Saturday, May 30, 2009

A book for my to-read list

It's always been abundantly clear that David Byrne is cool. He just is. And now that I know he has total bike love, I find him even cooler.

Check out
his review of the new book by Jeff Mapes, Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists Are Changing America, in the NYTimes. One of Mapes's points (in Byrne's words) particularly caught my eye: "...when more women begin riding, that will signal a big change in attitude, which will prompt further changes in the direction of safety and elegance."

So come on, women, get riding. We are ready for the revolution.

I think I'll ride down to my library and see if I can rustle up a copy of Mapes's book.

Plus, check out the cover of this weekend's Times Book Review. I can't find the graphic online, but it is a great illustration of a woman dressed in a green summer dress riding along on her bicycle...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Our new addition

Despite a bit of begging, P and I have managed to hold off on the dog front. I did have a momentary waver on Friday when C befriended a local pup while we were enjoying the hot day with ice cream. It was clearly love at first sight on C's part and he immediately walked up to the owner and asked permission to pet her dog. For the next hour or so, it was clear that this gorgeous black and white creature had such a hold on my boy that he happily left his ice cream a number of times to sit on the ground, stroke its fur, and giggle each time this friendly canine offered its paw. However, we really don't have a dog life yet so, no, the new addition is not:

Instead, remember when I wrote this post about my upcoming 40th birthday? Well, I have yet to fill out the passport application, but on Sunday before P's graduation (go, P!), we hit our local bike shop and picked up:
An xtracycle Radish!

Before hitting the shop, P and I had this funny conversation about just how we were going to get the bike. The shop is not within easy walking distance, but it just seemed entirely wrong for us to drive to pick up a bike. However, if we both rode over, we would be left with an extra bike. Finally, P strapped on his running sneaks and I packed the boys in the bakfiets and we met over in Wooster Square. We thought it a very good sign that when we pulled up in front of The Devil's Gear a gorgeous xtracycle Big Dummy was parked outside. Inside, we met the owner of that bike and his son-- newly moved to New Haven from Cambridge, MA-- and it turns out that his family owns two xtracycles. Rock on! It made me feel less crazy about buying a second cargo bike.

The truth is that for the past months, P and I realized how much we can get around by bike and how often we can leave the car parked. Since we have three children, there are plenty of times when schedules vary and we were finding ourselves in ongoing discussions about who gets the bakfiets and who has to drive. And to be clear-- we were definitely both wanting the bike! While I flirted with the idea of a gorgeous A.N.T. bike or an Oma or Pashley or a number of other single ride vehicles, I thought it best, given the ages and number of kids we have, to go with the xtra and leave one of those bikes for a 50th birthday present. Having two cargo bikes allows us both to travel by bike with a son or two and go in different directions if necessary. It also lets one of us head to the grocery store or farmer's market while the other deals with the kids' transportation, etc. I also liked the idea that I could easily ride the Radish as a single bike for my summer commute while P will be taking on the camp runs in the bakfiets.

I'll have much more to write about the Radish in the coming weeks. It is far, far different than the baks and I am enjoying getting to know her. The twins were insistent we take her to school today so we successfully made our first school commute on her this morning. We did ride her a bit over the weekend between graduation ceremonies and celebrations. At one point, P was riding the bakfiets with two of the fellows while I was on the xtra with one guy riding on the deck. We passed another cycling couple and the woman looked up and said, "Oh, look-- it's the Oregon family." We weren't sure if she actually thought we had lived in Oregon (we have told numbers of people that we got our bakfiets at a bike shop in Portland, but maybe it wasn't clear that we did this via the Internet) or if she simply was referring to the family biking lifestyle that seems far more prevalent out there than here in New Haven. Either way, it made me chuckle and I give a shout out to all those biking and blogging families in Portland, OR and Seattle, WA who have inspired our passion for cargo bikes.

The maiden voyage. We had to pick a name randomly out of a hat (well, bike helmet actually) to determine who got to ride on the back on the way home.

The now graduate going to pick up Japanese take-out. You think there were any other graduating folks who celebrated by bringing home sushi for two once the kids were asleep?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

This one's for the grandparents...

and the uncles and aunts and anyone else who might be interested in a beginning six-year-old violinist performing in one of his first recitals. All the rest of you, please feel free to move along....

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Families that ride together....

