Every bike a cargobike

After two gloriously sunny weeks, today was horribly rainy. We started out the day with me on cargobike and kids on their own bikes to head to school early with snacks and stickers for a Bike to School Month Welcome Station. Sadly, we didn’t get many visitors on account of the weather (though many kids walked instead of biked–not everyone takes to cars in the rain) and having moved our party away from the pre-arranged main bike rack to under an overhang in the other playground.

As for our midday plans, I was initially excited to finally try out my flat-as-possible route up Queen Anne (though with only the little kid on board it’s not a true test of the route), but I didn’t want to make my preschooler sit still in the rain for so long so we took separate regular-sized bikes for a multi-modal adventure–three miles/30 minutes to the bus and a six-minute drive up the big hill.

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It was 10:40 by the time we crossed the Fremont Bridge and despite recent record bike counts, we were only numbers 1008 and 1009 today.

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This was our first time putting a 16-inch bike on a King County Metro bus, though we tested the Sound Transit rack when we participated in a Sound Transit lunchtime bike panel last month, so I was pretty sure it would fit. There must be a finite number of bus bike rack types in the world, but they all seem different here. We have yet to ride Community Transit, but we really want to take the double-decker bus, so maybe this summer we’ll discover if that one’s accommodating of little bikes, too.

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I thought we’d ride down the hill (the sidewalk of 3rd Avenue), but the boss requested we bus back down so we reversed our route. I’m not much for figuring out bus routing on the fly (I still can’t believe I got us home after the bus with the broken rack in Issaquah last month), but this was pretty simple.

So we headed back down and made two little on-the-way stops on our short trek home. First up was Recycled Cycles to address my sinking saddle and have the Bobike mini bracket removed from my stem while we were already there. My preschooler is really into fat bikes so we were both mesmerized by this little chopper bike out front. It’s too big for him, but it’s definitely kid sized. It’s only $65–go check it out if you’re in the area!

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Stop two was Fremont Brewing to eat a complimentary apple and let them know we’d be bringing a horde of people in for the June 1st Kidical Mass ride.

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We hit the road again and after a few blocks he decided he was much too tired to go any farther, even for the flat part. He’s lucky–I would have taken my road bike, but I don’t know how to disconnect the trailer (I lost the two tools for the job Mr. Family Ride stuck in my little saddle bag and Mr. Family Ride is out of town, unable to locate similar tools for me…or more realistically, just do the removing for me). I know, I know, woe is me with three family bikes.

The kid suggested I drop a wheel in the empty basket and drag his bike. I tried this because, ya know, he’s the boss, but it didn’t seem like it would work. Instead I went with my own instincts and plopped it upside down along the back of the seat. I keep all my bungee cords in my cargobike bags (and strewn around the carport) so I held the bike in place with my teensy Knog Milkman better-than-nothing lock. It just barely fit around the bottom of the seat and totally did the trick. A couple bungee cords would have been much better, though.

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Just add kid and we were ready to roll! He looks nervous because I was trying to convince him to hold onto the tree–I didn’t mention why, but it was because I was pretty sure the bike would tip over, but I really wanted a picture. He wasn’t into handling the mossy tree. Snails, mud, and guinea pig poo are OK, apparently, but mossy trees are not.

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Bike to School Day 2014

Bike to School Day was Wednesday and I celebrated by leading my first bike train and writing about it for the League of American Bicyclists. I hope I adequately conveyed how exhilarating yet chaotic the event turned out. I had a blast…and have many ideas for how to make things go more smoothly next year.

The kids did a ton of biking which isn’t usual for a weekday–normally Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays are preschool days and I carry the kids two miles to preschool where I drop one off and then race right back to our neighborhood to drop the other one off at our elementary school. Thursdays and Fridays we walk or take separate bikes to bring the first grader to school, but it’s only two blocks from home. I wasn’t sure they’d want to ride their own bikes a mile uphill for our pre-bike-train doughnut stop, but we left early enough and they were game! And we may have even gotten there faster than me carrying all the kids, bikes, and stuff.

And that meant I could put our Mighty-O Donuts on my FlightDeck. Sweeter passengers than normal, har har.

Here’s an urban traffic jam we hit on the way to the bike train meetup park. I didn’t want to take to the sidewalk to skirt around the garbage truck because the kids already have a thing for snaking back and forth from street to sidewalk via driveways and I’m trying to convince them to stick to the streets with me where we’re safer.

