John Lucas has done it again! Our friend, Neil, is now the lucky owner of the very first flat bed Cycle Truck. It still has a ways to go to get to its full load maximization but with John's awesome frame and Neil's ingenuity, this is going to be the coolest work truck in Sacramento!
I finished up my last day of teaching for Project Ride Smart in Natomas for the season and I could not be happier with the experience. It was amazing to watch the students develop bike handling skills and acquire practical road safety knowledge. These kids are already better riders than most people out on the roads and know more rules than many of the motorists, too. They will be so much better drivers (of any vehicle they choose) as the grow up. This program really is an investment into the children's own safety as well as for the greater community of road users. We need this as standard curriculum all over the United States!
Of course, my last day wouldn't have been exciting enough on its own so the road decided to throw me a giant chunk of glass to tear through my tire. Luckily, the flat happened at the beginning of the trail and I was in a safe enough location to wait for my mom and the boys to pick me up. Sometimes it's great to have some help from a car and my wonderful mama. Now I have another excuse (not that I needed one) to go visit my friends at Practical Cycle!
We had another wonderful Kidical Mass ride, a park-to-park jaunt with about 20 of us. While I was a bit nervous that no one else would show up, suddenly, a hoard of awesome looking bikes pulled up. It was a great group of mostly regulars and a new father-son duo with an awesome Weehoo. We got to check out Melissa's new Follow-Me-Tandem and test out our Bullitt-train. Somer's son also had his zippy Isla Bike that he's been tearing up--in fact, he just learned how to skid. As we rode the 2 miles, Jarrod and his family showed up and tagged along.
Have I mentioned too many times that this month has been flying by? I managed to squeak out my May Is Bike Month goal by hitting my (personally) modest goal of 250. The boys are nowhere near their pledges of 100, though. We're doing our best and riding when we can so that's good enough for me.
I've been thinking lately about how lucky I am to have children who love to ride. Big Brother's biking skills have progressed so incredibly. He's scanning over his shoulder like a pro and working on using his hand signals as he rides. Today, I made the mistake of offering lemonade when we got home and he got so excited that he started to lose control. Amazingly, he was able to hop off the bike and keep it upright enough to come to a stop without biffing it. This is probably at least 75% of what we teach our 5th grade classes in the bicycle education programs (minus the attempted biffings).
Speaking of bicycle education programs, this is the result of the hard work and dedication that the NNTMA has put into their Ride Smart programs and May Is Bike Month encouragement. More bicycles and trailers showed up at the end of the day as parents came to pick up their children. Put some money into an alternative transportation management association and look at all the rewards a community gets! I love teaching the bicycle and pedestrian classes!
And then speaking of teaching, last week, I made a major decision to pull back away from working part-time at Practical Cycle and invest my time and energy in the classroom and on the bike. Although I love being apart of the wonderful team at PC, I wanted to be on a more flexible schedule that allows me to be doing what I feel I'm best at: riding a bike and teaching others to do the same.
And I get to spend more time with this awesome kiddo, too.
We decided to go big this month for Kidical Mass and attempt one each weekend. It's so helpful to have such a great board of Kidical Mass parents who are willing to plan and organize these rides with me. Today, we branched into South Land Park territory for a ride to Fairytale Town. The part that I was most excited about for going to FTT was how much they wanted to be a part of our group. David, their grounds manager, had contacted me months ago to find out if we would want to head over there and test out their new bike parking at the front entrance. Of course we did! He even passed along discount coupons for us to use.
Sadly there were more conflicts and other activities going on this weekend than we had realized so the turnout was a bit smaller than usual. We weren't even able to stay at FTT because Big Brother had a t-ball game this afternoon. It was still great to get out in the fresh (and extremely pollen-filled) air and get a good bike ride in with some wonderful folks.
Today was also the opening day for the Oak Park Farmer's Market--the best farmer's market in Sacramento. To make it even better, they just installed a new bike rack that was filled with three cargo bikes in the first half hour. I was very impressed at its lockability and how many bikes it fit while still being a pretty cool design.
The boys and I all got more miles to log for May Is Bike Month and our Tiny Helmets team. This year, I went easy on myself by only pledging 250 miles for myself and 100 each for the boys.
