that kept me from attending earlier school tours, but I plan to attend the final two tours (if I really get my act together I may even manage to bring some bike-related swag for visitors). So if you’ve always wanted to check out the Bullitt or the mamachari, this is a good chance. If you are already a biking family, you may catch us and other families coming up Webster the morning of the tour itself. Racks are available in front of the school and in the central courtyard in front of Raphaell Weill Child Development Center. If you’re a bike-curious family, feel free to check out the assortment of family bikes out on the yard.

Front racks

Front racks

San Francisco’s lottery system, whatever the stresses it places on families, offers a unique opportunity for people to find a school that fits their personality. Families at Rosa Parks tend to be friendly, easygoing and very involved with their kids’ education. And of course, a lot of us ride bikes. If that sounds like your kind of place, we’d love to meet you!

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Filed under family biking, San Francisco

A reliable bike

The Bullitt+Roland heading out to Great Highway's Sunday Streets last weekend. They saw lots of friends.

The Bullitt+Roland heading out to Sunday Streets

The things that I write about on the blog are only a portion of what’s really happening. This is a problem inherent to life, I think: you get so busy living that there is only so much time to talk about it all. This can lead to some false perceptions. One that’s come up lately, I’ve realized, is the sense that the Bullitt spends a lot of time in the shop. That’s not really true. It’s just that the times it goes to the shop it really ticks me off. After almost a year the Bullitt has been impressively reliable, with only a couple of exceptions that are, frankly, the result of our ignorance.

The first exception relates to the gearing. I have an aversion to pinning up my pants to keep them from getting caught in the chain, although I’m getting over it. The standard setup on a Bullitt is a triple front ring, which is great for hauling up hills, but as many riders already know, is basically incompatible with a chain guard. So when we bought the Bullitt, we put an internally geared front hub on it, the FSA Metropolis Patterson crankset.

The Metropolis is unquestionably cool, and you won’t need to roll up your pants. Unfortunately, it is not built to withstand the kinds of loads and riding we do. It is very sensitive to people doing things, like, say, pedaling over a speed bump and smashing unexpectedly into a hidden pothole on the far side, or to a rider shifting down after hitting a quicker-than-expected red light with a fully loaded cargo bike and then pushing off on a steep uphill from a dead stop.  These are not what I would call conventional bicycle riding situations, unless of course you are a family living on a steep hill in San Francisco, in which case they’re like daily rituals. So we broke the Metropolis. Twice. After the second time, we replaced it with a triple front ring, which withstands anything we throw at it (and if it didn’t would be cheap and quick to fix anyway). That wasn’t particularly expensive, but it was very time-consuming.

I miss the Metropolis, because it shifted like a dream when it wasn’t broken and had a lot of range, but it was not to be. In the meantime, I’ve learned to embrace skinny pants. Sure, they may not be the most flattering look, but they don’t catch in bike chains and they are wonderful at compressing a broken leg that tends to swell up at the end of the day. Although maybe that’s just me.

Hanging out with the Rosa Parks bike fleet

Hanging out with part of the Rosa Parks bike fleet

The second exception came up pretty recently. The Bullitt went back to the shop for another time-consuming repair when we broke over a dozen spokes at once on the rear (BionX) wheel. This turns out to be a BionX and San Francisco-related thing (San Francisco is hard on bikes). The first time we didn’t realize what the issue was so we had the bike shop replace the spokes and re-true the rear wheel. The folks at The New Wheel were the ones who warned us that it would happen again unless we put a stronger rim and spokes on that rear wheel. One week later, we learned how right they were when three of the new spokes popped. That’s a lesson to all of us, yes? Go to the pros with your electric assist bike! So we took the Bullitt back to the shop and now we have a thicker rim and spokes and they are hanging in without incident. This was pretty cheap, but once again, time-consuming.

There have been other odds and ends, but they don’t affect our ability to ride the bike. Matt dropped the BionX controller and destroyed its display, which now looks like something out of a slasher film. It still works, though. One of the fiberglass poles holding the rain cover has split twice—the first time probably due to the combination of wind sheer and the kids messing with it, and the second time due to some drunk baseball fans snapping it in two. Splendid told us how to order spare fiberglass poles, which are now sitting in the garage for the next time it happens. I think they cost $15. If you happen to have obnoxious sports fans roaming your neighborhood, you too may want some spare poles.

