Saturday, March 14, 2009

Bakfiets Commute Week #1

Do you remember those classmates from high school who submitted a picture for their yearbook page, proudly standing, often with arms crossed, in front of their cars? Back in the day, I never got that. First, I didn't own my own car and secondly, I just never understood the total car love. However, I feel like one of those kids these days. I love my new bike. I find myself constantly tempted to take photos of it, bring it up numerous times in random conversations, jump at any simple inquiries about it, etc.

This week marked our first car-free commute and it went well. In retrospect, the week after turning the clocks ahead might not have been the best time to begin, but I was so happy to have healthy(ish) children and see the end of the ice banks on the street that I just jumped at the chance to ride. Plus, the boys were as enthusiastic about traveling by bakfiets as I so off we went. Commuting by bike does take a wee bit more thinking and planning each morning. We need to leave the apartment somewhat earlier to arrive at school on time, hence the bad timing with the end of Daylight Savings. Normally, we never need to wake the boys in the morning. They are up in plenty of time for a laze around, then breakfast, dressing, etc. but with the time change, the boys were sleeping well past 7PM. Most times, especially on a weekend, this would be cause for a grand celebration. However, on school days, we often head out of the house at 7:50AM and my fellas are not particularly quick movers, especially in the AM. S was staying in bed until 7:40AM each day this past week (even with some kind coaxing) so getting out, fed, and dressed, in time to ride to school became a race. We left each day after 8AM but we managed to be on time-- with a couple of the morning rides feeling not particularly leisurely, as I was acutely aware of the time, pumping my legs harder, and beginning to sweat, despite temperatures in the 30s-40s.

The first day we rode, I made one big mistake. With the sun actually out, I just didn't realize how cold it would be on the ride and the boys spent the first bakfiets school commute with their mittened hands clamped over bare ears. Knowing my guys' personalities, I thought I may have sunk myself then. If the first school ride wasn't fun, they may well be hesitant to do it on a regular basis. Thankfully, it was warmer riding home later that afternoon so the uncovered ears posed less of a discomfort. For the rest of the week, we layered the fellows in sweatshirts and they wore their hoods up over their heads, which fit under their bike helmets and kept their ears toasty. We also decided to utilize the snazzy weather canopy we purchased with the bakfiets so they wouldn't get blasted by cold breeze or get wet from the one day with a slight drizzle. The downside to the canopy is that the boys have less room in the box, and given that they are already six, they really can't sit up straight on the seat with helmets on without pushing up against the rain tent. Instead, we flipped up the baks seat, put the seat pad right on the box floor, and had them sit directly on the 'ground.' They were a bit cramped in there, especially the day I had to add not only their lunchboxes and my school bag, but also one booster seat (the other booster was strapped to the bakfiets back, thanks to the heavy duty bungee cord already attached to the bike) they needed for a field trip. However, they didn't complain about being too jammed in there and it reminded me of toddler days when they rolled all over each other like puppies. On Thursday's ride home, S had borrowed a stuffed toy rat from a friend and he and C spent the entire ride, putting the stuffed rat on each other's helmets, squirming around and laughing. When I was reading numerous reviews of the bakfietsen, one guy commented that lots of people asked him if his kids needed to sit still when he was riding so the baks wouldn't be thrown off balance. He explained that his crew could be doing handstands in the box and he could still ride fine and this, I realized, was true for me now, too.

There is something completely freeing about commuting by bike. I feel like I am interacting more in the world when on the cargo bike than when enclosed in the car. My senses are heightened: I pay closer attention to my surroundings, I feel and smell more. The bakfiets is still a novelty sight for most folks so we get comments along the way, and I can greet people and answer a quick question while gliding by. The route to school we've been riding is different than I took by car and it has been a good choice. At one point, I cross a busy street but there is a light there and I simply take my time and move more fully into the center of the lane than I normally do when riding along the right. I am not crazy about taking left turns, but again, I stay patient, signal, and just wait until there is plenty of space ahead.
On Friday when returning from work, I stopped at a light and a car inched up right beside me, closer than I was comfortable. I felt myself immediately getting defensive and annoyed and ready to spew some negative comment about the driver with the cellphone up to her ear that I probably would have let go if I were in the car. But when the driver rolled the window down to ask if I was heading straight or turning, I felt ashamed of my first reaction. When I explained I was going straight, she waited for me to go ahead and when the lane allowed, swung past me on the left. While pumping my legs the next blocks, I recognized a lesson learned. In the car, I would likely have been annoyed and righteous, but being out on the bike allowed me this positive interaction with a driver with whom I initially was ready to do battle.

And now for my favorite shot of the week--

A set of twins, a guitar, a violin, and some good books for the road:


Jennifer said...

Great photo-glad that you are enjoying your new "car" so much!

MamaVee said...

Nice pic! yay you for the first week.

DrMekon said...

Congrats. We've been commuting by bakfiets for about a year now. There were only a couple of days where the ungritted roads were too snowy. Other than that, it's been a fun year.