I think the gorgeous weather had a lot to do with the huge number of participants, but these are Seattleites after all so they probably would have come regardless.

Here’s our horde of 91, ready for a 0.8-mile ride to school:

My preschooler was eager to keep pedaling so he biked the 2.5 miles to preschool and then back later in the day. I only had to vary our route a little bit to add more time on the Burke-Gilman Trail and avoid the door zone bike lane on 34th between Stone Way and Fremont.

He suggested a detour up Gas Works Park Kite Hill on our way home. It’s one of my favorite spots, too. I’m able to bike up the back side, but the switchbacks on the front are too tight for me to negotiate…him, too, it turns out–he insisted on going up the front to race me to the top. “It’s not a race!” I called, like I holler at least 100 time a day.

Happy Bike to School Day, Happy Bike to School Month, and IT’S NOT A RACE!

30 Days of Biking 2014 – Day 30

Welcome to the last day of 30 Days of Biking! Here we are all loaded up for the morning school run…well, after the seven-year old sat down, the four-year old unhid himself, and I retrieved my helmet from the neighbor’s porch (I use it as a tripod for these TimerCam photos, iPhone wedged in a vent).

It was a weird morning. I thought the warm sun would make everyone happy and calm, but I saw a lot of odd behavior. This woman in the minivan drove two blocks partially in the bike lane. I thought she was preparing to turn right onto Troll Avenue (not that that makes this OK), but she kept going straight. I was more peeved than normal because I almost got doored right there yesterday. My first near-dooring, by the way–silly me for not realizing the driver of the wide truck, just pulled in and still a foot from the curb with motor running was done parking and about to open his door. I usually ride clear of the door zone, on the left edge of the bike lane when our bike lanes are painted partially in the door zone (*I say usually because when I’m going slow enough uphill that I can see into each and every car it’s not such a big deal–I can slow my crawling speed to a stop if I see a door opening). I’m hoping I scared him enough that he’ll look from now on. A gal can dream. I didn’t have either kid on board so I’m not nearly as shaken up by it as I’d otherwise be. Anyhow, I was peeved and slowed next to her minivan to look in the window and see if I could figure out what was going on. She didn’t even notice me or feel my *mom stare*. Sigh.

Then this in the bike box. But it gets worse! At the red light a woman on a bike charged in front of me and started making a left turn into that cross walk (that light was no longer green, by the way) when our light turned green and the car started moving forcing her to stop her weird maneuver and nearly tip over onto me. She collected herself and darted in front of the straight/right turn lane to get to the sidewalk. At least she made me forget about the minivan.

No more weird incidents on the way to preschool. And one of our little classmates had arrived by trail-a-bike! Two families occasionally bike commute and it just makes my day.

Then on the way to our elementary school dropoff, the guy in the red shirt said, “I commend your choice of mode of transportation” as he passed us. Aw.

With the kids away at school and time to myself, I headed over to Hub and Bespoke to be part of a TV shoot for Seattle Channel about being fashionable while biking. Ha ha, I know, me?! I didn’t realize that was the subject, obviously. Thank goodness I had changed out of those flip flops from the top picture. They said I did fine. (I’ll believe that when I see it!)

It’s always tempting to do something epic for #30daysofbiking and I hadn’t done anything above and beyond yet so I tried to ghostride my seven-year old’s bike from my old mamabike as I readied us for a dentist appointment. It didn’t work. But laying it on top of the Bobike Maxi rear kid seat worked fine for the three-block ride to school.

So I locked up the kid bike at elementary school, grabbed the preschooler, came back for big kid and his bike, and we all rode to the bus stop. Our dentist is 20 miles away in Issaquah and sometimes I drive, but usually we bike and bus because although it’s time consuming, it’s much more fun. I didn’t have the option to drive today since our car is at airport long-term parking while Mr. Family Ride is away for the week, but I looked into Lyft to see if getting a ride was reasonable. I figured that would be just the epic sort of thing to close the month with–actual practice at being car-free. But it looked pretty pricey for a 20-mile trip and I’d still need to find car seats to borrow (and install, and uninstall, and install, and uninstall again). But hey, look: Uber is start a family-friendly service in New York.

So we took a bus downtown and walked our bikes one steep downhill block to the 554’s stop. It was all going great until the bus wouldn’t let us board because the bike rack was broken. Doh! But no worries as we had a 20-minute cushion.

