Tag Archives: Sunday Streets

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

Western Addition Sunday Streets 2013

Looking down at City Hall from Alamo Square--Postcard Row is hidden behind the tree on the right.

Looking down at City Hall from Alamo Square–Postcard Row is hidden behind the tree on the right.

We went back to Western Addition Sunday Streets yesterday, mostly, I will admit, so that we could eat pie. Unfortunately for me, my camera was acting up, so here is a list of bikes I photographed but that my camera ate:

(1)    A Zigo (a stroller attachment bike-trike thingy that never hit our radar because my brother-in-law threatened to break into our garage and throw it into Stow Lake if we ever seriously considered buying one)

(2)    A red Bike Friday triple tandem, ridden by a dad and two daughters—ARGH! It was so awesome, I swear.

(3)    A Bay Area Bike Share bike whizzing down the hill from Alamo Square. At least that image would be easy to replicate.

Instead I had to settle for panda shots and some other oddities.

In words of my husband: "Look! It's gimpy on her death machine." Thank you very much.

In words of my husband: “Look! It’s Gimpy on her death machine.” Thank you very much.

Western Addition Sunday Streets is a bit quieter than Mission Sunday Streets. Overall it’s on less commercial streets, although I’m sure that the big hill up and down from Alamo Square helps keep the crowds down too. My leg is still way less than 100% so I didn’t ride the whole route this year, just the western approach and downhill for one block on the eastern side. Then we turned around and headed back. And from there we went to pick up some yogurt (returning the deposit glass jar, natch). I’m not usually a Sunday shopper but evidently all our neighbors are. Hi neighbors!

What's not to like about family bikes?

What’s not to like about family bikes?

Although I didn’t get to keep my photos of the most impressive family bike rigs (curse that camera) there were a lot of traditional family bikes out. Bikes with trailer-bikes, bikes with child seat—all the usual stuff that I tend not to post very often, but that I like seeing, especially en masse. It’s nice to feel like we’re not completely alone out there.

This assisted elliptical bike-thingy was new to me.

This assisted elliptical bike-thingy was new to me.

Per usual, the Bullitt got more than its fair share of attention. It can be weird to be out with it, because the novelty of our bike makes people massively curious even on a day that things aren’t going well. We are not always the role models we would like to be. Luckily for us San Francisco parents seem to be buying Bullitts, so with luck there will be less pressure as time goes on.

First aid by bicycle

First aid by bicycle

Sunday Streets in the Western Addition is not quite as car-free as it is in some other locations. We were stopped by go-carts escorting local drivers occasionally, and some church traffic drove out of a parking lot last year—that was really distressing, because there were little kids playing in the street, which is sort of the point of Sunday Streets. However I was impressed to see that the official presence is more and more in the spirit of the event, including these bicycle-riding EMTs. Nice!

Pie is a good enough reason to hit the streets.

Pie is a good enough reason to hit the streets.

Still coming up this year: Sunday Streets in the Excelsior on September 29th (which is likely to be too much of a haul for us, or at least, for me), and the inaugural Sunday Streets in the Richmond on October 27th which will be linked with the normal Golden Gate Park street closures (wouldn’t miss it for the world!) Richmond Sunday Streets will run along Clement Street. Mmm, dim sum.

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Mission Sunday Streets 2013

We arrive at Sunday Streets. No more cover; it's spring in San Francisco.

We arrive at Sunday Streets. No more cover; it’s spring in San Francisco.

Last weekend we went to Sunday Streets again, and it was even more crowded than last year. Except right at the start, I think that the Mission site is so popular that walking the bike is no longer optional but required. It was still fun, however, with a caveat.

We went planning to meet another Bullitt family. Instead we met two! Even more amazing, although both rode red Bullitts, neither one of them was the one I recently spotted at our son’s after-school program (I asked).

This was the first red Bullitt.

This was the first red Bullitt.