The two big repairs represented several weeks in the shop taken together, and those messed with our lives. The Bullitt has become what our car used to be, and we use it almost every day. I wrote about those incidents because they were such an unpleasant shock—with the Bullitt our lives are pretty easy and without it they start to derail.

Two kids in the standard Bullitt box, still

Two kids in the standard Bullitt box, still

But it did not fail it when we needed it most. All last summer while I was bed-bound for 23 hours a day, Matt used it to carry both kids to school and preschool and summer camp. At the time, our daughter was still attending preschool on the top of Mt. Sutro, and our son’s summer camp was up one of the toughest hills we have ever had occasion to ride regularly (9th Avenue from Irving to Ortega, for locals reading along). And although there were days that we needed to call in friends for a carpool or a family member to walk someone home, mostly Matt managed all of that extremely grim summer solo. So how can I hold a crankset and some broken spokes against the Bullitt? Especially when I know they won’t happen again? Also, Matt is awesome.

We started this year knowing that there was trouble in the wind. The university decided to kick everyone out of faculty housing, our daughter’s preschool, disastrously, was taken over by a for-profit corporation, and the campus where I work was scheduled for closure with everyone on site told we would move “somewhere.” As bad as all of that was, we could not have predicted how much worse it would get when I was run down by a distracted driver in April. For a week we assumed that our car-free days were over. But with my right leg shattered it turned out that I couldn’t drive either, so here we are. I’m riding again and the Bullitt is still hauling the kids. I can’t yet do everything that I used to do, but the bus and rideshare make up the difference.

Thinking about future careers at preschool

Thinking about future careers at preschool

And in other ways, we seem to have turned the corner. In July our daughter started at a new preschool, a Japanese immersion program that is a feeder for Rosa Parks. She loves it so much we have to drag her home every evening. The office move keeps getting postponed another couple of years into the future. University housing can’t kick us out as long as I’m disabled, but we have other progress on that front as well. I am walking again, and people tell me my cane looks badass. We’ve been taking long weekends with the kids to try to make up for their having such a bummer of a summer–the other week we camped in a (handicapped accessible) yurt, and we’re headed to the coast this weekend. It’s been one hell of a year, and it’s not over yet.  But life is a little easier with a reliable bike.

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Filed under Bullitt, car-free, electric assist, family biking, injury, San Francisco

New school year, new bikes at Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks bikes rolling in... every day is like a cargo bike roll call!

Rosa Parks bikes rolling in… every day is like a cargo bike roll call!

San Francisco schools start mid-August, so we’ve been taking our son in for a week now. Now that our daughter is finally in a new preschool (at a Japanese immersion program a few blocks from Rosa Parks that we love) we have, for the first time ever, a shared commute. And for the new school year, there are new bikes to see as well. We arrived early on the first day of school, and we had to rent a car because our daughter woke up vomiting, but there were plenty of bicycles to see nonetheless.

Front seats rule!

Front seats rule!

Last year I wrote about the Oxford Leco top tube seat, and we were lucky enough that friends from Rosa Parks picked up for us one while they were in the UK. Circumstances conspired, so we have not installed our seat, but they are already using theirs. On the first day of school it was carrying their son (who goes to preschool with our daughter) but this is typically the way they take their daughter, now in the first grade, to school. They told me that the kids fight for the chance to sit in the front seat, which does not surprise me: front seats are fun!

This bike is too fast to catch in motion.

This bike is too fast to catch in motion.

For a couple of years another family was also using an ad hoc top tube seat in the form of a spare saddle stuck on the top tube, but their daughter, in 2nd grade, has grown too tall for this option. Now she rides behind her dad, standing on the foot pegs he’s installed on his rear wheel and holding onto his shoulders. I continue to be impressed at the way he’s managed to haul a kid for six years now with the absolute minimum cost and hassle. They cut a mighty figure rolling through the streets—since he’s kept his bike so light they move very fast, unlike those of us on cargo bikes.

This is the second BionX Mundo I've seen at Rosa Parks.

This is the second BionX Mundo I’ve seen at Rosa Parks.

At the welcome breakfast for new families there were: more bikes! And check out that newly assisted Yuba Mundo with BionX. This particular rack usually holds kids’ bikes that have been disengaged from their Trail-Gators and are locked up until the parental pick up later in the day, rather than this collection of parental bikes, because it’s inside the locked courtyard.

There is so much awesome in this bike that I cannot do it justice.

There is so much awesome in this bike that I cannot do it justice.