So we hung out and snacked and watched most of the bicyclists on 2nd Avenue take the right lane, though a couple braved the 2nd Avenue Bike Lane of Death. And then one minute before our bus was due, both kids declared they needed the restroom *now*. So we saw the bus come and go as we went in search of a potty. The first Starbucks was bathroom-less, but the second Starbucks delivered…but now it was only six minutes until the next-next bus. Which we made, amazingly.

Then we biked 1.5 miles from the Transit Center to the dentist. Up until this point, it would have been easier to travel without the bikes with the first bus stop a block from home and the transfer just a block away (not to mention the broken bike rack). But not having to transfer to a third bus (I can’t even imagine!) and riding the Issaquah trail system (and a bit of the Issaquah sidewalk because I didn’t want to put a kid on the bike lane of busy Gilman Avenue was awesome.

The bikes came in handy after our dentist appointments (which we were 30 minutes late for which meant my cleaning got put on hold…I guess that’s nothing to complain about!) for riding a mile to dinner, with a pit stop at Bicycle Center of Issaquah to see Dillon the dog.

And then it was a two-block ride to the bus stop…where the same broke-bike-rack bus arrived! It didn’t even occur to me that the lame bus would still be out driving around. Big bummer because I had scheduled us to connect to the last express bus that took us close to home and I’ve never done any bus planning on the fly–it’s so much easier on the computer than my iPhone. When both kids fit on the old mamabike we biked to and from downtown so there was no transferring, but I didn’t want my seven-year old biking downtown, especially now that we were in rush hour. This probably wasn’t the quickest way, but we got off at the north-most stop of the next 554 and grabbed our slow local bus a block away.

And those extra 20 minutes at the Issaquah bus stop and the eagle statue with the sharp talons and beak did not result in any bloody fingers this time. Lose-win, I guess.

So I guess the last day turned out to be pretty epic after all. And looking back at the whole month: while I rode in our car back from dinner on the 15th, I didn’t drive all month. So that’s something new for 30 Days of Biking!

Love ya, 30DoB! Let’s do this again next year.

Today’s miles: 16.4 miles
April cumulative: 425.7 miles

Bikes ridden: 2
April cumulative: 7

Dogs: 1
April cumulative: 18

30 Days of Biking 2014 – Day 29

Scenes from a trip to Trader Joe’s this afternoon:

Motor scooter and friendly dog on the new bike staples…but no bikes. However, there are usually a lot of bikes there.

Saw a couple bike calf tattoos. The one on the left is brand new, ready for Bike Month! I don’t know about the one on the right–I took that shot on the sly.

Only three grocery bags so not too impressive a loaded-bike picture. It reached 73 degrees by this point and was simply too hot for shoes, I was told.

Today’s miles: 10.4 miles
April cumulative: 409.3 miles

Bikes ridden: 1
April cumulative: 7

Dogs: 0
April cumulative: 17

30 Days of Biking 2014 – Day 28

This morning at 8:50 I was part of a happenstance cluster of three cargo bikes! Me with both kids on the Big Dummy, a dad with one of his two kids (and a street-side dog) on a Yuba Mundo, and a dad with two kids on an Xtracycle EdgeRunner. And two dads with trailers went through the intersection while we were there. I’d say it felt like we were in Portland, but we were clustered on the sidewalk, waiting to cross the street via the crosswalk–one connecting to the Burke-Gilman Trail, one to a bike lane, and one to a used-to-be-a-bike-lane-there (but the construction of the Brooks Headquarters has wiped out bike lanes on both 34th and Stone). Personally, I’d love a bike box facing north up Stone, though I guess it wouldn’t be quite as chummy as squishing onto a tiny patch of concrete.

A girl on foot was also waiting to cross the street and asked if it was Bike Your Kids to School Day. She was walking a couple blocks from her dad’s work to school–I’m guessing she was ten and walking to the nearby elementary school. This was her tenth time walking solo and I have to admit I was more excited about seeing her than all the family bikes!

Later we headed north on Stone (after waiting squished on the other corner, waiting to cross in the crosswalk) and saw new signs at a dangerous crossing. It says STATE LAW above the STOP and I realize they’re extremely new since they’re still upright. But I like them!

And in exciting bike news, I swung by the copy shop to make a bunch of copies of the Bike to School Month calendar and registration form. And once we arrived to our elementary school, we hung posters on the bike racks. I felt a bit silly walking two blocks to school with a pile of Bike to School Month stuff…and then Mel the Crossing Guard biked by on his way to his post and my four-year old shouted “Hi!” but he didn’t recognize us off the bike!