It's also been busy in the bike education arena for me lately. Last week, I had an awesome day working at one of the local schools during their bike rodeo. We had kids from 1st grade up to 5th grade riding bikes, scooters, and skateboards. There was an obstacle course for them to practice stopping, weaving, scanning, and merging. I was so impressed at how well they all did, even with such a short amount of time. I'm really looking forward to the next month because I have bike and pedestrian classes every week until mid-June!
We made it through the big cold spell without much bother. I'm pretty sure the drivers complained more about the cold than we did. I always think it's funny when people give us so much credit for riding around in the winter. After a few minutes of biking, I'm usually sweating. Drivers are the ones who have it rough--having to wait for the heater to kick on, taking off the kids' jackets to fit in the carseats, getting out of the car just as their bodies have adjusted to the warmth. Sounds like hard work to me! Riding certainly helps us keep the heat down in the house because we come in from the cold and it feels toasty warm already.
Our California winter means that sometimes we have to dress like this:
And sometimes like this:
Sometimes we resort to this:
Big Brother found a great way to keep his eyes from watering:
We see this guy riding along our route home on the wrong side of the street and on the sidewalk. I keep wanting to ask him why he does it but I don't have the nerve. He has a nice bike, a Cannondale road bike, and he rides for at least 3 long blocks on roads with clear bike lanes. My guess is that he eventually makes a left turn and he doesn't want to do that across traffic. It's amazing to me the variation in comfort-levels people have while riding. I just want to scream at him "It's not legal and it's not safer on the sidewalk!" He's obviously not doing it to be a jerk but he's not helping the bikers-as-scofflaws perception people have.
In other news, here's a chicken on a bike:
And here is a toy that my children will NEVER have the joy of playing:
Here is a crappy bike parking situation at the downtown Embassy Suites hotel (they had wanted me to park at the racks on the waterfront and I said "Heck no!":
And finally, in case you were wondering how our bike commuting is going, here's Big Brother rocketing along on his Isla Bike. He actually hasn't been riding as often because our morning timing often puts us way behind schedule these days. Also, one day he refused to ride because I couldn't find his black gloves and only had his blue mittens. Joys of parenting.
I was on Twitter this evening and saw an article @Cyclelicious had posted regarding a 90-year old driver who "accidentally" pushed the gas pedal instead of the brake, drove up the sidewalk and pinned two 6-year-old children, at least one of whom is in critical condition. I used the word "accidentally" in quotations, not because I think he injured the children maliciously but because I feel that when you take the wheel of a 2000-pound+ killing machine, you are fully responsible for your actions and any resulting destruction. I truly, truly hate to see any crash described with the words "driver lost control of the car" as an explanation for deaths and injuries the driver caused. There are no car accidents, this is the carnage that happens daily because we live in a car-centric culture that puts these vehicles' value over the lives of children. It disgusts me.
Sadly, these stories are often brushed aside without a second glance. However, right after I was on Twitter, I quickly popped over to FaceBook and the very first photo I see is a friend who had driven passed the scene of the very same crime, complete with SUV still parked against the storefront. She captioned it with this:
"Omg...Apparently a elderly man drove forward & hit two kids! As I make my way to buy some cupcakes. — at SusieCakes."
The hard part was the following comments to the photos.
"well at least you have cupcakes? Cupcakes make everything better."
It just hurts my heart to know how desensitized we have become. I know that these are good people and I have nothing against them. It's just that this is exactly how our society sees car-carnage, it's just a part of our lives. Nothing to see here, move along, go get cupcakes--I hear they fix everything. This is why nothing is going to get better, we don't even see a problem. Children are killed every single day by car drivers (not the cars themselves, they don't magically run into people on their own, mind you). More children die at the hands of someone at the wheel than guns, cancer, murder, disease, and yet nothing makes the front page of the news. Nothing shocks us enough to realize that we need to get these things off the roads. Even the AAP doctor's ridiculous rant against carrying children on bikes acknowledges that a car is the MOST DANGEROUS place to have your infant (even restrained). Even this misguided woman hits right to the point with her very last word: “Get everybody to walk to school, get traffic-free streets — they’ve done that in some communities, ‘no cars on this street.’”
