Archive | October 2012

A very bikey birthday party

We attended a wonderfully bikey five-year old’s birthday party on Saturday. The day started with a parent-powered group ride, then stationary pizza party plus bike decorating, and finally kid-led bike parade. The ride came with a timeline for people meeting up along the way (or those of us who ran late):

  • 11:00 meet at their place
  • 11:30 at the park on the Burke-Gilman Trail between Brooklyn and University
  • 12:00 at the park on the Burke-Gilman Trail next to the Ronald McDonald House
  • 12:30 ending at Magnuson Park

We were about 15 minutes late, but met up with another late friend on an Xtracycle with one of her two kids in tow. Together we headed back the way we came and caught up to the party at the first park stop. There we hung out for a few minutes to wait for one more family. So despite the drizzle, here we are: six family bikes, including a woman who hadn’t biked since her pre-kid bike commuter days and had been coincidentally been storing a trailer in her garage for a friend. That green rainsuit on the kid in the middle of the picture is a Ducksday. They look awesome. My three-year old sports an MEC Newt Suit I need to rewaterproof with Nikwax and my five-year old is about to outgrown his MEC rain bibs so I’m on the lookout for something new, though most rainsuits seem to only go up to size 5T…though it’s usually a baggy 5T. (Same goes for the sizing of the Tuffo Muddy Buddy I see on a lot of kids.)

I didn’t bring kid bikes because I’d intended to leave early for a 1pm soccer game (of course that didn’t happen because who can leave a party as awesome as this?!) which meant I was free to relieve a little rider of her 20-inch kid bike so she could hop on her mom’s Kona Ute and take it easy the rest of the ride. For the record, I think I could have fit all three kid bikes: her 20-inch bike, our 16-inch pedal bike, and 12-inch balance bike if need be. I’ve never dragged two bikes behind, but I’ve seen pictures.

I love the redundancy of this Kona Ute: big kid moved from her separate bike to the deck while her little brother, who normally rides in the iBert front seat, was taking a nap in the Chariot trailer. Talk about wasted space–she could have easily fit three more kids on there! She didn’t have a solid plan for carrying the kiddie bike, though she had bungee cords along to give it a try. Her more reasonable plan B was to lock it up if her daughter got tired and come back for it later so I was very happy to be able to help.

The birthday boy’s dad met us along the trail between the first and second park stops. He pulls a trailer bike and since the star of the show was sitting on mom’s Kona MinUte (with Skuut balance bike snugly strapped to the side!) he made use of the spare seat to carry an enormous bag of balloons. Quite exciting! The kid in the photo is sporting Nutcase Removable Ear Pads which I just saw for the first time last week at Hub and Bespoke. Not as cute as my Helmuffs, but they still look and work great.

Had the weather cooperated, the whole party would have been outside, but we dried out in a room in Magnuson Park where we enjoyed ‘Zaw artisan pizza (usually bake at home, but they’ll cater baked pizzas–even gluten-free and dairy-/soy-free!), salad, and chocolate zucchini birthday cake. Yum!

A bunch of kids and their kiddie bikes met the party at 12:30 for phase two of the party. The birthday boy’s mom had made the Bike Works family bike rental fleet available to guests, but no one made use of it. However, it was still impressive that so many showed up for the party, both the indoor and outdoor portions. The kids with bikes had quite a bike course going inside the party room, but they eventually moved outside for the highlight of the day: the kid-led bike parade. I trailed behind the kids with my littles on the Big Dummy and we paraded alongside playground, dog park, and rugby games.

I followed my friend on the Ute home so I could give her daughter periodic breaks from her bike. It worked out really well, though I left the trail a mile before they would head uphill towards home. I was pleased to see a 20-inch bike fits wonderfully in my Xtracycle FreeLoader bag–even better than my five-year old’s 16-inch bike that I have to be careful to cinch in tightly enough to keep it straight. Yay, Big Dummy!

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Ballard Family Greenway Ride

My fellow ALI grad, Shannon, set up a Family Ride on the someday-to-be Ballard Greenway in conjunction with Walk.Bike.Schools and Ballard Greenways…and Julian declared it a Kidical Mass ride, too! Forty people, big and small, showed up for the three-and-a-half mile east-west trip.

Photo courtesy Seattle Neighborhood Greenways

The ride was slow-paced enough that I let my five-year old ride solo on his pedal bike. His first time on the open road!

There were a few kids riding on bigger bikes and we got a bit behind at times, but he had a great time and was able to make it uphill on all but one block. He can stand on the pedals on flat ground, but hasn’t gotten the hang of utilizing that skill for climbing hills yet.