If you’re in Seattle–or if you’re not, but want BTS ideas–check out Cascade Bicycle Club Bike to School Month.

Today’s miles: 9.9 miles
April cumulative: 398.9 miles

Bikes ridden: 1
April cumulative: 7

Dogs: 0
April cumulative: 17

30 Days of Biking 2014 – Day 27

While the big kid drove to a soccer game with Mr. Family Ride (I had given them a kid-safe route over, but they were worried about rain and timing), the little kid and I hit a preschool potluck in Ballard. We made a scheduled stop at the grocery store and an unscheduled stop to watch this boat juuuuust fit under the Fremont Bridge. It was going very slowly so I think its driver wasn’t sure it would fit, either.

Heading home I meant to take NW 77th St, but ended up on 78th after jogging the wrong way at 8th Ave NW. But what a lucky mistake–we discovered a great Kids Book Exchange/Little Free Library.

Topped with dragons!

Today’s miles: 10 miles
April cumulative: 389 miles

Bikes ridden: 1
April cumulative: 7

Dogs: 0
April cumulative: 17

30 Days of Biking 2014 – Day 26

10.8 miles today and the kids biked all but 1.2 of those! (That was a quick solo trip to the vet for a doggie prescription. Oh, and I carried the seven-year old the steepest half mile in the middle while his little brother rode off ahead with the rest of the group!)

We started our big day off by negotiating our way along the now-bigger-and-more-confusing Burke-Gilman Trail detour.

I think we missed the first turn-off for the Montlake Bridge, but coming from this direction was probably better for biking kids. When that pedestrian/bike bridge we’re heading towards is finished, things will be great.

Our first stop was the newly redesigned Montlake Playground. It’s huge! And the kids did fine on the route over…though it may have been a bit too uphill for them had we retraced our route on the way home. But we’ll do a test reverse run and think about bringing a Kidical Mass here once the trail detours are done.

I was particularly impressed with this big climbing structure, though I worry it’d be too enticing for kids too small to use it (actually, more worried for their parents who’d try in vain to convince them to play on one of the many smaller play structures).

We hung out at the park for an hour or so and then headed to Montlake Elementary for Silly Hilly (yes, that’s me on the poster), a route finding scavenger hunt extravaganza for Central Seattle Neighborhood Greenways. Here we are lined up with the Blue Team, one of four teams.

This was our route. I kind of cheated choosing Blue Team…I’m leading a Critical Lass ride to Pedaler’s Fair in a week and used this as route testing for that, too.

We documented many potholes and problem intersections (and some good stuff, too), but the best was the required three silly team pictures. First up: “I see Sasquatch!” at the end of the car-free portion of Interlaken Park:

Blue Team silly picture number two: passed out and waiting for the bus at the top of Interlaken Park:

And Blue Team silly picture number three: throwing shakas because we just successfully crossed busy Aloha:

We followed the signs for University Bridge through Interlaken Park on our way home and since I couldn’t remember how busy the route was, I let the kids ride on their own. And it was pretty busy! But they were having a blast riding in the road so we didn’t resort to the sidewalk until Harvard Ave E.

Which turned out to be a good call because as soon as it joined Eastlake, we were met with a taxi in the bike lane.

But just after the taxi we got back in the street so they could cross the University Bridge in the bike lane. It was a little nerve-wracking for me, but they did great. It is very hard to adjust to both kids riding separately when I’m so used to getting to carry them everywhere. It’s a lot easier when one is tired and on the bike and I only have one to focus on.

Of course a big, wide bus drove by us as we were passing this sign in the bike lane. Wouldn’t it be nice if the city had construction signs that attached high up on light poles?

The construction indicated by those bike lane signs was a little confusing, too. I had just convinced the kids I should load them and their bikes onto the cargo bike when we saw a biker take the closed road with the blessing of the construction works who had been gesturing something at us that I couldn’t decipher (I guess it was, “Come on down, the road’s fine!”). So I unloaded the bikes and we took the empty blockaded road that brought us back to familiar territory.

Today worked out OK, but we need more Silly Hillys–and the resulting Neighborhood Greenways from them–so these little guys can really ride all over town.

Today’s miles: 10.8 miles
April cumulative: 379 miles

Bikes ridden: 1
April cumulative: 7

Dogs: 0
April cumulative: 17