Welcome to 2012

In charge at Paris Velib

Historically the highest-value benefit to membership in the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition for us was the 10% discount at Rainbow Grocery. Although I find Rainbow’s extensive array of vitamins and supplements a little disconcerting, the crowds on the weekends overwhelming, and the prices on certain items laughably outrageous, we like shopping there. The employee-owners always seem cheerful and happy to help with questions, the selection is unbelievable, and with thoughtful shopping there are deals aplenty. I also find it sort of entertaining that by making a philosophical commitment to not selling meat they’ve spared themselves losses from shoplifting, which is probably part of the reason I’m getting such great prices on rye flakes and sea salt.

I find myself increasingly unwilling to patronize stores that treat children like second-class citizens—kids are people, albeit small and incontinent people—and on this front going to Rainbow is always a pleasure. E.g.

My daughter: “I’M IN CHARGE! I’M IN CHARGE!”

Me: “This is an employee-owned cooperative.”

My daughter: “I’M IN CHARGE! I’M IN CHARGE!”

Rainbow employee-owner: “Okay, you’re in charge.”

Rainbow ended the SFBC discount on December 31, 2011, and although they had their reasons, we were disappointed. So on the last week of the year we headed over to get some soy sauce and SAF instant yeast. Although I found two other kinds of yeast I had to get help to find the SAF, which was with the dried fruit, obviously. Afterward, the guy who had found it for us spotted my daughter’s collection of temporary tattoos and they spent a few minutes comparing their ink.

At checkout the cashier reminded me that the discount was ending soon, and I said that it was a shame for us, as we’d only recently realized that we could bike in the city with our kids. “Biking in this town is too dangerous,” he exclaimed. Sigh. But this wasn’t an entrée into the usual finger-shaking about potentially killing our kids; instead, he said he’d stopped riding years ago, that it was safer in the 1980s. That was a surprise. But, but, I said, all the new bike lanes? Seemed to help? Too much traffic now, he replied.

Dorothea Lange photographed our son's school in 1942; 70 years later it looks the same

Point taken, I guess, traffic is in fact outrageous, although I’ve seen worse. I’m not sure that the solution is to suffer along with everyone else, however. One option, which we tried when our son was much younger, is to ensure that everything you need is within walking distance. That worked for a while but eventually became unfeasible; for one, we were unable to get a placement in a neighborhood elementary school (not that I am complaining, as our placement is wonderful and as recently discovered, within bicycle range). And as a pedestrian I noticed traffic as well, often in the form of cars whizzing down what were originally intended to be quiet residential streets in an effort to get off the congested major thoroughfares. Taking Muni everywhere keeps you out of a car but not out of traffic.

At this point it seems as though everyone realizes something needs to change, but change is painful. We’ve found that our bicycles opened up a world of options for us, but a year ago, if anyone had told me that, I would have said they were delusional. Short of sending everyone to Copenhagen, I have no idea how to expand people’s sense of possibility. But I see more bicycles every day. Is it something I notice because I notice bicycles now, or is it something anyone would see?

We may have lost the Rainbow discount, but we’ve made back that discount and then some. Last week I did something I would never have conceived as either possible or desirable one year ago: I turned in my coveted (and expensive) all-campus faculty parking pass. Between that and our savings on gas, our relatively extravagant bicycle and accessory purchases are actually saving us money. That wasn’t an explicit goal but it’s another way bikes have made our lives better.


Filed under family biking, San Francisco, traffic

4 responses to “Welcome to 2012

  1. Pingback: We have a visitor! (Yuba Mundo) | Hum of the city

  2. Pingback: A long day on the Yuba Mundo | Hum of the city

  3. Pingback: Grocery shopping by bicycle | Hum of the city

  4. Pingback: With or without me | Hum of the city

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