California's 3-foot passing bill finally went into action this week, which legislates higher fines for drivers passing bicyclists too closely and mandates that if passing is unsafe, drivers must slow down and wait for a clear berth to overtake the cyclist(s).
We have all had more than our fair share (which should be zero, of course) of vehicles zooming by too closely and at least this law gives us some legal recourse against unsafe drivers. I truly believe that the majority of drivers are not actually trying to be jerks as they whiz past, they just honestly have no clue about how it feels to be inches away from a speeding vehicle or they don't realize how they are supposed to behave around bikers. I often shake my head at oncoming traffic when I see a driver trying to gauge whether they can make a left turn before I reach the intersection or not. I think most drivers appreciate some sort of guidance because they have no idea how quickly we're moving, how much of the lane we actually need, or any of the other thousands of factors we have to take into account that they don't (door-zones, potholes, glass, train tracks, oil slicks, air wake from passing trucks, etc.).
I am especially thankful that this bill is increasing awareness of proper passing technique and opening the much-needed dialogue between drivers and cyclists about sharing the road. However, one glaring aspect of this dialogue is being left out. Plenty of articles have come out to warn drivers of the new legislation and they all seem to feel the need to stress how bicyclist can keep themselves safe on the road. I see this as being akin to people telling women how they can avoid being raped. Let's take a look at the real dangers on the road--the ones with four wheels instead of two. I'd like to take the time to address drivers alone and let them know how they can keep themselves and (maybe more importantly) others safe on the road.
1. Leave your entitlement at home. You do not own the road because you get in a car. Roads were not made for cars alone and specific laws address bicyclists legal right to use the entire lane as needed (as they need to, not when you want them to or not). You do not pay for the roads with gas tax--bicyclists actually subsidize vehicle use because they don't cause as much damage to the road. Honking and getting angry at cyclists for riding in the middle of the lane is not helpful and is very dangerous. Cyclists position themselves there because of road hazards or to discourage unsafe passing when the lane is too narrow to share. They have every legal right to be there. Chill.
2. Become well acquainted with your brake (the pedal on the left). A speed limit is just that--the limit, not a mere suggestion. There are many reasons someone shouldn't even drive at top speed: mechanical issues, wide loads, poor visibility/weather, unsafe infrastructure, potential pedestrian crossing, school zones, stupid planners who thought it would be appropriate to give a residential road a 40mph speed limit. Slowing down to pass a cyclist does not, in fact, hold you up more than about 30 seconds. There is no possible excuse to murder someone with your car because you couldn't wait to pass. Besides, we all catch up at the next light anyway. Slow down.
3. Treat driving as a privilege, not a right. People earn the right to drive by proving themselves capable of manipulating a deadly weapon with full attention and adherence to the rules. If you cannot do that for whatever reason (attention span, age, health issues, maturity level, addiction to Facebook and taking selfies) you have no right to get behind the wheel. Taxis, Lyft/Uber, public transportation, choosing to live in a high-density city, and bicycling are all safer options for unsafe drivers.
4. Put away your distractions. Cell phones, including hands-free sets, quadruples your chance to causing a collision and texting raises the risk to 23 times! Drunk, drugged up, and drowsy driving are just as bad. Anything that takes your attention away from the road is an issue--your children screaming in the backseat, Fluffy hopping around on your lap, that pickle that just fell out of your sandwich. Address these issues while you are not hurtling along a narrow patch of asphalt. Driving is precarious business and needs all of your focus. Multitasking doesn't work in a vehicle. If you do have to pull over, make sure to stay out of the bike lane which is very dangerous for bikers and just forces them back into the road.
5. Ride a bicycle on the road sometime. Get a sense for what it feels like to be on the other side of the car. Feel the breeze on your face and the strength in your legs. Enjoy the freedom and endorphins of cycling. See what it is like to be a vulnerable user of the roads and change your driving behavior based on your newfound knowledge.
6. Advocate for better biking infrastructure. This may seem counterintuitive but the more bicyclists who are on the road mean fewer drivers and safer streets for everyone. Good infrastructure like cycle tracks and protected bike lanes encourage riders of every ability. Bikers free up parking spaces, reduce traffic congestion, spend more money at local shops, and make public spaces safer for pedestrians. This is all win-win for everyone, even if you're not the one on the bike. If you don't like the cyclist riding in "your" lane, chances are that the cyclist doesn't want to be there either. Bad infrastructure confuses drivers and cyclists alike--confusion leads to collisions. Lack of infrastructure causes riders to use dangerous behavior like sidewalk riding or riding in the wrong direction because they are unsure of where to be to stay safe. Give mom (and all riders) a safe bike lane!
