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).
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.
As we got ready to head out on the Crazy Train this morning, I was surprised when Little Brother announced that he wanted to ride "his" bike, the little 12" loaner that I picked up from friends a couple weeks ago with the idea that it's time for Little Brother to learn how to pedal. He's gotten on it a couple of times, usually makes me hold him up for a few tries around the yard as he pedals forward a couple times then sends me jerking to a halt as he hits the coaster brake. It hasn't ended very prettily, me with a backache and him announcing that "his" bike (the Strider) was better. So today, although we were in a hurry, I wanted to encourage his enthusiasm for pedaling. I held onto him as he set his feet on the pedals and instead of running along side, I just let go. Off he went, about 30 feet before he crashed into the shed. We were all so excited that I forgot we had someplace to be and turned him around again. Another 30 feet of pedaling and then another! It wasn't a fluke! He was riding on his own!
I didn't get any video of his first couple attempts but after we got home, Little Brother gave it another go. By golly, we've got a house full of pedalers now! There is no fear in this kid at all and he's riding a full year earlier than Big Brother's first tries. There's still much work to be done--power pedal starts, braking, proper lane positioning, etc. but I am so excited!
Here is a short compilation of his afternoon progression. Forgive the crappy editing (by which I mean total lack of editing) and out-of-focus video. My kid can ride a bike!
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!
Today has been a buzz of excitement--starting with a business phone call for an exciting new direction for my career and ending with a house full of friends and munchkins.
Bekah flew into town for work this afternoon and in typical Bustamante fashion, the boys and I hopped on the Mundo to go pick her up.
Once we got our balance, we rolled over to my folks' house for a visit. Big Brother had a terrifying experience when he slipped backwards on our way out the door and fell headfirst down their steep staircase. The first thing he said to me as I scooped him up (I was pretty confident he didn't have a spinal injury since I had seen him fall) was "I was NOT wearing my helmet!" Despite the bump on his head and the scrape down his back, within a few minutes of icing, he was running around as if nothing had happened (although I'll probably be sleeping with him tonight).
Bekah rode the Linus back to my house, not that I wouldn't have continued on with her on the Mundo, but I wanted the Linus back at home since it's been stuck at Practical Cycle for a tune up (then I needed to figure out a way to get it home with some sneaky bike-juggling and an eventual pick-up by the Prius). Plus, Bekah is part Linus owner because I was holding her raffle ticket, as well as my mom's and mine, when we won the bike at Bike Fest.
Once we were home, the boys were excited to have some friends come over for dinner and then another set of friends popped over when they saw everyone as they were walking by. It was pretty funny to see them connect through what they've read about each other from the blog. It seems that at this point, I don't even have to talk to my friends anymore because they stay up-to-date with everything I write online. (Hi guys!) It was really nice to catch up with such fun people and even better that they helped wear out my children (who are already fast asleep. Thanks again, guys!).
Today, Big Brother and I went over to Grant Park to go to our January Kidical Mass. Big Brother's Isla Bike has had a flat tire for the past week, I picked up a new tube for it but it didn't fit, despite being the right size. Since he still wanted to ride, we pulled out the old Fire Bike. We got about halfway to the park when I realized that Big Brother was pretty slow and wobbly on the Fire Bike and I didn't like the idea of him riding the next section that we had to go through. With some convincing, I got him to agree to get on the Mundo with me.
It was a bit of a tight squeeze with the Fire Bike in the Mondo Sling since we can't tow bikes with the Peanut Shell on the back but it worked. When we got to the park, I was surprised to see it already packed with some pretty awesome family bikes!
I think we set the record for most bikes ever in that little park. There were many Mundos, two Edgerunners, an Xtracycle, a Cargo Joe, a Weehoo, an Isla Bike, a couple kids bikes, a Brompton, and a few single bikes. Some folks could only stay for the picnic but it was still nice to get to get to catch up with them, too.
The ride was a bit over two miles long, mostly on the Northern bike trail. The kids on their own bikes did an amazing job getting up the "hills." Big Brother had a grin plastered to his face after one particularly long downhill where he realized he didn't have to brake the whole time. It was great having a group that didn't mind that we were moving at a 6-7mph pace or that downhills were almost slower than the uphills. These are my kind of bike riders!
There was one section that Jen and I had been a little concerned about during our practice run because we had to get from the trail to the street. We knew that people could use the crosswalks if it was too busy or if they were more comfortable doing so. Luckily, there wasn't as much traffic today and we were able to walk our bikes into the traffic lane. Dan knew to hit the crosswalk button so we all had enough time to get across on one light. I'll have to remember that trick for our future rides. So despite the last part being pretty urban riding, we all got to the ice rink pretty easily.
Then the real fun began!
We spent over two hours at Iceland and when we got ready to leave, Big Brother wanted to keep the skates. This had been his first time skating and he loved it! Now that we know how easy it is to bike there, I'm sure we'll go more often.