Most impressive of the new bikes was the Xtracycled tandem! This is the same family that formerly rode the Bike Friday triple tandem (aka Shrek 2). Their oldest is now riding solo, so they swapped the triple tandem for the Xtracycle tandem, and now they can carry three kids. And they do: they are the neighborhood bike-pool.  Cargo bikes may be slow, but have their uses.

This is the way we ride to preschool.

This is the way we ride to preschool.

And although we did not ride to school on Monday due to sick kid, we did ride for the rest of the week. I took our daughter to preschool solo twice last week, and picked her up too. I still get tired much too easily, so I can’t ride every day, or for that matter go to work every day (I’m still on half-time disability). Yet riding is still easier than driving+walking—even with my handicapped parking sticker, we can rarely park close enough to our destination that it’s an easy walk for me. People are still surprised to see me on the bike again, but riding is still so much easier than walking that it almost feels like cheating.

Even more astonishing, I'm not the only one back in action.

Even more astonishing, I’m not the only one back in action.

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Filed under commuting, family biking, San Francisco

These are the ways we ride to school, continued

EdgeRunner, Mundos, trailers, trailer-bikes

Rosa Parks parents rolling in: EdgeRunner, Mundos, Boda Boda, trailer, trailer-bikes

Last year I wrote about some of the bikes we saw at school drop-off. We have a new bike to take our kids to school (the Bullitt) but the big news for us this year was the group of new kindergarten parents on bikes. They outnumber all the rest of us put together. When we were first assigned to Rosa Parks in 2010 I never would have guessed that these families would be coming two years later.

This year’s kindergarten parents came riding multiple Yuba Mundos, and at least two of them are assisted (it’s still San Francisco). There is a bike with a trailer, a real rarity in San Francisco. There are a couple of bikes with trailer-bikes for kids, and an eBoda Boda. And joining them in 2013 is a brand new assisted Xtracycle EdgeRunner.

At the kindergarten end of the yard it's bike-central

At the kindergarten end of the yard it’s bike-central

I catch these parents sometimes when I’m riding up Webster from the south, and we make a little bike convoy. On occasion my son has reached over to the deck to zip up another kid’s open backpack while we talk. Parents and teachers in cars wave to us at stop lights, and we wave to families walking to school from the bus stop.

Bikes with yellow jackets

Bikes with yellow jackets

The kindergarten parents are such a cohesive crew that I am seriously considering replacing my beat-up, broken-zippered windbreaker with one of the day-glo yellow ones that they all seem to wear so that I can look like part of their posse. And historically I have not been a fan of day-glo yellow.

Hey, Boda Boda.

Hey, Boda Boda.

After drop-off I sometimes ride with another family whose route to preschool mirrors my route to work. On the rare occasions that I leave our son and head out before school starts, I have spotted Rosa Parks families coming down Post Street in the opposite direction as they head to school.

Some of the families with older kids are in transition. The third and fourth graders are moving to their own bikes, or sometimes a kid’s bike hitched to a parent’s bike with a TrailGator (there is still a lot of traffic in the city). Our son’s love of the Bullitt’s rain cover has temporarily postponed his desire to ride his own bike, at least while it’s cold and rainy, but I’m sure this will change as he sees more and more kids riding on their own.

Rain? What rain?

Rain? What rain?

Riding our kids to school on our bikes is still not typical, but at Rosa Parks it’s not exceptional either. The neighborhood infrastructure for bikes isn’t more than a bit of paint, but evidently this is enough. There are traditional bike lanes and sharrows on some of the streets near school, and drivers are used to looking out for bikes. Every morning there is a row of them parked along the fence at drop-off, in addition to the bikes like ours left at the actual racks.

All aboard!

All aboard!

I remember reading about families with in other cities with neighborhood schools that organized regular walks and rides to school and thinking, at the time, how unrealistic it seemed for San Francisco, with its citywide school lottery. I was sure that it would never happen here, with families coming from all directions and every neighborhood. But who really knows what creates enough critical mass to form a bike community? I was wrong. And I couldn’t be happier.

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Filed under destinations, electric assist, family biking, San Francisco, trailer-bike, Xtracycle, Yuba Boda Boda, Yuba Mundo

Safety in numbers

What makes any bicycle safe on any street?

What makes any bicycle safe on any street?