Our ride leader, Cascade Bicycle Club’s Robin Randels, was fittingly costumed as a queen bee–here she is at one turn-around points:

And Seattle Neighborhood Greenways Cathy Tuttle was the sweeper–complete with broom!–dressed as a witch:

It wasn’t a costume ride per se, but would have been an excellent day to unveil a decorated bike. I picked up an empty bike box yesterday, but was too tired to turn it into something last night.

This was my first close look at Totcycle’s new BULLITT cargo bike with Blaq Design cargo canopy and BionX electric assist. And a Burley Piccolo trailer bike on the back to really show off. It’s so awesome! I test rode it after the ride and almost gave up (that linkage steering as described so well by Hum of the City is hard to get used to!), but finally got the hang of it. Did I mention how awesome it is? It’s awesome!

I should point out that it’s hard to keep empty space empty. It’s nice riding around with just one kid and one kid bike (the lighter one!) on board, but the Wheelha.us brothers were minorly clashing in the Madsen bucket in front of us–no big deal, the little one was pretending to eat the big one, but we’ve been there a million times, so I offered my free seat to the the eat-ee.

After the ride I let both boys ride their bikes to Ballard Coffee Works (train table!) for the post party and then through Ballard Farmers Market, but put both kids back on board for the ride through The Missing Link. I let just the big kid loose once we got to the Burke-Gilman Trail. The three-year old was upset at having to remain a passenger and didn’t buy my argument that his balance bike wasn’t trail-ready, but he didn’t fret for long because the chain fell off the kiddie pedal bike on both sides. That was a first for me and I couldn’t wrestle it back on. Luckily, this happened a half-block past Rosebud Custom Bicycle Builds…but they were closed. I’ve only carried 16-inch (and bigger) bikes by dragging a wheel out the back, but I was able to fit the whole bike into the FreeLoader bag–good to know! So we got it fixed a mile and a half down the trail, at Recycled Cycles. The mechanic said it was an unusual thing to have happen and moved the back wheel back a bit to prevent it from happening again.

The kids were eager to ride so we rode up the sidewalk of Stone Way and then experimented with a kid-friendly route home by turning right before 45th on Allen Place. First off, we discovered the Slide to Nowhere/sui-slide I just read about on Wallyhood. Curious and exciting!

And then we cut through Lincoln High School (which I think a lot of bicyclers do) and discovered a wonderful asphalt expanse, complete with speed humps that are fun to ride both over and along. If you live anywhere near Lincoln High, it’s worth biking around during non-school times.

Hauling cargo bikes with cargo bikes

Owning a cargo bike changes a person. There’s a constant temptation to haul increasingly bigger and bulkier cargo loads. Personally, I’m still trying to come back from the box spring fiasco of four months ago. I think the best I’ve done is haul The Main Tank’s Madsen bucket bike after borrowing it for the Cargo Bike Roll Call:

I missed my first opportunity to haul a bike, having only owned the Big Dummy 10 days and not yet cargo-bike-minded. But then it almost happened again yesterday when The Main Tank needed to get her bike to the shop and I offered to watch the kids if she felt comfortable riding it in without precious cargo aboard.

Thank goodness Hum of the City was thinking clearly:

So haul it I did!

Photo courtesy Robin Randels

I was disappointed the kids wanted to stay at The Main Tank’s house to play rather than ride along. Without the seat on, they’d have to share the handlebars which didn’t go so well when we rode a Kona MinUte two miles (first mile: great, second mile: fight to the death), but we had a promising discussion about sharing and getting along.

So the load was much less exciting than it could have been. With the wheel snugly buckled in (Xtracycle Utility Belt not only good for ease in buckling through the hacked Yepp seat, great for buckling up and over the top of the FlightDeck), it felt light and cornering was just fine. I forgot to measure how long a 18-inch Big Dummy in the pocket of 16-inch Big Dummy is so I took a picture of how it stacked up next to a big van. This van (at the car rental place across the street from Ride Bicycles) is my new measuring stick. I’ll have to bring Engine Engine Engine by to compare.

The Main Tank’s brakes were in need of a tightening as well as one [brake cable?] having vibrated out of the something-or-other. I’m not the best bike maintainer, but I’m working on it. I’m very inspired by Hum of the City’s good example of keeping her brakes in tip-top shape. She has them looked at monthly. I had mine looked at when she was in town so I wouldn’t be embarrassed when she borrowed my bike. That day I decided to take my bike in every three months (this is until I take the Bike Works ABC course and can do it myself!), but after The Main Tank’s diagnosis to bring her Big Dummy in monthly I might go more often, too.

The cargo bike hauling wasn’t the only excitement of the day: I also ended up riding three different bikes in one day. Seems worth documenting.