We were late to Dynamo Donuts because we got caught in all the street traffic, which is okay, because halfway there we spotted our first red Bullitt. What’s more, it was another Bullitt from Splendid Cycles! (Matt has been complaining that we need a bigger Splendid sticker on our bike because people keep stopping him to ask where we got it. The little sticker under the seat is easy enough to spot if you know where to look, and of course I do, but strangers on the street, not so much.) It was great to meet this family.

I am getting the skinny about Bullitt #2.

I am getting the skinny about Bullitt #2.

When we got to Dynamo we met Jim, as planned, with his red Bullitt, plus an Xtracycle (formerly assisted, before the battery died), a Kona Ute, and eventually a music trike. For all the attention that one Bullitt gets, it pales in comparison to the attention that two Bullitts get. This red Bullitt came from Blue Heron in Berkeley, and to my astonishment he got it back to San Francisco on BART, by standing it on end in the elevators. I’m still impressed by this story.

A Kona Ute set up for kids

A Kona Ute set up for kids

Unfortunately by this time Matt, who had ridden the Bullitt because this trip would be his only riding for two weeks thanks to all his business travel, noticed that the front cranks, which had failed once before, were starting to creak again. By the time we navigated back to Mission, they stopped working almost entirely. Matt had to use the throttle on the BionX to get the bike home. Using the assist this way drains the battery fast, but we were lucky to have it. Now the Bullitt is back in the shop. Sigh. And I have to figure out a way to get both kids to their respective schools without a two-kid bike while Matt is away.

It's an organic cargo bike roll call.

It’s an organic cargo bike roll call.

This left me with two kids to get home solo. I crossed my fingers, loaded my daughter in the front basket (which is not rated for that kind of load, nor is it a comfortable way for her to ride) and rode home with them very, very carefully. The good news is that we made it.

And the other good news is that Mission Sunday Streets is pretty cool. Our kids were completely impressed by all the music, as were we. And the dancing. Check it out!

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Sunday Streeeeeeeets!

People keep asking, so here's proof: you can fit 2 kids side by side in a Bullitt under the canopy. They are four and seven and were discussing Antarctica.

People keep asking, so here’s proof: you can fit 2 kids side by side in a Bullitt under the canopy. They are four and seven and were discussing Antarctica.

We missed the opening bell of Sunday Streets at the Embarcadero this year—and how is this year different from any other year? But thankfully someone—a special someone, specifically another Bullitt family—reminded me that Mission Sunday Streets is this month, so we are heading southeast to the Mission this weekend for Dynamo Donuts and cargo bike spotting. Hope to see many families there! (Learn from our mistakes: we now head out early before the crowds get so insane that we have to walk the bikes.)

This is a big weekend in family biking: in addition to Sunday Streets, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition is holding a Playground to Playground Ride from Duboce Park to Golden Gate Park on Saturday (4/13, 10:30am). I think this is supposed to be kind of a sub rosa Kidical Mass (things that sound like Critical Mass have a mixed reputation among many in the city). I’ve been lobbying our kids to come on this ride as well but they’ve been balking, probably because there are no donuts involved.  But adults who also prefer their rides to involve food might want to check out the simultaneous Western Lands Dumpling Tour (also 4/13, 10:30am), which I would totally do if I were riding solo this weekend, but that never happens. Oh well. Maybe we’ll do our own dumpling not-tour at the local hole in the wall. Or maybe not, at least not until I break myself of the habit of checking restaurants’ health department scores.

OMG! Bullitt meets Bullitt!

OMG! Bullitt meets Bullitt!

The most exciting news for me this week was spotting another Bullitt bike set up for kid-hauling at our son’s after-school program. Which: !!!! The security guards were as excited as I was when I rolled up in a matching bike to the brand-new cargo bike-sized racks that the internet gave us. Thanks again, internet! I don’t know whose bike this is, but between that and the Clockwork Orange kid-hauler my sister keeps spotting downtown, and the two families I have now actually communicated with who have Bullitts, our ranks are growing. That’s without even counting the guy I spotted on the Panhandle hauling his dog in a Milk, and the pink Bullitt I’ve seen parked around the Mission that always seems to be loaded with furniture.

