Tuesday, August 23, 2011

today's fb status

No, it wasn't about the earthquake felt by many here on the East Coast.


Monday, August 22, 2011

a new bike's in town

While riding home from work, hours later than I have these past weeks, I was trying to wrap my head around the idea that my summer really IS over.  Feeling a bit of melancholy, I decided to take a different route, one somewhat longer than my usual ride, but that did not have me go right through the center of downtown. It was rush hour and the Yale campus is burgeoning with newly-arriving students, and I just didn't feel like riding with that much traffic as I was far more in a 'moseying' mood.

The later hour and the different route combined for a wonderful moment of serendipity as I pulled up to a red light, only to look across the street to see the most wonderful sight-- a gorgeous red cargo trike complete with adorable young passenger!  The cyclist turned and headed north before my light turned green so in a moment of enthusiasm-- and I guess, a bit of cargo bike craziness--  I decided to forget riding home and followed the trike.

I ended up calling out to the rider who looked at me and responded, "Sara?"  It turned out to be a friend- of-a-friend-of-a-friend with whom I had some email exchanges about cargo bikes and then a quick impromptu meet-up at a Saturday's farmer market.  R had headed down to Rolling Orange in Brooklyn where  he had a grand time test riding their many cargo bikes and ended up purchasing the floor model of this incredible trike, a De Fietsfabriek FF 16.

If only I had a real camera with me I would have loved to capture this beauty in all of her glory. However for a first glimpse, you can see what my very un-hip 'dumb' (as opposed to a smart phone!) cellphone caught:

Stay tuned though because I do plan to find out LOTS more about this new addition to New Haven's ever-growing cargo bike population.

And I'll leave you with a far better image of the trike....
photo credit: http://www.defietsfabriek.nl/nl/nl/147/model_am/21/ff_16

Ride, Families, Ride!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

kidHaven.com post #3

Really, I Can Ride with Kids?

originally posted at kidHaven.com (final post of a 3-part series)

courtesy of fullhandsx3.blogspot.com
Family Biking Tidbits from One Family Bike Commuter
1. Find a bicycling friend.  When figuring out your family riding, go ahead and reach out to another bicyclist.  Perhaps you two can go for a ride together before adding the kids.  Maybe this bikey friend can help you plan a good route to get to the library that doesn’t take you on streets too busy with auto traffic.  Ask to try out another’s cargo bike.  Ride together to camp or school drop-off.  Even if you cannot find a cyclist right down the street, go ahead and reach out to others via the web.  When we first started family bike commuting, the folks we met through the Internet were invaluable.   We asked their advice and looked to them for inspiration.  It helps to see what others are doing and sometimes their example makes you stop and think, “Hey, maybe we could do that, too.”  We have found fellow bike folks, both local and virtual, to be extremely generous and open to our many questions.
2. Find a bike shop that makes you feel comfortable.  I admitted in my first post that I don’t wear padded bike shorts and have never fixed a bike flat on my own.  Sometimes it can seem intimidating to be around folks with far more technical knowledge about bicycles than I have, who race bikes, or train hundreds of miles each week on their skinny, fast cycles.  However, find a bike shop that makes you feel like you belong, too.  Many shops see the growing interest in bike commuting and everyday utilitarian cycling so they carry items beyond those skinny, fast road bikes.  Some shops are starting to cater more specifically to commuters or even specifically, cargo bikes.  We are extremely fortunate to be supported in our family biking adventures by one local shop, The Devil’s Gear, here in New Haven.  The folks who work there have always been enthusiastic and friendly with our family, helpful about ordering bikes/parts we need or want, and patient with our many questions and my sons’ desires to test out every bike horn in the shop, numerous times.
3. Check out New Haven’s Street Smarts Cycling Manual.  The New Haven area has a strong group of bike advocates in Elm City Cycling who have worked for years to make our local community a more bike-friendly place.  They have been aided by some solid partners in the city government, and in particular, those who work for the Street Smarts Campaign. Recently, Street Smarts published a helpful manual called “Smart Cycling: A Handbook for New Haven Bicyclists.”  It is worth it to read through this manual, perhaps more than once, and if your kids are an appropriate age, share it with them.  Learn the rules of the road and to use the words of Travis Wittwer, a committed family bicyclist from Portland, Oregon, “Be a visible, safe, competent, and courteous family on bikes for others to see that it is, indeed, safe.”
4. Start small. To quote from the U.S. Secretary of Transportation’s blog, Fast Lanes,
“High gas prices are hitting American families in their wallets and pockets pretty hard these days.  But did you know that more than 40 percent of urban trips in the United States are less than two miles, yet 90 percent of those short trip are taken by car?”
Go ahead and plan to take a bike ride once a week to start.  Think about one of those less-than-two-mile trips when you normally might take a car. Find a route on streets where you are comfortable riding.  The more you are out there on your bike, the more you’ll feel comfortable doing so on your bike. Likewise, the more family bicyclists out there on the road, the safer it is for all.  So take that one trip to start.  Make sure your gear is in good working order and you have all those provisions you need, kids’ snacks, sippy cups, etc. including a U-Lock (really, make this a part of your investment).  However, it doesn’t matter how long you ride for or how far you go, just give it a try.

