Monday, August 31, 2009

First Day of School on Bikes

A year ago, we hadn't yet figured out the just-about-two-mile-commute-to-school-so-we-really-have-no-business-taking-the-car-but-it-is-too-far-for-my-guys-to-ride-or-walk situation. It became our biggest motivator that led us to discover cargo bikes and family cycling. You can read about our journey to finding our first cargo bike, the Bakfiets, here.

So this morning marked a few firsts: The first day of first grade for two of my fellows (wow!) and our first day of first-day-of-school bike commuting. (We've been bike commuting to school since March). I was supremely nervous about our get-out time this morning. The boys don't sleep particularly late but we've been having relatively leisurely mornings, in terms of getting breakfast and getting dressed, this summer. Just thinking about getting up and out with full bellies, in clean clothes, and with lunches packed was daunting. I let myself ponder-- for a moment-- that if we were not biking to school, we would have more flexibility about when we could leave the apartment and still get to school on time.

The two school boys were up and rarin' to go. Would it be too much to hope that they feel like this every first day of a new school year? Unfortunately, the preschooler, who doesn't start school until later this week and was up at 3:30AM visiting our room, had an extraordinarily rough morning. I got a little crazed, begging him -- to no avail, of course-- to stop crying, and announcing testily numerous times to no one particular that we were past our 'safe' leave time.

In the end, we all got the new first graders to school on time. But with all my craziness and rushing, we didn't quite capture that moment on film. Here we are, however, at PICK-UP on the first day of school.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


that's us!

A rare shot (the only shot?) of the whole family...


Update:  I emailed the reporter and she kindly sent me these photos below.  I gotta say that F is looking particularly cute on the back of the Xtracycle and yes, S is looking awfully pissed.   He wasn't that into the Bike-To-Work Breakfast that day--  perhaps for its lack of chocolate munchkins.  

I also need to comment on one of the comments on the New Haven Independent's small article that accompanied the photo.  We know we are not allowed to ride on sidewalks.  We are hyper-aware of the bike laws in New Haven and try to be ever-vigilant about always following them. We want to make this area ever-more bike friendly and safe so we believe that we must do our part by being law-abiding and courteous cyclists.   We often have one, two, or three passengers on our bikes that we are most interested in keeping safe so follow all laws closely. We were simply on the sidewalk for the photo and as the breakfast was held on the sidewalk in front of City Hall, we had to saddle up somewhere. 

OK, I'll stop now.  I didn't bother saying that on the actual New Haven Independent's website comments but hey, I said it here.  I tend to get worked up when I read all the nasty back-and-forth comments readers of that online paper seem to generate.  Of course, I always to continue to read the comments which I should just stop doing, especially on the bicycle articles that always get down-and-dirty comments between annoyed motorists and intense cyclists.  Interesting article by "The Ethicist" in the NYTimes about anonymous blogger comments that you might be interested in checking out.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Bikes in Newspapers and Books and Everywhere!

Today's Sunday Styles of the NYTimes shows the fun of commuting to work by bike and just how stylish one can be on wheels. Check out Happy Trails now!

And as I started to read my current, light, end-of-summer library book, Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez's latest, The Husband Habit, I was delighted to learn that the protagonist is a bike commuter. Vanessa, a chef in Albuquerque, gave up her car some years before and gets around on her bike. While her sister, Larissa, heads off to do research overseas, Vanessa is charged with looking after her ill (and quite cantankerous) mother. Larissa has left her car with car-free Vanessa so that Vanessa can do her daughterly duty. Looking at the red Subaru in her yard elicits this feeling:

The sight of the car makes her feel weighted down, flightless, encumbered as a fruitcake. She wishes it away because it obstructs her view of the wildflowers, and because of where it demands she take herself. It's not that she cannot drive. It's that driving fast, and life, savored well, ought to be slow, even its fast moments taken not too seriously if at all possible (p 66).