And we are outclassed again.

And we are outclassed again.

Last but not least, Matt reminded me why we often ride the Panhandle, still, instead of taking Page: because the bikes on the Panhandle are awesome. Why not haul your boat with your bike? Why not indeed?

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Western Addition Sunday Streets

Looking north up Baker Street

Last weekend we went to the second annual Western Addition Sunday Streets. Mission Sunday Streets is an institution at this point, packed with crowds and activities. Western Addition Sunday Streets has a mellower vibe. It’s also a lot closer to home.

My son shows off his new skills, weaving through a cone course.

This was the first Sunday Streets we’ve attended where our son could ride his own bike. Over the summer he’s progressed from the back of the MinUte to the trailer-bike to finally riding on his own. From his perspective, this was the best Sunday Streets ever.

Heading west on Fulton Street. Most people walked their bikes here.

Unlike the Mission route, the Western Addition route is hilly. It heads up over Alamo Square and over to the Fillmore and Japantown. Our son handled the western approach to Alamo Square on his own, which was amazing to watch. He couldn’t manage the eastern approach, and his ever-more-insistent demands for a bike with gears are pretty understandable.

Bicycle obstacles for us and our neighbors

The Western Addition feels less like an event along much of the route, and more like a neighborhood enjoying the weekend. There were rummage sales and lemonade stands and some families put out balls and toys for passing kids. The bicycle teeter-totter was a big attraction, and the neighborhood friends we saw over Labor Day in Golden Gate Park were there with their bikes as well, in addition to our son’s Japanese teacher and her daughter. We never see these kinds of things in San Francisco (lemonade stands!) unless the street is closed to cars.

“I’m a baby kitty cat!”

This route covers many of the same streets that we travel when we take our son to school, but it feels completely different. One of the things I like about the Western Addition is that it is one of the most integrated neighborhoods in the city. We stopped by a YMCA booth for face painting right outside a housing project. The projects sometimes look scary from a car, but on Sunday it was just a place to stop and talk with the neighbors.

The pies were a hit.

We stopped for lunch at the homemade pie shop that Matt has passed dozens of times on the way to school or on the way home from work, but had yet to visit. I had fears that a restaurant with a name like “Chili Pies” wouldn’t have any food our kids would eat given that they shun all things spicy. But no worries, they had fruit-only pies as well. And there were three kinds of kale salad. San Francisco, you never disappoint.

This bike isn’t in the Public Bikes catalog, which saddens me.

There are a lot more cargo bikes on the streets now. Music bikes, people carrying friends on Xtracycles, a mamachari, and all kinds of kid-carrying rigs (except a Bakfiets! And also no piano bike. This route was hilly.)

Food trucks are so over. Food bikes are the future.

Although these two bikes couldn’t go through most of the route due to the hills, I thought it was so clever that these people were able to capitalize on the popularity of food trucks by setting up food bikes! It’s not the greatest photo, but one bike is welded to a shopping cart and the other is welded to a wheelbarrow. The man is making pad thai in the wok while the woman takes orders.

It’s hard to get a sense of what it’s really like at Sunday Streets from pictures. So I took a video.

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Mission Sunday Streets with Loop-Frame Love

People of the family bike en route to Mission Sunday Streets

This year, Sunday Streets is in the Mission four months in a row. Sunday Streets in San Francisco has become so popular since it started in 2008 that it will happen twice in July–both in the Mission and in the Bayview/Dogpatch, down near my sister and brother-in-law’s condo. We are so there.

But the June Mission Sunday Streets was special. Gil Penalosa, credited with founding the entire Sunday Streets movement in 1995 when he developed Bogota’s Ciclovia, came to visit San Francisco to see Mission Sunday Streets (the Chronicle article I linked is appallingly dismissive, referring to Penalosa as a “wobbly” cyclist, which I doubt very much, but anyway). And Loop-Frame Love came down from Seattle to visit us! Okay, she was really in town for a conference, but close enough. I am sort of spacey at times and hadn’t realized that she was a scientist [swoon] but it meant we had three things to talk about: bicycles, kids, and science! How cool is that? Please come back soon, Loop-Frame Love, and stay longer next time. San Francisco has been very good to us, but it lacks Seattle’s incredible family biking community. We’re working on it.