We had a smaller group heading home because most of the other riders had trickled off earlier. I was nervous about BB riding home because I knew how tired he was. I wasn't sure if he would be able to follow directions well enough to stay safe. However, he proved me wrong and did a fantastic job getting through the urban section and back to the trail. Once we got back to the park, I could tell he was flagging. It was getting a little dark and he was getting a little fussy. I didn't want to go through the busy section of Sacramento with him on his own so I forced him back on the bike. He wasn't happy but got over it quickly. We stopped to pick up dinner then finished our ride. Once we were back on neighborhood streets, I asked if BB wanted to ride again. He didn't hesitate for a second.
I don't think Big Brother sat down the whole way home. The Fire Bike just doesn't fit him and he was more comfortable stretching out.
We got home (after stopping to chat with friends along the way. I love that biking allows us to be so social!) and Big Brother was all smiles! I'm so glad that we learned how to bike to Iceland and go ice skating with Big Brother for the first time--Kidical Mass is so great!
Today was our first real crash on a cargo bike that was moving. I've dropped both bikes a few times when getting on/off or while walking with it. They've always been slow and controlled falls, no damage to anyone or the bikes. The last time I was hurt on a bike was the incident last year with Zorro, although Jose took down the Bullitt on his first attempt out (no kids, thankfully) and that damaged the box a bit.
I've always told people that if you're going to go down, it's most likely going to be in one of the scenarios that we've experienced already. Those falls aren't so scary once you've gone through one or two. However, today, we were moving fairly quickly and I went down pretty hard but, as crashes go, it still wasn't that bad.
We had taken the long way home along the bike trail and after going through Old Sac, Big Brother wanted to ride along the promenade to see the sparkly cement. I agreed because they had been so accommodating the whole ride and Little Brother was fast asleep. To get up the ramp, I had to maneuver across a set of parallel train tracks. The whole time, I was being extra cautious about crossing them with my wheel at an angle so as not to get stuck (parallel cracks/edges are one of the top causes of solo falls, and solo falls are the top cause of injury to bicycle riders). The first track was fine and I thought I had turned my front wheel enough to get over the second--I hadn't. I knew as soon as I felt the first rumble of my wheel that I was going down. I have no idea what hit the ground or anything beyond my roll off the bike.
The boys stayed in the box because we had our weather protector on but neither was buckled so they both got tossed around. Big Brother fell across Little Brother (who was awoken) but neither was hurt or even very shaken up. There were no tears, no anger, no fear and I think it was helpful that I was staying calm so they didn't freak out. It was also our luck that we weren't in traffic or had to worry about any outside danger, we could pick ourselves us slowly and asses the damage.
I had rolled off the bike pretty gracefully, if I do say so myself (my dad might have another version since he was right behind us). My wrist is sore, I have a few weird aches and pains but no bruises that I've found, yet. I didn't hit my head. The only thing I can't explain is that the tip of my left ring finger has a numb feeling. I may find some new things tomorrow, I'm certainly feeling more sore and more grumpy now that it's been a few hours.
Our poor Bullitt shows some damage. Sadly, most of the damage has to do with our new weather protector. The snap on the side was ground down (same thing happened when Jose went down), an unused mount that was screwed into the side tore out, the foot rest is scraped, and the front attachment for the cover came out.
It's all minor cosmetic damage but still frustrating. The cover window is scuffed but nothing torn or cracked. I used a bit of super glue for the front mount and I'm hoping that the side snap will still function (we paid $5 to replace it last time). I may have to use a bit of glue to seal the cracks on the back corner. It's interesting to me that it's mostly the same parts that Jose's crash dinged but I was going faster so it's more pronounced. My dad is suggesting a roll cage or bar to protect the most vulnerable parts. This is one of those instances that I kind of wish I had a Cycle Truck instead because of the sturdiness of the integrated box.
My dad asked how I thought it would have been different crashing on the Mundo, which I thought was a pretty interesting question. The first thing, however, would be to point out that this crash probably wouldn't have happened on the Mundo because I could have been watching the front wheel and seen that it was running too parallel to the track. However, it's hard to say what the difference would have been for the crash part. Big Brother would have rolled off the bike from a slightly higher position, Little Brother would have been buckled into the Peanut Shell, and I would have been about the same. I guess it's impossible to know because the situation would have been different. Overall, I think it's pretty important to point out that we are almost totally fine and have no permanent damage. I could have gotten this hurt by tripping down the stairs, so it's not necessary to make this into any more than the mishap that it is. But if it helps another person realize that crashing on a bike with kids isn't the worst thing in the world, I'm happy to share my story.
It's annoying to have fallen for such a common mistake, one that I was even consciously trying to avoid. So, to make myself feel better, I'm ending with the video of Jose crashing. Enjoy!
We finally moved back indoors because the boys took a trip to the Bay Area to visit family. Jose borrowed my parents' car because it's such a hassle to bring kids and carseats and have to depend on the train/bus schedules and routes. So this weekend, it was just Zorro and me. I stayed in bed until 11:30am to compensate for the rough nights in the tent.
Last week, our Blaq Designs weather protector arrived from Splendid Cycles! It is even more beautiful than I had imagined! It came minimally packaged with simple instructions so it was up within 10 minutes.