courtesy of fullhands on Flickr
5. Have fun.  My family has had tons of adventures getting around town by bike. Some of those seemingly onerous parent errands suddenly became joyous when we did them together on our bikes.  So allow yourself to rediscover the joy you may have experienced pedaling out there as a kid or discover this joyful experience for the first time.  And if you need to reassure yourself, read Totcycle’s wonderful post “Is Family Cycling Safe?”  But mostly, mostly, have fun!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

guest post #2 at kidHaven.com

I realize that when I blog here at Full Hands, I am writing for an audience of other biking enthusiasts, often family bicyclists and cargo nuts like myself.  However, when writing for kidHaven.com, I knew I would have a much bigger and much more general audience.

Here is my attempt at doing a round-up of family bicycling options out there for folks not necessarily acquainted with cargo bikes, etc.  I recognize that it is not an exhaustive list and I am sure you all know tons of other cool options for families interested in bicycling.  The post contains a load of links, photo examples (mostly from Flickr), of just what I am referring to.  I expect that only the most intrigued will bother clicking on all the links....


What’s Out There: Family Biking Options
Sure, I had seen baby seats on the back of bikes and even the occasional Trail-a-Bike.  But beyond bike trailers, I was stumped by any biking options available to me as a momma of twins.  Feeling uncomfortable riding on city streets with the boys sitting low and far behind me, I didn’t think there was any way we could get around by bike. Thankfully, I was proved wrong and since our discovery of cargo bikes nearly three years ago, it is clear that the family biking options out there have grown.
Here are various family bike set-ups that accommodate a number of different aged children (click the links to see examples).
Child Seats
Bike Trailers
Trail-a-Bike/ Tag-Along
Convertible bikes
  • There are now products out there like the Zigo and the TrioBike that convert from a regular bike to a bike with front child carrier to a stroller. I was especially excited to see a Taga bike at the Wooster Square Cherry Blossom Festival this year. This local family had double seats (if only I had my camera with me).
Box Bikes/ Bucket Bikes/ Cargo Trikes
This is the cargo bike that started it all for us. Think of it as the minivan of bikes: space for multiple kids and all the stuff we schlep around with them.
  • Bakfiets: The Dutch wheelbarrow-type-bucket-in-front bike like thisthis, and this.   Here’s a couple of USA-made versions like the Joe’s Bike’s  and Metrofiets (hers even has an electric assist!) and Copenhagen’sBullitt. Small tidbit: pronounced “bak-feet;” plural is “bakfietsen.”
  • Madsen: US company with the Tupperware-like bucket in the back. There are a few local families riding Madsens and New Haven’s Devil’s Gear Bike Shop is a Madsen dealer.
  • Boxcycle/Christiana Trikes: Some folks are more comfortable on three wheels instead of two.  Originally harder to find on the East Coast, these trikes are really popping up all around!  I was excited to see a few parked along the sidewalks last time I visited New York City.
Longtail Bikes
These cargo bikes have an extended tail that allows a rider to carry passengers and/or a whole lot of freight (like large furniture!).
  • Xtracycle kits allow people to convert their existing bikes into longtail cargo bikes. Also, Xtracycle has ‘full’ bikes like the Radish and Big Dummy. Xtracycle owners can customize their bikes to fit their passengers, like herehere,  here, and here.  There are a number of Xtracycles in the area and more arriving each week it seems. The Devil’s Gear bike shop here in New Haven is an Xtracycle dealer.
  • Yuba Mundo: This cargo bike is heavier than an Xtracycle and has a longer tail with built-in ‘running boards.’  See here and here. Like Xtras, Yuba owners can customize their bikes to fit their families’ needs: some add toddler seats, others stoker bars (handlebars for a back passenger).  Mundos can also be equipped with electric assists to help ride up hills or with extra heavy cargo.
  •  Kona UteAn example here.
  • Sun Atlas Cargo: This is a relative newcomer in the longtail cargo bike family. It is especially intriguing because it seems to be one of the more affordable options out there.
Some families ride with their kids using bicycles-built-for-two or tandems so the children can help with the pedaling. One can lower seats and/or raise pedals to fit younger riders.  The triples are most impressive.  Here’s a version you see less in the States with the stokers (riders not controlling the bike) up front and another example here, too.
I would be remiss not to recognize, that yes, the initial sticker shock on some of these cargo bikes can seem extremely prohibitive.  People continuously ask what we paid for our family bicycles.  Since we use our cargo bikes as an alternative to buying a second car, we figure with the cost of a car, insurance, gas, upkeep, and parking downtown, we’ve invested well.  However, if you are put off by the costs of these bikes, do not despair.  We’ve met a number of folks who have found their Xtracycles or Madsens on Craig’s List for a reduced cost. Also, as the demand for family cargo bikes grow, the market gets more competitive. I suspect we shall see lower-cost options, like the Sun Atlas Cargo, out there more and more.
And now for some photos of my favorite family bike set-ups where folks cobble together what works best for their crew like thisthis, and this!