Here are some snaps from school drop-off.  We have a few families consistently commuting by bikes now that the spring has arrived.  We attempted our own small version of 'Ride to School Day' last week but alas, it rained so only a few of us crazies went for the two-wheel commute.  Let's see if tomorrow's postponement date brings out more family bikers.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Colleague in the Box

Where's a camera when you need one?

Each month, my school has a faculty meeting in the evening. The meetings start at 5:30PM and the school provides dinner. It is a big discussion each month what we should order for a meal and it is a lot of pressure on the Assistant to the Director (AD) who is ultimately responsible for the menu planning. Tonight, taking advantage of the warm weather and the brighter evenings, we enjoyed a cook-out with a special addition of a certain light malted beverage and fresh lime. The music teacher walked into the meeting space, took one look at the drink selection, and commented, "Boy, I love teaching at this school!"

After the meeting was over, I stayed to help clean-up the last bit. AD also stayed and asked if I had brought the car because she needed a ride home. We have always carpooled to this evening meetings so I was quick to invite her to join me in/on the bakfiets. At first, she balked and thought of asking another colleague. I must admit that I bullied her a bit (in a kind way, of course), explaining that there was plenty of room in the cargo box, that all three boys and their stuff weigh more than she, and that recently a pregnant friend rode in the box for a couple of blocks. And so-- I flipped the seat up, put the seat pad on the bottom of the box, and gamely, AD stepped aboard.

It took only a block of riding for her to exhale and soon, she admitted that "Wow, this is fun! I can see what kids would being in the cargo bike." Folks sitting on their front porches got a kick out the site of a blond attractive woman, sitting with her knees up, cruising by in this curious contraption. AD got into the spirit of things, waving to interested passersby just as my sons do. Fifteen minutes later, we pulled up in front of her apartment building, true door-to-door service. Unfortunately, we didn't call ahead to her husband to greet us outside with a camera. I suspect it would have made a good shot.

Carfree Overseas

If you haven't yet seen this article from the NYTimes about a German suburb that is carfree, where residents all walk or bike, check it out now.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Juxtaposed scenes from a bike commute

I reach the intersection as the light turns red. A car is stopped to my left so I pull up a bit more to make sure the driver can see me on his side. I hold out my arm, signalling my intention to turn right. I hear another car, impatiently zipping up behind me, a toot of a horn. I feel a whoosh as the arriving car squeezes itself by me on the left, nearly brushing my leg, as it pushes in front of the already stopped car. With the light still red and hardly a break in the traffic running perpendicularly in front of us, the tooting driver pulls a quick right, again too close to our bike, too close to the cargo box where two of my children sit. I mumble some sentiments I don't want my sons repeating as I glance at this reckless driver. I see a familiar face and a fumbling of a neon orange and yellow vest as the driver is simultaneously getting uniformed-up and making a tight right turn. One of the local school's crossing guards is obviously late for work. She comes closer to hitting us than any other driver we've encountered since our bike commuting began as she rushes to keep schoolchildren 'safe.'


The rain comes down for the third day in a row. The boys are nestled in the cargo box, warm and dry under the red weather tent, engrossed in TinTin books. My eyeglasses are dotted with raindrops, but the funny little visor on my Bern helmet keeps them from being completely drenched. My black Columbia rain jacket does it job, wetness rolling off my sleeves, but my pedaling legs become increasingly damp. The dark, rain-soaked circles on my pant legs grow with each up up-pump. My foot slips a bit on the pedal. Passing one of the local Italian markets, I feel a slight movement on my right side and hear small splat. It takes me just a moment to realize that my keys have somehow escaped my raincoat-- jumping from my pocket to the slick street below. I pull quickly to the right, a jarring stop, jostling the cozy readers inside their cocoon. I jump off the seat, kick my left foot, toes striking the release on the kickstand. As I turn to run back to recover the runaway ring of metal, a young man leaving the market puts down the box he was carrying. He races out to the street to pick up my rebellious keys and returns them to my outstretched hand and words of gratitude.

A Fictional Role Model...

"Anna Bee had arrived at Miz June's on her Schwinn, her poof of white hair tucked under her bike helmet that had a small lightning bolt on the side. She rode her Schwinn everywhere. You could see her around town, her basket filled with a sack of groceries or a waxed white doughnut bag or a package tied with string as she headed to the post office. It made you proud of her."
~Deb Caletti
Honey, Baby, Sweetheart