Thursday, September 8, 2011

By All Means Go Slower...

The Artist recently read on a blog, "When you are starting to sweat, by all means go slower."  Words to live by as we finish up the first summer of riding.  Anyone who knows me personally knows that the summer was the season that I most dreaded in terms of cycling.  Now coming out on the other side of it, though the temperatures remain in the high 90s and low 100s, I am thankful to say that I survived.

It is interesting to me that one of the first questions that people ask us when they find that we are car free is something to the effect of, "But what do you do when it rains?"  (Which by the way, happens not very often in our temperate climate.  Maybe that is why people are so afraid of it.)  No one has ever asked, "But what are you going to do when the temperature is 100?"    Well, I'm here to set the record straight.  It is, in my humble opinion, the hardest season to ride.

In the fall, winter and spring, when I want to go somewhere, I just go.  I don't think about how dehydrated I'm going to be when I get there.  I don't think about how much sun I or my kids are going to be exposed to or how sweaty I'm going to be.  I don't worry about running into someone that I haven't seen for awhile and have to explain my red face and the sweat dripping off me when they come to give me one of those half hugs of greeting.

During those other 9 months of the year, I enjoy the wind and the fog and the flowers and the trees.  If I'm cold, I put on more clothing.  If it is wet, I take an umbrella.  If it is beautiful, I enjoy every moment of being outside. It doesn't snow here (sorry, gentle riders in the east) so that isn't even something that I have to think about.  For the most part these months make for a very happy cyclist.

On the other hand, the summer and it's heat make it much harder to find the joy in the ride, so in an effort to find the good in all experiences I figured out what I like about summer riding.  Here is my list...
1.  Light.  It stays light longer.  It makes biking with children so much easier when it is light late into the evening.   Plus I really like light.
2.  More cyclists on the road.  Interestingly, most people where I live only pull out their bikes in the summer months, and though I don't understand why people don't cycle in the fall, winter, and spring (because it is so much nicer), it is great to see a few more people cycling around town.  There are times even when, gasp, the bike racks actually have another bike in them.  (We live a pretty solitary biking existence here.)
3.  Never getting wet.  I actually don't mind getting wet from the rain, but since it is something that really seems to worry many people, I thought that I should add it as a plus for summer riding.
4.  School.  I notice that there are more bikes in the bike racks at school.  Yea for kids riding bikes and fewer cars around our schools.

I must say that after writing down my list, I feel much more positive about the summer.  But don't get me wrong, I am glad it is almost over.  Summer riding.  Not for the faint of heart.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

One Year

It is quite impossible to fathom the profound impact of going car-free has been in my life.  Sometimes in my own thoughts, I forget how this has changed not only my life, but us as a family.  I recently overhead The Artist tell someone that this was the best decision that we have made in our married life together.  I agree.

Biking as transportation has given us so much.  It has given us time to be together as a family enjoying the outdoors, every day of the past year.  It has given us an identity that is ours with our box bike and our 6 year old confident to ride on the streets.  It has given us new friends both here and in the blogosphere that are working toward making our world a better and safer place.  It has given me spiritual insight into how the small changes that I make really can help others and myself.  It has given me confidence to try things that I have been afraid of doing in the past.  It has given me the insight that family and community are vastly more important than the things that we own and the conveniences that those possessions offer us.

And so in honor of this very special day, we invited anyone who was willing to join us for bike party.  It was a party to celebrate the accomplishment of the past year and to help us look forward to the future.  We started in a park.  Here are some of the pictures of the people who came.  Sadly I did not get pictures of everyone.  Next time I'll do better.

And then we took off on a leisurely ride through residential streets.  Some of these friends had not ridden a bike for years so it was great to see them rise to the occasion. 

We ended up at a local Mexican resturant where they were very accommodating with our 20 + bikes.


Here's to another year of car-free living.  

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Joined at last

We have been doing this for nearly nine months.  In that time we have been pitied, dismissed, admired, envied, laughed at, and encouraged.  I have explained, defended, encouraged, and shown why we are doing this and why it truly is important to our family.  But until last week, I have not really felt joined.

Often when I talk to people about our journey they tell me all the reasons why they can't choose this lifestyle. In all the reactions that I thought about before we started this, I never really expected people to feel guilty.  My reaction to this is that I always encourage them to start small.  That not all families can go cold turkey like us.  That we always were committed to living where we work long before we started riding bikes full time.  That this was just a natural progression for us.  But these conversations always leave me a little sad, because it reminds me that for the most part, we are doing this alone.