7. Yes, bicyclists break the rules. So do drivers. People are human and people do stupid things whether they're on a bicycle or in a car. The difference is that people in cars kill when they break the rules and people on bicycles don't (except in a few very rare cases). Drivers do "California Stops," speed, fail to yield to pedestrians, use their cell phones, neglect to use turn signals, and on and on. So next time you decide to bemoan that bicyclist who failed to fully stop at the stop sign, realize that it is your own predisposed prejudice that causes to notice them but not the hundreds of vehicles that do the same thing every day (by the way, did you fully stop at that last one yourself?).
My hope is that this short PSA will help save lives and remind drivers that the real responsibility for keeping bicyclists safe on the road is their own.
California's 3-foot passing bill finally went into action this week, which legislates higher fines for drivers passing bicyclists too closely and mandates that if passing is unsafe, drivers must slow down and wait for a clear berth to overtake the cyclist(s).
When we started riding with our kids, it always felt like a rolling freak show because of the stares and comments we constantly received. However, the more we rode, the more we found our community (and our community found us!). It seems like every day now we bump into our friends or meet new cargo biking friends. It's also so much easier to stop (or keep riding) and chat for a bit than it would be if we were all driving. We don't feel so weird anymore (relative, I suppose, to our general weirdness). Check out just a few of our awesome local friends and their get-ups.
Our family biking tribe is growing every day! It's hard to feel out-of-place when you're in such great company!
I needed to get a table from my folks' house. I called my friend Neil who has a truck--a giant flatbed Cycle Truck, that is (actually he also has a pickup but that never occurred to me and it wouldn't have been much fun). You might remember Neil from that time we moved a couch with his homemade bamboo trailer.
Since Neil was on Dad-duty (doody?) today, we caravanned over with his two cargo bikes, the other a Nihola Trike.
I got to ride the Flatbed and was really impressed. The fat tires and long wheelbase made for a smooth ride. Neil has it set up as a very upright riding position which was really comfortable. I might need to turn my Bullitt's stem around to copy him.
At my folks' house, we surveyed the load, piled it on, and strapped it down. I think the lamp in front makes the whole package. One of the biggest differences about the Cycle Truck vs. my Bullitt is the ability to strap things down. The Bullitt's narrow bed and our wooden cargo box don't leave many spots to attach tie-downs or have a solid base for a wide, heavy load. Cycle Trucks, however, have numerous attachment points and a nice, wide bed.
Riding the first couple of feet was a bit wobbly and turning was nerve-wracking but then Neil added some air to the front tire and the whole thing rode much more smoothly once I got my balance.
We were quite a site to behold! I had no trouble taking the lane and other drivers slowed down to give me a wide berth. I almost think I should carry a table around at all times! It's a great reminder for drivers to give 3' when passing. It was fun to see other people, especially guys in trucks, take a double-take as we rolled by. I didn't have any issues starting/stopping or keeping my balance.
On the way home, Neil didn't want me to have all the fun with his bike so we traded. It was harder for me to ride the Nihola with it's trike-steering and having to counter balance on the banked roads. I am not a trike fan.
Such a fun morning adventure!
Keith and his son joined Little Brother and myself on our reconnaissance ride out to Gibson Ranch. Keith is an essential member of our little "Sac Kidical Mass Board," a team of wonderful folks who help plan and run our monthly Kidical Mass rides. Another board member, Melissa, had found Gibson Ranch and talked to them about the possibility of using it as our Kidical Camping trip in September. Emboldened by our recent trip to Eugene for their 4th annual campout, I was really excited to get ours established, too. Last year, we took a group of about 20 people up to Negro Bar in Folsom, a 30 mile trek that was not for the faint of heart! This year, we wanted a trip that was more approachable for our larger Kidical Mass group. Before we could make this event official, we had to scope out the route and ensure its safety for family riding. (So of course, Keith and I used our children as guinea pigs)
This is Keith's second homemade bakfiets since his first was stolen last year.