Friday, August 14, 2009

Bikes & New Haven

I was terribly excited that New Haven just launched a new section of its government website to promote cycling. We're a long way from Portland but this seems like such a positive step. Here's what they have to say:

Bicycling is an enjoyable, inexpensive, efficient and environmentally friendly mode of transportation. In order to expand and improve safe and convenient access to this means of mobility, exercise and leisure, the City has made the provision of bicycle accommodations a high priority.

It will be interesting to see just how the City supports cyclists. I was riding the bakfiets today with two of my fellows inside the cargo box when we passed a construction site where it was obviously break-time as the road was lined with lunching hard-hatted folks. In the two years we've lived here, it's been clear that Yale is continuously undergoing renovations and the re-routing of traffic to accommodate building is constant. As I was stopped at a red light at a busy corner in the midst of yet-another university renovation, I could overhear some of the workers' discussion about our cargo bike and how "absolutely unsafe it is" that I ride with my children. I left the intersection fuming. I am a cautious rider, one to always obey traffic rules and be hyper-aware of cars. The only reason why biking with my kids would be unsafe, I thought to myself as I pedaled away from the negative talk, has everything to do with cars and drivers. To quote a certain well-known cyclist: It's not about the bike.

Anyhoo-- here are a few snaps of some local fun bike times we've recently had.

A night out with my friend C-- another mama of twins (one-year-olds!) and a singleton (6 1/2). We decided to head downtown for a kids-free evening and when I suggested we go by bike, C was up for it. Her sweet husband headed down to the basement and lugged her much-loved Schwinn up the stairs. C said that she used to ride it all the time when she owned her shoe store but her lovely Schwinn had been hanging by itself downstairs for some years.

Going out by bike was tons of fun. It made for simple parking and allowed us to easily hit a few spots without worrying about spaces and quarters. Plus, riding home after some serious eating helps beat the total lethargy too many calories brings. C's been living in New Haven for a long time so after two years of residence here, I finally hit some of the well-known bars that this unhip mama knew nothing about. I was darn full, so looking forward to those Belgium frites another night....
Friday night's pizza night in our home. We've always made the weekly run in the box bike b/c the storage is easy. Clearly though, the Radish will work just fine on future Friday evenings.This summer, I have spotted two, yes, TWO work cycles! (I told you we aren't Portland.) I spied an old-school ice cream trike traveling up the road a couple of weeks ago but wasn't fast enough to get a photo. However, I was delighted to come across Blue State Coffee's coffee trike this week. Coffee + Bikes= two of my FAVORITE things in the world.

Five kids on two cargo bikes. This week, we enjoyed hanging with two friends for the day. When their parents asked what the kids should pack, we asked them to bring their bicycle helmets. We started the morning with a trip downtown for bagels. My fellows, S & C, traveled with me on the back of the xtracycle while P took F and our two friends in the bakfiets. No minivan needed. Cool.

Back in the Saddle

I've been absent from the blogosphere for some weeks. Between birthdays, vacation, travel, and mostly all-boys-all-the-time days, I haven't been up for writing nor frankly, reading many blog posts lately. Summer days have been filled with tons o' bike time, but I haven't been documenting much of it.

There is something more, too. Overall, I just haven't known where to go with my posting. When I first started writing, I was at-home parenting full-time and I used blogging as a way to document my goings-on, give voice to some things I was thinking, and share with some family members and friends some of our kid moments . I was very happy to fall under the mama-blogging category, but I was never one to work hard to get way hooked-into the blogging community. When I started working outside the house, I felt it would be terribly indiscreet to ever write about my work so I have stayed away from any posting about my professional life. Once we got our cargo bikes and started writing about family cycling, I got really excited by all the bike blogs I found all over the web. I've so enjoyed reading about these women and family bike bloggers' experience and it's been fun to share ours'. However, I always feel like I am a just dabbler here, a bit of an imposter. I'm not hardcore and can't talk in any technical terms about our bikes. I'm a 40-year-old unfit mama of three and I just like riding my bike. I like leaving our car parked. I like that we've committed to family cycling.

So with that, I go on. I will continue reading those blogs that I love. I will write when I am so moved...