Monthly Archives: March 2013

Women and men

Results not typical

Results not typical

Riding around San Francisco I’ve noticed a difference between women and men on my daily routes. Put in the starkest possible terms, the difference is that women follow traffic rules. It’s not true for everyone, but as a percentages game, if you’re wondering whether a rider in San Francisco will stop at a red light, the odds are pretty good that she will and he won’t.

I am one of the tedious people; I stop at red lights and stop signs. It doesn’t seem to slow me down much compared to the people buzzing through them—I always catch up to them by the next intersection—and I figure the extra margin of safety is worth starting and stopping more often. I understand why some people don’t; it is beyond tiresome to be honked at regularly by drivers behind me who did not expect or want me to stop at traffic signals, which happens at least once a week. But I guess I’m just a slave to authority.  Plus I figure I have my hands full already dealing with the thousands of drivers in this city who think they have the right of way when they’re turning left at an intersection and my bike is going straight in the opposite direction. Which for the record, they don’t. So if you’re in a car and wondering why I don’t just go already when the light turns green, now you know.

Sometimes I am simply appalled what I see. Last week while riding to work I ended up behind a man on an Xtracycle with, yes, a child seat and stoker bars on the deck, but thankfully, no kids on board at the time. He jumped every red light on our route, but sadly never got far enough ahead of me that I didn’t have to see him anymore. While he was running one red light, the driver of a pickup truck that had started to cross the intersection on the green braked suddenly as he popped out. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?!?” Xtracycle dad screamed at the driver. At the next red light, he actually stopped, but only to take a drink of water and spit it out onto the car stopped next to him. It was closest thing to bicycle road rage I’ve ever seen, and it was deeply unnerving to think that this man rode with children.

Someone's going to run this light.

Anyone going to run this light?

The next day I rode the same route behind a woman in the full roadie kit. Unlike the dad on the Xtracycle, she stopped at every red light, occasionally sighing like I do when men on bikes jumped past us to run the red light. Then she’d calmly reel them before we reached the next light (I usually ride this street with the electric assist turned off, but I was so interested that I turned it on to keep up with her).

I have days when every intersection is like this. I stop at a red light, and if there are any women on bikes nearby, they stop too. If there are men on bikes nearby (unless they happen to be my husband), they blow through the red. Then I catch up with them at the next intersection and we do the same thing all over again. What on earth do you think you’re gaining? I think. Why is this difference so gendered? I wonder. But there it is.

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Filed under commuting, San Francisco

More family bikes of San Francisco

There is no shortage of "traditional" family bikes like this Xtracycle, though.

There is no shortage of “traditional” family bikes like this Xtracycle. This was the first Rolling Jackass center stand I’ve seen in San Francisco, though.

Riding a giant family bike around San Francisco can at times feel outlandish. I feel that way most often when I’m having trouble parking the Bullitt. There are also occasional moments when I have to stop on a hill and am unsure whether I’ll be able to successfully start again (this problem is not unique to the Bullitt but feels scarier with both kids on board). And then there is the general reaction when we’re out: it’s uniformly positive, but there’s no question that riding a bike like ours around is still unusual enough in San Francisco that we get a lot of attention. Fortunately we are not completely alone out there. In the last few weeks we’ve seen at least three other family bikes that are at least as interesting.

Stoked Metrofiets at Golden Gate Park

Stoked Metrofiets at Golden Gate Park

One family has been riding a Stokemonkeyed Metrofiets with a FollowMe tandem for far longer than we’ve had the Bullitt. With that Stokemonkey I don’t doubt they can climb tougher hills than we can. We saw them at the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition’s family day, and again at Golden Gate Park the other weekend. Their bike is even wider and longer than ours is, and it hauls more too.

This bike wins the "most modifications" award.

This bike wins the “most modifications” award.

Last night we saw this incredible Burley tandem with kid-back cranks on the stoker seat, a Burley Piccolo trailer-bike, and a BionX assist like ours. The bike itself looked very familiar, but the last time we saw the family we know riding it, it didn’t have the BionX. We’re still not sure whether it was their bike with a recent upgrade to electric assist or another family’s bike—meaning that there are two Burley tandems like this in San Francisco, which is possible although perhaps not likely—but it’s an impressive setup.

When riding back from school on the Bullitt recently back I saw another long john headed the other way with two kids on board. I was talking with a friend while we were riding and almost missed it, and I definitely didn’t get a photo, but it looked like a Cetma Largo? Unlike our bike, theirs lacked a weather cover, and the kids looked cold.

Outside nearly any family-friendly venue in San Francisco you'll find bikes like ours.

Outside nearly any family-friendly venue in San Francisco you’ll find bikes like ours.