While I try to keep my postings fairly positive, today this hit me harder than I was expecting. The good thing is that as soon as I needed uplifting, I reread Dorie from Hum Of The City's latest post about fear. Dorie is a car-free mama as well who was run over by a driver months ago. She has been painfully and slowly recovering but explains perfectly why she is still getting around by bike. Read it, she is incredible. (You have no excuse, I've linked to it four times. And you can find it here: http://humofthecity.com/2013/10/16/the-only-thing-we-have-to-fear/).
These past couple of weeks, I've had the honor of working with the San Juan school district's Safe Routes To School program in Citrus Heights. It is incredibly clear that these children are in DIRE need of bicycle and pedestrian education. They live in neighborhoods that are very poorly suited for safe transportation--car drivers speed down narrow roads, bike lanes are filled with giant garbage piles, and sidewalks disappear and reappear without warning. The kids that do bike or walk often do so with little regard for legality or safety. Although the coordinator, Dan, has been working with the schools for the last few years to provide SRTS education, he is met with much difficulty and resistance due to over-crowded classes, crazy scheduling (many schools only have 1-2 PE classes/week), and dwindling funding. Although it would be wonderful to have enough time and money allow for a thorough instruction, Dan has done a fantastic job with the resources he has had to work with.
One new part of MY own education was the introduction to pedestrian classes for the first through third grade classes. Never before had I realized the immense need for proper pedestrian classes. Although the basic lesson breaks down simply into "STOP at the edge, look left, look right, look left again," it is incredible to me how many children and adults are never taught how to cross a street. To my utter horror, in each of the classes we taught in, children would raise their hands and proceed to tell us a story of how their friend/brother/dogs/someone they knew had been hit by cars and were killed. I was floored. Dan assured me that they were, in fact, telling the truth and that he hears things like that all the time.
Today, while we were practicing crossing at a crosswalk in front of the school, a group of second graders were watching a car that had stopped and was waiting for them to cross. The driver continued to inch forward, unsure if the kids were crossing or not (they were INSIDE the crosswalk). Because the students hesitated longer than this driver had patience for, even though it was his moving forward that made them uneasy, he sped through the crosswalk. To top it off, he felt the need to lean out the window and swear at them! Stupidly, this man was driving a company car while he did it. I caught the name and called his shop to relay the situation to the woman on the phone.
Although working with these students and having to watch the terrible examples that the adults around them set, can be incredibly exhausting, I love this job. I love to see when our lessons suddenly click in a student's brain. I hope they go home and start critiquing their parents' behavior and point out that rolling through a stop sign is the wrong thing to do. Planting the seeds of proper transportation techniques early on will help them make better choices as they grow up.
Teaching these students helps me realize all the lessons I need to pass on to my children. On our way home from my children's daycare, about three blocks away, we all walked together and talked about how to cross streets safely, what to look out for, and why walking somewhere is so much fun. It was a nice reminder to slow down even more and appreciate the very basic, wonderful form of transportation that is our own legs.
My mini bike commuter is awesome! In just three weeks of riding himself to school (with supervision, of course), his confidence and riding abilities have improved exponentially. He follows direction well and is understanding the instructions I shout out. Starting and stopping can still be a bit of a challenge but I think some of that is because the coaster brake doesn't allow for a strong "power pedal" position. We walk across a busy 4 lane intersection with a light because we wouldn't be able to move quickly enough for the impatient drivers or get across before the light turned red.
One thing that bugs me is that the streets in the UC Davis Med Center are marked at 30 mph. They are so wide that drivers are frequently going faster than that, too. There are very few marked bike lanes and the ones that are marked are door-zones. There is plenty of bike use throughout the campus and I don't know why they wouldn't want to create safer streets for everyone, especially my little biking monsters.
This first video was taken on Big Brother's first ride into school. The second one was today, heading home after his 4th week of classes. He rides about 3 times per week. I can certainly see the difference!
Today was the first day of a new routine in our lives. Two weeks ago, our daycare provider told me that she was closing on the 28th. My heart sunk as I started researching new daycares and preschools, I realized that we couldn't afford my job at Practical Cycle anymore. Turns out, we had been paying about 1/4 of what standard places charge and there was no way for us to balance out a regular job with the cost of child care. So, as of yesterday, I'm back to being a stay-at-home mom for the first time in a year.