There is a theory in cycling literature that there is a safety in numbers effect for bicycles. This stems from the observation that where bicycles are not commonly found on streets, injury rates are higher, and where bicycles are commonly found on streets, injury rates are lower. Thus, goes the logic, if you get more people riding then all of them will be safer, presumably because drivers will know to watch for them.

I’ve always been suspicious of this theory, as it seems to confuse correlation and causality (although correlation can serve as a big causal hint). There are a lot of omitted variables that could both increase the number of bikes on the road and increase safety, like creating separated cycle tracks and instituting strict liability for drivers that hit cyclists and pedestrians. If people assess, correctly, that the infrastructure and legal system protects them, they’re both more likely to ride and they’re more likely to be safe, but increasing the number of bikes on the road wasn’t really what increased safety. If people jumped on bikes without that infrastructure or legal protection, I’m not sure they’d see the same effects.

This is the kindergarten bicycle crew at Rosa Parks each morning. I also feel safer when I join their impromptu bike train.

This is part of the kindergarten bicycle crew at Rosa Parks each morning. I also feel safer when I join their impromptu bike train.

I thought of this last weekend when I was taking my daughter to her ballet class and suddenly found myself in a pack of over a dozen lycra-clad road cyclists on a major street. There were too many of us to stay in the bike lane, and so the fastest riders moved left into the car lane. Not all these cyclists were riding together—they came and went in small clusters—but everyone in the group was watching out for each other, and signaled to other riders (including me) when to move around turning cars and hazards in the street. Thanks, lycra-clad roadie guys!

I listened to them chat as we rode along. It was a pleasant ride, and I realized I did actually feel safer in a big group of cyclists. I knew someone would warn me if there were any obvious dangers in the road, and cars hung back rather than rushing to pass. That was very different from the same trip the week before, and from my ride home along the same route. Maybe there’s something to the safety in numbers theory after all.

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Car-free role models

My son’s 2nd grade teacher rounds up the class.

I’ve liked all of my son’s teachers in elementary school. His kindergarten teacher taught reading so well that most of the class was above grade-level at the end of the year. The legacy of that is still visible in my son, who is currently obsessed with reading three books at a time and can only be dragged away for mealtimes when we literally pull them from his hands. His first grade teacher, who grew up in Japan and only moved to the US a few years ago, amused her class endlessly by having them correct her English spelling and grammar (which was difficult, as it is nearly perfect). But the most interesting teacher so far is his second grade teacher.

At Rosa Parks teachers make classroom assignments, and they accept parental requests. When my son finished first grade, our son asked for the first time that we request a particular teacher; he wanted the woman, not the man. When we talked to his first grade teacher, she was unconvinced, and so despite his request we left his placement to her judgment. Our son was disappointed in August to learn that he’d gotten his first male teacher. At the time, he knew his current teacher only as a large figure with a loud voice; he seemed scary. That impression lasted about an hour on the first day of school this year.

“We have that same taillight on our bikes!” says a girl in the class.

My son’s teacher is, in fact, a big guy with a booming voice, and he does not take an iota of crap from any of his students. He is also, to their delight, goofy. He wears sarongs and pink glitter nail polish and plays guitar in class. He reads them books way beyond their grade level and his default assumption is that they are capable and independent. The kids adore him. And although he commutes from Berkeley every day, he (along with his wife and daughter) is car-free. He takes BART across the bay and rides his bike from the station to school. He is by no means the only bike commuter at the school. However it means a lot to my son that his beloved teacher, like us, does not own a car. It makes him feel cutting-edge instead of deprived.

When people visiting from out of town see my son’s teacher for the first time they are intimidated by his size. Within a few minutes, when they start noticing details like the nail polish, and the way kids crowd around him, they grow envious. Is this what sending kids to school in San Francisco means, they ask, that your kids get teachers like this. And I suppose it does. I know that growing up in a small town I never had a teacher half as cool.

Living in San Francisco has other perks. “Guess where he’s from?” asked one parent early in the year. “The United States,” said another. “No, he’s not,” said the first. “Well, he’s from Texas,” said a third. “Exactly!” said the first.

Welcome to the real America.

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Filed under car-free, commuting, San Francisco

Rosa Parks Fall BBQ

One part of the bike parade

On Saturday we headed to the annual Rosa Parks PTA Fall BBQ. We have been there before, but this was the best year ever, because this was the first year there was a bike rodeo and a bike parade. Attendance exceeded previous records, and so many people came by bike that they had to create overflow parking. We are a mighty bike community.

The Madsen and a few other bikes stayed behind during the bike parade.