Loop-Frame Love gives our daughter a lift uphill.

Our last visit to Mission Sunday Streets was great, but June’s Sunday Streets was even more impressive. There were thousands more people and many more family bikes out. This time we did not miss the capoeira demonstration. One of our son’s classmates who lives nearby is in one of the children’s classes and took a turn, and we saw some other friends there, including the school librarian. Our PTA president was there (sans triple tandem). From there we returned to Dynamo Donuts at the other end of the route, then turned around to go back.

Because we started much later in the day this year, on our way back we saw the streets reopening to cars. It was sadder than I had thought it would be. A police car and two motorcycles swept down the street with lights and sirens shooing happy pedestrians onto the sidewalk, where they piled up in crowds that struggled to move. On a few side streets people resisted. It is surprisingly depressing to watch a living street return to being a dead space. Cars use streets but they don’t interact with them. No one dances in a street occupied by moving cars.

New sharrow marker along the Wiggle: you can’t miss it.

Loop-Frame Love rode the Brompton (sans IT Chair) most of the afternoon. We also got to show off the new sharrow markers in the Wiggle, which make the route much, much clearer. There have been complaints about the shade of green, which is indeed very jarring. But given that drivers around this area routinely drive into the Muni tunnels despite warning signs, speed bumps, and the absence of a road, then get stuck for hours and block the trains, my sense is there is no much thing as too much visibility on any San Francisco street. That is, unless it is a Sunday Street, and there are not yet nearly enough of those.

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One weekend, two ways

At the Ferry Building, getting our protest on

Last weekend we spent one day driving and one day riding.

We have not yet found a route to Saturday swim classes that feels safe enough to ride with the kids, so we have only ridden the five miles to the pool once. We keep talking about trying again, but change is hard, and the Fell/Oak connectors are terrifying, and the speeding trucks near Mission Bay are so daunting, even on a weekend morning before 9 am. And Matt had a large package at his office to pick up, and we were getting a mystery box and a flat of strawberries a few blocks from there. It was going to be quite a load. Once a week on Saturdays, we drive.

Outside Matt’s office

While we were downtown at Matt’s office we took the kids for Mexican for lunch at the Ferry Building, given that it was Cinco de Mayo and our son’s half-birthday. Every year we intend to go to Kodomo No Hi in Japantown to make carp flags as well, but three festivities in one day never work out.

Heirloom beans at the Ferry Plaza market

I had forgotten that the Ferry Building farmers’ market is on Saturdays, and it was worth a visit. Although the market primarily seems to sell prepared food, the selection of unusual vegetables and beans is impressive. This is not a cheap market. For value, the Alemany Market under the freeway is unbeatable. But the Ferry Building is worth checking out even so.

“Uppy me, daddy.”

It was hot in San Francisco all weekend (by which I mean mid-70sF). This was a multi-stop trip—gym garage, Matt’s office and the Ferry Building, mystery box drop site—and we rarely do this kind of thing driving. It is surprisingly exhausting to get in and out of the car over and over again. And this was true even though we enjoyed impressively good parking fortune.

Too exhausted to blow a dandelion

By the time we made it home in the early afternoon we were all fried. The kids watched Kiki’s Delivery Service and Matt managed to talk our daughter into a stroller ride to pick up the dry cleaning, but despite walking much of the route, after spending a morning driving we were through for the day.

Sunday Streets traffic

Sunday, however, was Mission Sunday Streets. We have been working on getting over our fear of the Fell/Oak connectors to the Wiggle. I still can’t imagine riding this route with the kids on weekdays; these two streets are like freeways through the city. But on weekends we can cut around Oak on the way there, while the heavy bike traffic on Fell Street on the way back, plus the new lane markers, make us feel less invisible.