The boys were so excited when they saw it! They couldn't quite figure out how to get in at first. Little Brother climbed through the back under than handlebars and took a header into the box before I could grab him. Big Brother was more cautious and waited until I unsnapped the side before he climbed in. One side is harder to clip in so we usually load/unload on the other side.
Sadly, there hasn't been any real rain to protect the boys from but it is nice to have in the chilly/windy mornings. I even notice a difference on my hands since they're tucked under the roof. It's the perfect width to allow for turning, even including my mirror.
One nice bonus is that it allows for extra cargo in the box without it falling over the sides. I like not worrying about the boys dropping things in the road, too.
Today, I was spending the day giving lots of attention to our sweet doggie so we walked the 3 miles to the dog park for him to run around. Since my parents live close by and our Bullitt was still there from Jose picking up the car, I thought I'd try getting Zorro in the bike for his first time. Zorro is a very neurotic dog. He's a border collie mix with some PTSD from his previous life. We love him but he's nuts. Last time I tried to take him for a bike ride, it didn't end very well.
It took a lot of treats and encouragement for him to be willing to get inside the box and he wasn't ready to relax enough for a ride but he stayed inside while I walked the bike down the block. Because the cover was on, he kept trying to stick his face out the back opening. A few times, I could tell he wanted to bail but I kept him in with more treats.
After our little walk, I realized we wouldn't be able to get all the way home like this so I turned back around and went back to my folks'. We got him to be able to jump in and out of the box on command (without the cover) but he still wouldn't relax enough to lay down and for me to trust him enough to ride with him. Overall, he did amazingly well for his first attempt! A few more boxes of treats and I think we'll be ready to move!
My big goal this year is to go on our Whine & Chocolate epic bike adventure in summer--Eugene to Vancouver with a side trip to Victoria. We'll be moving slowly with low-mileage days and plenty of rest days and detours. However, it will be quite a trying journey both as a solo parent for many weeks (although we won't be alone for much, if any of the time) and constant every day riding with kiddos in unfamiliar territory.
To help minimize the shock of the trip, we are continuing to practice with overnights as often as we can. I want to make sure our gear is useable and functional, that we're not over- or under-packed, and that we know our limits. I'm only planning 30-40 mile days but with a loaded bike and kids, it could sometimes feel like a double century.
One way I plan to practice touring is by having our bike "kit" packed at all times and ready to roll at a moments notice. We have most of the gear we'll need but are still looking into a few things such as a sleeping pad solution for the boys, cookwear, and wool clothing for me. I have come up with a list of things to gather. Let me know what you think and if there's anything I'm missing or you think is superfluous.
Whine & Chocolate epic bike adventure gear list (edited additions in italics):
Me--tights, pants, skirt, short sleeve, long sleeve, 2 socks, jacket, gloves, gaiter, hat, rain gear, off-the-bike shoes
Boys--thermals, shorts, long & short sleeves, jacket, gloves, gaiter, hat, rain gear, sunglasses, off-the-bike shoes
Bowl, mug, spork each, knife, wooden spoon, ladle, cutting board, 2 pots, skillet, stove, gas, windblock, lighters, towels, spices, oil, baggies, foil, food stuffs, scrubbie, Hydroflask & Klean Kanteen bottles, cloth produce bags
Toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, Dr Bronners soap, sun block, Chapstick, hair ties, pStyle-like device, bug spray, baby wipes, towel
Phone, charger, lights, light charger, batteries, headlamp
Multitool, pump, tubes, duct tape, zip ties, oil, wrench, patch kit, chain tool, lock, tie downs/bungees
Band aids, ice pack, tweezers, scissors, gauze, bandages, aspirin, kid pills, thermometer, nail clippers, Rescue Remedy, antihistamine, Traumeel
Sleeping bags, pads, tent, pillow for me
Books, dinosaurs, Star Wars toys/cars/something little that they can play with for hours, notebook, color pencils/pens
TBD although lots of chocolate is a given!
We just finished another successful Kidical Mass. Despite it being winter (although 60 degrees still) and a night ride, we still had 42 riders come out to join in the fun! Riders met up at Coloma Community Center, which has a great big playground for the kiddos but sadly, no access to potties after-hours. There were trail-a-bikes, trailers, Xtracycles (and Sacramento's very first and only Cargo Joe!), Mundos, a Nihola, our Bullitt, Melissas Fr8, and two solo kiddos on Isla Bikes as well! Sacramento has such an awesome family bike culture!
We rode up and down T st. with a few detours, covering about two miles. The sun went down as we were riding so it was imperative that all our riders were properly lit up--red in back, white up front. Many riders added extra holiday baubles, reflectivity, and glow sticks. We were quite visible!
The ride went smoothly until towards the very end when my own child bit it big time when his bike got "too wobbly" and he went down hard. He was behind me so I just heard the thud and the subsequent wailing. I didn't see any blood or broken bones but he wasn't up for riding. I threw his bike over the Bullitt box and had him in the jump-seat. He cried most of the way back while I promised him cocoa and tried to distract him with the colorful lights. By the time we got back, passed out cocoa, and munched some sugary treats, Big Brother was fine. It was nothing a little rocket ship bandaid couldn't fix. He even biked back home on his own.
This is us. We're fun.