Little Brother started the day pretty restless--still wound up from our weekend adventure. It didn't take long for me to offer him over to Keith's bike so the boys could play together. It was a perfect playdate on wheels!
The ride was even better than I had imagined. There was one section of the trail that was closed due to levee construction but the detour was short and easy (at least it was on the way back). After the Northern Bike Trail, there was a section along the rural back roads, most of which had a wide shoulder or designated bike lane. The last 1/4 mile or so lacked a shoulder and had busier traffic but it was over quickly and then we were there! Unfortunately there was a giant sign proclaiming the lack of water and bathrooms but we've since established that they'll be available when we reserve our dates.
We have a great trip planned now for Sacramento Kidical Mass's Campout! Send me a message if you are interested in joining or have any questions. Hopefully, this will be the first of many more to come!
The summer was almost over so I did what any rational and responsible mother would do--pack up the children and a giant bike and drive 10 hours north for a weekend camping trip the day before school starts. To be fair, this wasn't just an ordinary camping trip, this was the founding Kidical Mass's 4th annual bike camping overnight. The Eugene Kidical Mass's co-founder, Shane, had also arranged for us to stay with Bike Friday's president, Alan, and his wife Theresa! There was no way we'd miss out on such fun opportunities!
On Thursday, my dad came by to help load up the Haul-a-Day. I had bought a new rear rack since the one we had was pretty old and the straps were brittle. I broke one on the last attempt at driving with the HaD and I didn't think it would survive such a long trip at freeway speeds. While I was at the bike shop, I asked about a top tube adapter for the rack. When I mentioned I had a Bike Friday, the guy handed me one from the shelf. Sadly, when I got it out of the case, I realized that it was going to be useless. It was too long and didn't clamp down. I decided to try the upside-down trick again but with more straps.
I think I did a brilliant job! Ten hours later (yes, I drive slowly), the bike hadn't moved a centimeter. My boys are amazing travelers, both on the bike and in the car. This was no exception. Despite one initial freakout when Little Brother decided to unbuckle his seatbelt (lots of screaming followed), most of the time they played together and read books.
We got into Eugene well after bedtime. The boys were really wound up but Alan welcomed us in and had set up a big tent in the backyard with nice foam mattresses. I was glad to not have to be cooped up in our tiny 2-person tent (yes, I know it's too small but I keep bringing it because I'm a weight weenie) for two extra nights. We also got to meet Fraeda, Alan and Theresa's daughter and also works at Bike Friday, who was busy building wheels on the couch.
On Friday, we got a chance to visit Bike Friday (seems appropriate). I wanted them to take a look at the Haul-a-day and make any necessary adjustments. We got to meet some of the great folks there--Mike got right to work on our bike while Eamon took us for a tour around the shop. It is amazing back there! Just about every aspect of Bike Friday building/servicing/production goes on in that tiny but very organized warehouse. We even bumped into Alan who was working on a front frame-mounted basket that I could use for the camping trip. I feel like we are now a part of this awesome club! I cannot say enough about how friendly everyone is and how incredibly hard-working they are!
While the team was bending over backward for us, I took my hooligans out to run down some of the residual crazies from the drive. They sure had a lot of crazy left over. Luckily Eugene has some beautiful paths. I was sorry that we didn't have more time to explore.
The rest of Friday was spent hanging out with the MacRhodes clan and picking Shane's brain about Kidical Masses and bike stuff while the kids biked and played as children should.
We got back to our "campsite" to find Alan working on our Haul-a-Day until 10pm just to make sure our front basket would work. That's what I call dedication and fantastic customer service!
The next morning we packed up the Haul-a-Day. I was surprised at how much the bike could handle and how easily it all fit. I was worried that it'd be cramped since I hadn't tested it out and it's smaller than the Mundo (and we usually fill the Mundo up to capacity). We packed fairly lightly and Big Brother was on his own bike but there was still plenty of room when we were loaded up.
We met up with Shane's crew to get to the starting point for the ride--a parade! It was great to be able to go with someone who knows the way since I would have been lost on my own.
The parade was fun but it was tiring to go at such a slow speed. I was really thankful for the reflective vests because it made spotting my renegade child much easier. It was great to get a chance to check out the other families' set-ups and meet some more awesome people. I think we had about 60 people in our group.