                                                The Bakfiets parked at the grocery store

It is not like I don't see people on bikes.  I do.  Everyday.  I even have a friend who has started to ride her bikes when we go out to coffee. But I have never seen, in my town, another mom on a bike with her kids going to the grocery store for their weekly groceries or ride across town with her kids to drop them off at a play date/grandparents and then ride off to do something else.  (If you are out there and I don't know about you, please comment because I would love to dialog with you.)  I know that there are other moms committed to this because I read about them on the internet.  I see pictures of them with their children.  I know it can be done.  But here in our little town, we done this journey primarily alone.  That is until last week.
                                                            The Little Guy at the bank

Two moms, one at the Big Guy's school and one at the Little Guy's school, both started taking their kids by bike to school.  They both traveled over 2.5 miles and got there in not much more time than what it took them by car.  Suddenly our conversations took on a whole new direction.  We discussed what are the friendliest roads for biking, how to navigate the more dangerous parts of the city, how to keep our kids entertained without a radio. It was community.  It was bike culture.  It was fabulous.  

We are three and we are mighty. Wanna join us?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A New Addition

We have known for awhile that our current way of transporting children was at best a short term solution.  Bike trailers, even the best ones, have certain drawbacks, the biggest being a 100 pound limit.  We have been fast approaching that limit, not mention that the boys were very tired of being smooshed into a very small space whenever we wanted to go anywhere as a family.  Also, our trailer, which we bought long before we were car-free, was not designed for the demands that we were putting on it.  So, we went searching for a solution.

If it was just me and the Artist who were going car-free, there would be actually quite easy in our flat town with mild climate.  But when there are kids involved, there are certain challenges.  There were things that we were looking for in our new bike.  Space and weight capacity were huge.  Durability was a close second.  And safety is always important.  We also wanted something that we could use not only for the children, but could transport stuff easily.  Essentially we wanted a bike that we could use as a car.

After much research, we were pulled to the capital of biking as transportation, Holland, where they have made biking not only practical, but also fun.  So on Tuesday, I emailed one of the few suppliers of Dutch bikes in the United States, My Dutch Bike in San Francisco and found out they had just gotten a shipment and these bikes, called Bakfiets, were selling quickly.  Not wanting to miss an opportunity, we borrowed a truck and headed for the city to see one in person and, yes, test drive it.  Two hours later, we were strapping our new vehicle in to the back of the truck.
                                                            Boys in our new Bakfiets

Never before have I ridden a bike like this.  It is 8 feet long and about 90 pounds and rides like a dream.  It can carry up to 200 pounds in the front and over 100 pounds in the back.  And did I say that it rides like a dream.   It cost way more than any bike we own, but is so much cheaper than any car we could have bought with no insurance cost or gas to put in it other than the extra food we have to eat to keep our motors going.
                                                 Our new vehicle loaded down with groceries

Another biking challenge solved.  I never knew it would be this fun.  Want to join us?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Merry Christmas to Me!

I thought I should post this picture before to many days had gone by.  I snapped this on Christmas morning on the way to my parent's house for breakfast.  This is the five lane road (there is a turn lane in the middle) that we cross every time we head to their house and crossing it is not for the faint of heart.  For the most part, we have discovered ways to get around our town that are off the main and busy car roads, but this is the one road that we have to cross (we have not been able to figure out another way) when we want to head to the north side of town.  It is a beast of a road in the eyes of this biker, but we are careful and aware and don't take undue risks.

But oh, on this day, there was not a car in sight, and I must say I had a smile on my face.  It won't happen again until next Christmas (there being no cars, not the smile), but for the moment, it was bliss.  It got me to thinking how if just 100 people committed to one day a week riding a bike or walking to work or school or the store instead of driving a car, how fewer cars there would be on the road and that maybe, this town would start to think about how to make our roads safer for bikers and pedestrians.  It is a dream.  But on that perfect Christmas morning bike ride, I got to glimpse what it could be like.  I'm still smiling.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

4 Months and Counting

Yesterday marked the 4 month anniversary being car-free.  We have borrowed cars, rented cars, and ridden in cars, but we have not owned a car for 4 months.  In the first few weeks of this journey, there were times when I would be struck with the realization that for the first time in 17 years (I bought my first car as a junior in college) I did not own or have daily access to a car.  And then I would think, "Why don't I miss it?"

I'm not sure why I don't miss it.  Truly, it was more convenient to own a car, and there are still times when I say, "I'll drop this or that off at your house," before realizing that they live 10 miles out of town and there is no way I'm going to bike out there just to drop off an item.  And being in a car is definitely warmer than riding your bike in the rain.  But other than that, the list of things I don't miss is astounding:  filling the car up with gas, repairs on a old car, oil changes, traffic, insurance costs, and parking lots (bikes always get the best parking spots) just to name a few.  It is really strange to realign ones thinking so drastically in such a short amount of time.  If you had told me that we would be car-free and biking everywhere a year ago, or even six months ago, I would have laughed in your face mainly because I didn't like to bike and was pretty scared to do it on the road.

And yet here I am biking everywhere and really enjoying it.  Some times The Artist will just stare at me and shake his head.  He is not sure I'm the same woman he married 12 years ago, but I think that he likes me better now.