On top of this big transition in our lives, Big Brother's new school make for a crazy juggling schedule, Jose's new evening classes mean I'm in charge of all night-time duties four days a week, and my folks left town for the next month and a half so we've got easy access to a car (and a cat) for that time. It all makes for a whirlwind of emotions and activities. However, great change brings about new opportunities and right now, I feel like there are many out there for me. There will be more time for me to plan bike trips, more time for writing, and most importantly, more time to spend with my family.
While I am really going to miss my Practical Cycle family, I am looking forward to being able to still be a part of the shop in different ways. I've learned so much about bikes and bike shops from these guys, I am so grateful for the experience they've given me this past year.
I also have some contracted days with the Safe Routes To School program in one of the local school districts and Sacramento Kidical Mass is gearing up to be a regularly scheduled ride each 4th Saturday of the month.
Finally, bike overnights are coming back into our lives! We're starting up by squeezing one into August so we don't miss another month. This next one is going to be a doozy! Wish us luck! The boys and I head out tomorrow...
Today was Big Brother's first day of Transitional Kindergarten. I can't believe how lucky we got when we found his school. It's a Spanish immersion program charter school that is less than a mile away from our house. The kindergarten lottery kept getting larger and larger, without increasing their enrollment. We found out they were starting a transitional kindergarten for 4-5 year olds and since Big Brother wasn't ready for kindergarten yet, I jumped at the chance. He was automatically accepted into the school and, therefore, is set for the next 9 years (so is Little Brother, too!). I am thrilled.
In perfect Bustamante fashion, we loaded up our bikes this morning: myself on the BionX, Jose and Little Brother on the Bullitt, and Big Brother on his Fire Bike (a Specialized Hot Rod, 16" bike I got at a garage sale for $10--score!!).
Before I get into how awesome Big Brother's school is and how much he learned today (in the 3.5 hours he was there), I'm going to rant about kids' bike options.
You may recall that Big Brother had been rocking the Cupcake Bike previously. That was a 12" Performance bike that we were borrowing from a friend because the Fire Bike was too big for him. It was the perfect bike for him to learn on because it was small enough for him to control. It was awesome to see him move from the Strider to a pedal bike so quickly. Now that he's been growing a bit and getting more comfortable with riding, we wanted to test him out on the Fire Bike. Big Brother was a bit nervous at first because he could only put the tips of his toes on the ground but after a few rides, he was fine with it and very excited to be on his "big boy bike."
However, now that I've been watching him ride, I'm noticing that this bike doesn't fit him any better. In fact, I think the Cupcake Bike might still be a better fit (even though it's about 15 lbs heavier and smaller). The Fire Bike may have bigger wheels but the frame geometry is ridiculous. The handlebars come up really high so they're either pinned against his chest or they're like ape-hangers. There is no way to adjust the handlebars so that he has secure control of his bike. The other big issue is that the crankarms for his Fire Bike are the exact same as the Cupcake Bike. This means that even though he is on tiptoe when he's stopped, he still can't get a full leg extension when he's riding. His knees are just as cramped as ever.
Of course, none of this bothers Big Brother. He just cares that his bike is awesome and he's riding it like Mark Cavendish. I know that he's going to grow through bikes like crazy and it's a toss-up between getting something that's functional and not breaking the bank every year or two. I would be happy to invest in a light, easy to control kids' bike that he'll feel comfortable riding. Looking into Isla Bikes just might be the perfect answer. They have a wide array of sizes and some great looking bikes. Even their balance bike has a hand brake! I think I'm in love.
As per Isla Bikes website:
Understanding the needs of a cycling family has lead to an obsessive attention to detail.
Definitely something I'm going to be looking into. Look at these faces, how could I not want the best for them? Also, I hear that Isla Bikes also has a trade-up program. These guys know their market--us--serious biking families who can see quality as value!
After dropping the big guy off at school, I rode to Practical Cycle for work while the remaining boy stayed home with Jose because he had a cough. I was so glad to have had the BionX today as riding home in this hot, muggy weather was no fun. Although, coming home to hear Big Brother recite Oso, Oso, Que Ves Ahi was the best ending to the day. He's been really hesitant about embracing Spanish and after one half-day at school, he's beaming and showing off his new language skills! (BTW, did you know that kids who walk or ride to school perform better?)
This is us. We're fun.