My adorable boys. Little Brother got a little too wrapped up in the parade attention and after doing wheelies and weaving around the group, he decided to break free and check out the floats ahead of us. I finally caught up to him about 6 floats up. It was quite an entertaining chase (for everyone else watching).
After the parade, we had a quick lunch before we packed back up and headed out toward the campground.
It was about a nine mile ride with a few stops for water, snacks, and playtime. Big Brother rode his bike the entire way and was really great about following directions. The Haul-a-Day felt wonderful to ride, even loaded down. Family biking always seems to be a slow journey but that's often what makes it extra fun--there's always time to check out the scenery and chat with whomever you happen to be next to.
The campground was beautiful. There was a river just down a little trail and plenty of shade. The kids took over the road with their bikes and striders. We had a potluck dinner with an amazing amount of food that just seemed to keep appearing.
It was nice to be around other families so we didn't feel like the only ones who have children who wake up at the slightest hint of daylight. All the kids were ready to get back onto their bikes and roll around in the dirt some more. There was a pancake feast then we packed up a bit early to head back to the car for the long drive home. I would have like to have been able to stay longer and enjoy the leisureliness of Kidical Camping but I also didn't want to be stuck driving late into the wee hours of the morning. We met so many great people and the boys made so many new friends. I think we're going to have to make the trip up again next year! Thanks, Eugene Kidical Massers!
Emma was kind enough to lead us home along a more direct route. We got a chance to experience Eugene's river path and Big Brother made it back the entire way (with a little coaxing and chocolate chip bribery).
Back at the car, Theresa helped me load the bike back up and pack up our stinky gear. We made it on the road around noon. We were all pretty worn out from the long weekend adventures and our fuses were shorter than what we had started with. Luckily, we still had plenty of snacks and books. I'm pretty sure that Big Brother didn't stop talking for at least eight hours straight. Little Brother thankfully took a long nap.
The boys were asleep when we pulled up to our house and stayed asleep all night. I threw them into their beds and decided we'd deal with the dirt in the morning.
My chipper kiddos were up bright and early as usual. Big Brother was excited to start Kindergarten and was especially happy about his new cycling gloves that Theresa and Alan had given him. He didn't want to take them off when he got to school!
We had such a wonderful time! It was totally worth the long drive and exhaustion to get the opportunity to meet new friends and ride around Eugene. I look forward to coming up to visit again. Hopefully next time by train*!
*I should mention that while I would have loved to take the train more than anything, tickets cost about 4x more than what it cost for us to drive and the long train trip would have cut into our already minimal amount of time.
In less than 24 hours, the Mundo has already found a new home. Within minutes of posting my ad, I had people contacting me with questions and ready to set up test rides. Used cargo bikes are a hot commodity for people who want to break into the cargo bike world, inexpensively (relative, of course) and easily. It's great to know that there are enough cargo bikes in the area that some are already on their second round (possibly even third!).
It's a bittersweet day for me to have to say goodbye to the bike that started it all for us. Had it not been for the Mundo, we might not have become a car-free family so easily. We wouldn't be neck-deep in the wonderful world of family biking. We probably wouldn't have made so many amazing new friends, locally and from all over the world, or connected with so many great bike advocates, especially in the Kidical Mass arena. We would have never realized how very simple it can be to replace car miles with enjoyable and exciting bike miles. There are so many new places we've explored, just because we wanted to get there by bike. I still absolutely love Yuba bikes and whole-heartedly recommend them to many people.
However, I didn't feel it was fair for me to be hoarding all the cargo bikes in the Sacramento region. Luckily, the Mundo has found a wonderful new home nearby with Monica and Elliot's family. She has lovingly been renamed "George," which I think is totally fitting. I look forward to seeing them rolling around town. Welcome to the club, guys!!!
Our Mundo is officially on the market. This was the bike that started it all. It was so amazing to go from lugging around the trailers to speeding along with the Mundo. We've had so many adventures: riding 95 miles to Modesto in one day, Big Brother and my trip to Chico, camping, garage sales, everyday shenanigans. It's sad to see her go but it's time for us to downsize. I know that this bike will be perfect for another family wanting to experience some car-freedom and teach their kids that strapping on their helmets is just as valid as buckling their seat belts. The Mundo is sturdy and easy to ride for just about anyone. You can carry as much as you can imagine (with the right number of tie-downs and a little creativity). Know someone who fits that bill? Send them my way!
