Last April, 30 days of biking was a challenge. There were some late night trips around the block, and unnecessary errands after the kids went to bed (sure, why not get another carton of yogurt?) to ensure I rode a bike every single day. This September, in the bonus round, it was very easy. The difference? At the end of May, I bought the electric- assist mamachari on craigslist. And at the end of June, we sold our car. With no car to fall back on and an assisted bike to crank up the hills at the end of a long day at work (with a 2nd grader on the back), riding a bike every day was such an obvious choice that 30 days straight was no struggle at all.
This week my mom is staying with us while Matt is in Brazil. She was sitting by the front window when I left this morning. “In the last five minutes,” she said, “I’ve seen six bikes, three walkers, a bus and a shuttle bus pass, and only 12 cars.” She lives in a very bike-friendly community, but the share of transportation held by anything other than private cars is nonetheless very low. And although she lives on a hill too, the one we live on is steeper. “Do all those bikes have electric assist?” she asked. Most don’t, although that’s changing—as the kind of people riding bikes changes, the demand for assisted bikes increases. Not everyone wants to shower when they get to work, even if they could.
This morning I rode my bike to work too. San Francisco has begun its real summer, at last, after four months of fog and chill. The city’s surreal climate always leaves me bemused. It has warmed up just as the leaves start falling from the trees. I grew up with more conventional weather. I never know what to expect until I step outside, and as a result I’m always attentive, in that same strange way that traveling to a strange place keeps me alert. We’ve lived in the city for five years now, and it still surprises.
On the ride in I watched the round moon hanging low in the pale blue sky. In the park, today’s naked jogger was the kind of man who did not make naked jogging repellent. This was a rare and welcome change of pace. The day seemed brighter than usual with the fog burned off.
In many ways, despite our itinerant ways, we are deliberate people. By my standards, our decision to start riding bikes with our children was unplanned, and our decision to sell our car was outright whimsical. I have no regrets. In hindsight, these choices seem like the culmination of many decisions taken over the years. We moved into the city to be close to my work, and later Matt also found a job within city limits. We jumped into San Francisco’s public school lottery hoping our children would grow up taking field trips to the opera and symphony and being comfortable with many definitions of families. This year, my son and his entire 2nd grade class will be dancing with the San Francisco Ballet. I couldn’t ask for more. Years ago, if I had looked at our future lives, it would have seemed that the things we gave up—two cars, a yard, months of sunny days, desirable neighborhood schools, the chance to own a house—were sacrifices. Instead we have more than we ever could have imagined.