My husband says that bikes are to schools as lesbians are to property values: a marker of great things happening. I have been taking photos like crazy on school mornings because the amazing new kindergarten class at Rosa Parks is simply packed with family bike commuters—4 Yuba Mundos, a bike with a Trail-Gator, a bike with a trailer, and so on. Plus the families I wrote about last year keep on keeping on. Not only were many of these families there on Saturday, there was a new bike on the yard, a real-live Madsen. I didn’t meet the family riding it but was told that they recently moved to San Francisco from Japan. I assume that they must live close by because this was an unassisted Madsen.

Two kids on one 20″ bike slay the obstacle course. Who needs Fiets of Parenthood? We have Fiets of Childhood.

Kids on their own bikes were out in full force on the lower yard, and before and after the parade (which was led by the principal). Not every kid who wanted to ride had a bike so they began loading each other up on their bikes to make sure everyone got a spin. I had to laugh thinking about how much angst we’d had over child bicycle seats. With kids old enough to sit up, you can simply seat them right on the top tube. It worked in My Neighbor Totoro, it works for a dad at school still hauling his now-1st grader to school that way, and it definitely worked for the kids. Sure, a spare saddle or a foam pad is a nice addition, but it doesn’t seem to be necessary. And the weight distribution is very good, right between the wheels and probably better for the bike than a rear seat. When they couldn’t fit two kids on the top tube in front of a rider, they improvised, and put one kid on the top tube while the other stood on the back. I had no idea you could fit three kids on a such a little bike. And these kids went fast once they loaded up.

More of the bike parade whizzes by, and Rosa Parks smiles above it all.

I’ve written before about how much I love our son’s school, which not only is a wonderful community for our son but provides me with endless entertainment, including camping with friends from school and digging up tombstones at kids’ birthday parties. It just keeps getting better. The other morning my son and I met two families coming up Webster Street on the way to school and formed an impromptu bike train up to the school yard. This morning I rode and chatted with one of the Yuba moms on the way from school to work; she took that bike, with her preschooler on the deck, up the heinous Post Street hill. They went slowly but never faltered. I never dreamed that I could have so much fun commuting. Fortune smiled when the San Francisco school lottery sent us to Rosa Parks.

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Filed under family biking, San Francisco, Yuba Mundo

Home again, home again, jiggety-jig

They’re running out of bike racks at the farmers market.

We got up on Sunday to catch a 5:30am flight from Portland to San Francisco. The kids wore their pajamas for the whole trip. When we got home, we remembered that we’d left nothing in the fridge when we left but soy sauce, lemons, and ollalieberry jam. So even before napping, we headed to the farmers market (fortunately a Sunday market) and the grocery store to buy: everything.

Staying in Portland made us want to live in Portland. Matt loved the idea that we might actually buy a house, and I loved the idea that we might actually have a yard where we could garden. And there were all those bikes. We even saw a double trail-a-bike, something I had heard existed but never spotted in the wild. And all those clearly marked bike paths, that made it possible for newbies like us to get where we were going, eventually.

San Francisco greeted us with fog and temperatures in the mid-50sF (where they have remained). It was a culture shock to return to such a dense city, in both a good and a bad way. There are no unattached houses in our neighborhood and no front yards. It is impossible to grow tomatoes on this side of the fog line, and anything metal left outside grows rust and/or moss. But having such an easy walk to the farmers market and the grocery store was so nice. We always see friends there, and Sunday was no exception. Everyone admired our bike trailer/hand cart. In California, the produce is always local. And when we couldn’t bring ourselves to actually make dinner after making the week’s lunches, we walked across the street for sushi.

The last couple of family bikes after our late departure

San Francisco has more bikes now too, it turns out. This morning was our son’s first day of second grade. I can’t believe how much he’s grown! I ruined my street cred by renting a City CarShare to carry all our gear on the first day of school (I couldn’t get both it and my daughter there on the Brompton). But Matt rode with our son to school on the MinUte, joined by at least five new biking families! Three Yuba Mundos (at least one assisted), one Trail-Gator, one trailer. One mom asked, “Are you Hum of the city?” Well, whoa. Yes I am. My name is Dorie, by the way, and I need to update that About page.

Before we left on our trip, our kids begged to plant poppies. We found some pots and bought some seeds and prepared to console them when such sun-loving plants gave up before blooming. But when we returned, we found, to our enduring surprise, the first flower. We are glad to be home.

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