This is a sharrow marker for the Wiggle. Subtle.

So we rode through the park and along the Panhandle then cut across to the Wiggle, crossing Market. Even from the other side of Market Street, we could see the evidence of Sunday Streets—blocked streets and a waves of pedestrians in the intersection. Every summer San Francisco closes off a neighborhood to car traffic on the first Sunday of the month. For three months in a row, Sunday Streets is in the Mission.

With my daughter on the Breezer at Mission Sunday Streets

It has been ages since we visited the Mission. When we drove around the city, it wasn’t worth it as the traffic is unbearable and it is impossible to park a car. Now that we mostly ride around the city, we have been blocked from this side of the city by our fear of the Fell/Oak connectors. We have been missing out.

The parklet at Four Barrel Coffee

I have complained that other cities have more impressive bike corrals than San Francisco. This is true, but I realize now that unlike much of the city, the Mission is putting up an impressive show. There were both regular bike corrals and corrals integrated into parklets, and parklets are thick on the ground in the Mission. One of the most impressive was outside Four Barrel Coffee, which sponsors the weekly parent coffee klatch at our son’s elementary school.

This band was a family ranging from toddler (on the drums) to grandparents.

Sunday Streets closes off much of Valencia then turns down 24th Street for several blocks. This part of town is thick with Mexicatessans, cafes, restaurants, and bike shops. We arrived early, before the line at the artisanal donut shop got too deep, and just as the live music was starting. We spotted our friends’ family triple tandem, and they invited us to see the capoeira demonstration that the mom was doing later. (I sometimes wonder why people who are demonstrably so much cooler than I am consent to hang out with me.) We loved Sunday Streets!

Mission bike corral, first thing in the morning

Riding back, the crowds were getting thicker and the day was warming up. I fear sunburn so much that I almost never go outside in the sun without long sleeves, but I forgot on Sunday. I won’t make that mistake again. Matt and our son eventually peeled off to a birthday party at the Yerba Buena Gardens, while my daughter and I took advantage of our unexpected foray to the Mission to stop at Rainbow and pick up obscure groceries.

Riding in bicycle traffic feels safer.

As we rode home, the contrast between the streets closed to car traffic, which were crowded and happy and mellow, and the streets with cars, which were crowded and fuming and irritable, could not have been more stark. I watched a police officer bang on a car window and yell at the driver that no matter how much of a hurry he was in, he was not allowed to mow down pedestrians and bikes. (I thanked her.)

Check out San Francisco’s first bike box!

I rode home with my daughter through the Wiggle and along Fell, and although the car traffic was daunting as usual, it was at least respectful. The Fell connector features what I believe is San Francisco’s only bike box, which allows entry to the dedicated bicycle left-turn lane that gets you into the marked bike lanes. From there we entered the safety of the Panhandle.

It’s a tight squeeze, but I can actually fit two panniers under the Bobike Maxi

Despite the fact that we had been riding for a few hours, we both wanted to keep going. So we stopped at a local grocery store for a popsicle for my daughter, who was getting hot, and at our local bakery after that to pick up some bread for dinner. Making multiple stops on the bicycle is so easy I kept trying to think up reasons to go somewhere else, but my daughter was worried that her popsicle would melt, so we headed up the hill toward home. Also I’d run out of pannier space—it’s a tight squeeze under her Bobike Maxi seat.

Two days, two different experiences, and the verdict: the bike is so much better. Three hours of errands by cars left us exhausted, while five hours roaming the city by bike left us hoping for more. We are ready to try the Saturday trip to swim class again.

We are ready to ride.

Even more, we realized that the Mission is accessible to us again. We can visit restaurants and shops we’d long since written off as out of range by riding our bikes. It was a long ride, but not unpleasant. Matt and I are now talking about a date night in the Mission the next time we have a sitter (admittedly this is probably a long way away), but we could also go during the day with our kids. And I think this is the goal of Sunday Streets. The city feels both bigger and smaller to me now. It is bigger because there is so much more we can do, and smaller because it is all suddenly within our reach.

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