Riding our smaller bikes around the city, though, we have plenty of company. I took my daughter to a friend’s birthday party last weekend, and the racks outside the playspace were all occupied; we weren’t even the only family to ride to the party. Trailer bikes, child seats: we see bikes rigged with these all over the city, sometimes so many that the places we ride don’t yet know how to handle them. We still often ride the smaller bikes to new destinations largely because we’re not always sure we’ll be able to find decent cargo bike parking on our first trip.

What is it?

What is it?

And then there are the bikes I can’t figure out. At school lately I’ve been seeing a motorized bike. It looks like a moped and it has a gas motor, but the pedals turn, so arguably it’s a bicycle. It looks as though it was designed to carry two passengers. Does something like this belong at a bike rack? I have no idea. But there’s no question that the city’s infrastructure lags far behind the people using it.

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Filed under electric assist, family biking, San Francisco, trailer-bike, Xtracycle

A weekend in the country

We stopped at Sonoma Train Town en route. Even the kids had a moment of disconnect about driving to the train.

We stopped at Sonoma Train Town en route. Even the kids had a moment of disconnect about driving to the train.

Last weekend we went to visit cousins in Santa Rosa while Matt and our son attended a martial arts tournament. It’s been a while since we left the city and it’s always interesting. All of our cousins shun life in the city, choosing instead to live in homes that range from exurban to aggressively rural. These particular cousins live way, way out in the country, which is a good fit for their interest in activities like developing their own orchard, building a deck larger than our entire living space (with integrated bocce court), keeping goats, and collecting rural-type things that I can’t identify and that must be explained to me. In turn, they stare in disbelief at the news that we no longer own a car. We like them very much.

However it is an unbelievable haul to get to their place. We rented a car, as they are nowhere near any kind of transit (when I asked for a transit route on Google maps the final step after four hours of proposed bus rides was: take a taxi for the last 20 miles) and riding a bike would be about a 12 hour trip each way in the unlikely event that the kids didn’t melt down, which they totally would.

We loved the quiet at their house, which sent us all packing to bed before 10pm. Our current place is great in many ways, but now that we are going to have to move anyway, we have been thinking a lot about what we want in a new place to live, and the main thing is quiet (although we are also looking for a neighborhood that does not have the word “mountain” or “heights” in its name). Our old apartment was in the back of its building and the only noise we ever heard was an occasional fog horn.  Now we live right on a street with five bus lines running down it, and we are next to the hospital, and all day and all night we hear the howling of ambulances and the WOOSH of bus air brakes and everyone gunning their engines to get up the steep hill and cars whizzing back down. I don’t even want to talk about the neighbors with the gongs. Surely they have a special place in hell reserved for them already. Anyway, we loved the quiet up there.

The entertainment value of dressing up in sparring props lasted less than an hour.

The entertainment value of dressing up in sparring props lasted less than an hour.

We didn’t love the time we had to spend in the car. It seemed like a 40 minute drive to get from any place in Santa Rosa to any other place (cousins’ house to martial arts tournament, martial arts tournament to farmers market for our daughter who rapidly lost patience with the competition, martial arts tournament to lunch, etc.) There are a lot of bikes in Santa Rosa, which is beautiful, sunny, and incredibly flat. But the distances seemed daunting. The riders who commuted despite them impressed me. One stopped by the side of our rental car (which was emblazoned with the City CarShare logo), very excited, to ask where we’d picked it up. When I told her we had come from San Francisco she was crushed. “I was afraid of that,” she said. “I wish they’d come up here!”

I like Santa Rosa, but we are used to living in the city, and it seemed empty to me (although the novelty of being able to park everywhere we took a car was amusing). Even the farmers market seemed small, as well as more crafts-oriented than food-oriented, which surprised me given that it’s an agricultural area. There was also a new-to-us hostility to organic food there. All of the market vendors were happy to report that they did not use pesticides and discuss their farming methods, but the Ron Paul yard signs and “Live free or die!” ethos apparently meant that getting certified by the government as organic was not high on their to-do list.

When we came home we were all sore from sitting for so long. I got on the bike to pick up some cheese and crackers and hummus (in our own glass jars, more to come on this topic), just to get moving again. Our local cheese shop is definitely not the kind of place to try to visit by car, as even when I’m on the bike I have to dodge double-parked cars all the way.  But there’s always bike parking right by the front door. It’s so cold in the city in February that my fingers always freeze, even under two pairs of gloves, but it’s still a pleasure to ride again, every time I go out.

We were happy to return to San Francisco, but we’ll be back to visit again. It was nice to get a good night’s sleep.

[Last but not least: Thank you, internet! We’d been asking JCCSF to install new bike racks for months, and were being blown off as recently as Tuesday. After Wednesday’s post, I got an email that evening saying that they’ll be installing 6 new custom bike racks that will hold 12 bikes. In addition, they’re going to try letting parents have keycode access to a locked courtyard with an additional bike rack for preschool and after school drop-offs and pickups. We are thrilled! I know that some readers wrote to to JCCSF on our behalf and it is very much appreciated.]

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Filed under destinations, travel