I love when I can do things on my bike that I can't do in a car--like pile in more children! Luckily my friends are awesome and leave their kids with me.
We could have added an extra one or two small munchkins. Hopefully we'll beat our record of 5 on a bike soon.
Big Brother didn't ride quite as far today. He rode about 6 miles to a friend's house where we spent almost the entire day. About a mile into our way home, he was ready to hitch a ride. Here goes our first Haul-a-Day towing test:
The bike tracked perfectly and despite the Little falling asleep and wobbling the bike around, we still managed to ride home. Big Brother sat side saddle because Little Brother's Strider bars took up a lot of the deck. Both kiddos were really tired on the way home and it was nice to have them well contained in the Hooptie.
I love my kids. The drive me crazy but I still think they're pretty dang awesome. Yesterday, I wanted to go for a bike ride and the weather was going to be manageable at just 90 degrees so I decided we'd make our usual trip to Hagan Park. The ride is 13 miles each direction, mostly on the bike trail. As I was pulling out the Haul-a-Day, Big Brother asked if he could ride his own bike. We had plenty of time and since he did so well with the rides to the zoo last week, I decided we could give it a go. Worst case, I would just figure out how to tow his bike on the HaD and throw him on board.
The first four miles are urban riding with a couple of big streets to cross, including one with no infrastructure and really fast drivers. Almost all riders end up crossing the street and riding on the sidewalk facing traffic--two of the most dangerous things you can do as a biker and yet, there's not much of an alternative. When I'm on my bike, I usually just take the lane but with Big Brother on his own, I didn't feel that that was a viable option for his skill level. We ended up crossing at the crosswalk and riding together very slowly on the sidewalk. Once we were on the bike trail, it was a piece of cake.
We made a snack stop along the way, with Little Brother devouring just as much as his Big Brother. The American River Parkway was packed and I was unnerved by the number of very fast riders passing us so quickly and often much too closely. While I'm sure that they're competent riders, I'd bet that they have no understanding as to how unpredictable children can be, even when they're on the back of a bike. Little Brother will often lean over, causing the bike to swerve a bit and Big Brother, although a great rider for his age, still has sporadic speed bursts and can drift when he loses focus. This doesn't mean that kids shouldn't be allowed to ride on the Parkway just because some bigger riders want to use it as a training route! Luckily, just about everyone was considerate and often broke out in giant smiles to see BB trucking away or LB face-down on the deck.
We made it the entire 13 miles to the park! I had packed our lunch for the park but hadn't taken into consideration the fact that Big Brother would be riding on his own and incredibly hungry, or the fact that Little Brother can pack it away just as much as the Big. I was working hard to make sure I was rationing our food appropriately and dolling it out in small but tasty amounts.
Big Brother was ready to hitch a ride when we started packing up at the park but I encouraged him to ride just a bit and see how far he could get. He loves numbers and counting so the idea of riding longer distances and increasing his mileage was appealing to him, even though he was pretty tired already. We only had a couple moments where he was ready to give up but we talked through them and with a little distracting and the promise of more snack stops along the way, he continued until the got his second (and third) wind. As long as he was still having fun and was able to ride safely while listening to my instructions, I was willing to let him go as far as he wanted.
We had one more playground stop and I had saved half a cookie for the final three miles in traffic. Little Brother got more riding practice in and the boys stayed in happy spirits.
Once home, Big Brother started to melt down but I was able to head it off with a hearty lunch and lots of water. He was so proud of himself for riding the entire 26 mile trip. I am so excited about his riding abilities--he's a great listener and follows instructions, he's understanding how to stay focused and what to look out for, how to react to dangers, as well as maintaining his endurance and appreciation of biking. If we hadn't turned around at Hagan Park, he could have ridden all the way to Folsom. Maybe for our next camping trip, he can ride his own bike up to Beal's Point. I'm sure he could make it if we took all day and had a huge amount of food with us. Once he's able to get to the next sized Isla Bike (which based on his brother's being able to ride the 16" with the seat up 4", it won't be much longer), he'll be able to have gears and a rack for better transportation and touring rides. My big baby is growing up!
As a side note, I convinced my mom to ride on the back of the HaD to go out to lunch. She's such a great sport! I just took the sides off the Hooptie. The lower deck made her feel a lot more secure and was easier for her to get on and off the back. The ride felt great and stable and she even remarked that it was "less scary than a motorcycle."