Once back home, the kids wanted to ride their bikes so I decided to follow along on my beach cruiser. I’ve been thinking about selling my cruiser. The money and the space in the garage will be nice, but it’s more about passing it along to someone who will use and appreciate it. This bike deserves to be ridden along a flat beachside expanse. It was my everyday bike in San Diego, but I rarely ride it now (though the kid hauling has made me strong enough that its single speed can take me anywhere, even in this town). Fortunately it’s too late in the year to sell it now so I have time to really get comfortable with the idea of parting ways, but I’d love to send it to live on Alki and rule the beach.

In retrospect, the cargo bike would have been a better steed because my three-year old crashed on the way down a hill and didn’t want to ride anymore. I perched his little balance bike on top of my basket so he could walk the rest of the way home, but after a few steps he decided he didn’t want to walk, either, so I let him sit on my cushy seat while I walked us home. I wonder if there’s a way I could have perched him on the handlebars and the balance bike in my messenger bag so we could coast downhill (can you tell I’m lazy and hate to walk anywhere?), but this worked well enough.

And bike number three was my road bike to an evening preschool coop meeting. Most exciting about this was that it meant passing the Fremont Bridge counter six times today. 6 out of the 3025 total bikes for the day, that is.

Seattle bike counter launches

After a one-week delay, the bike counter is up and running! It’s on the northwest corner of the Fremont Bridge, right here:

A lot of people turned out for the 11am unveiling. I arrived only five minutes early and had to line up my bike at the end of a long line and stand at the back of a big crowd for the opening announcements.

I eventually wheeled my bike closer so I could stand on the FlightDeck for a better view:

It wasn’t raining out, by the way. Just our first cold, grey day after a lovely run of “Augtober” so everyone bundled up in rain gear. I even pulled out my “winter helmet”–a Bern helmet that was my only helmet, purchased the day my ten-year old Giro broke, but which soon proved too hot and uncomfortable for summer days, necessitating the purchase of another Giro (new, but unused, and half price via Craigslist–yippee).

I didn’t hear everything, but I did hear the first mention of a funded Westlake bicycle facility (cycletrack, specifically, I think). Wahoo! To be completed within a year or two.

There were a couple toddlers in attendance and Leya with her small daughter in her Madsen bucket bike was the first bike to be counted! I was number ten with no kids on board. Another cute “baby” on the scene was the adorable doggie of Juliette of Hub and Bespoke. This is not the stock topper to this doggie bike basket, but if you have a dog you want to bike with, check in with Juliette about baskets.

Coming back through after the unveiling, I was number fifty-something, then on the way to preschool pickup, I was 167 and on the way back, 225. The online counter doesn’t seem to be tallying correctly just yet, but soon numbers will be available here.

Photo courtesy Cascade Bicycle Club

More bike counter stuff: Seattle PI’s Bike counter installed at Fremont Bridge coverage and Seattle Bike Counter Facebook page.

The bike counter registers bikes traveling in either direction, and on both sides of the bridge. It correctly counted bikes with trailers as a single bike and knows to ignore jogging strollers. The sensor on the west side (I haven’t checked out the east side yet) is a double diamond etched in the cement. Biking directly down the middle of the two diamonds might not register on the counter and there is enough room to skirt around the side so some bikes will get missed, but not very many. I want to do a little bit of my own testing: I’d like to see if my three-year old’s balance bike with 12-inch wheels registers and I’m curious if Engine Engine Engine counts as one bike or two.

The day I crashed with my friend’s kid on the bike

Today I crashed my cargo bike. I was moving very slowly. There were no cars around. One kid was on the bike with me…but not my kid. Things certainly could have been worse, but as you can imagine, I feel awful. For the record, I’d be just as hysterical (actually, probably more so) if this had happened in my car. I’m cautious, but I’ve had two bike crashes since living in Seattle–the first was almost two years ago when I slipped on the ice with both kids on board the old mamabike. Now I move at a snail’s pace in icy conditions. The second was in May on the Big Dummy with no kids on board. No kids involved equals no big deal. Kids were fine, bike was fine, I have a nice reminder scar on my foot.

Today my sweet little passenger and I successfully navigated from Lower Queen Anne to Wallingford to drop my five-year old off at school, but instead of riding four mellow blocks home, we embarked on a teensy little errand for my three-year old’s preschool. Unfortunatley, that teensy errand was the to office supply store on the other side of I-5. I really hate the transition from Wallingford to U-District. In fact, I’d love fixing it to be my campaign for the Cascade Bicycle Club Advocacy Leadership Institute. I have a long list of people to get in touch with about the project, but I haven’t done anything yet. It’s a huge job and I’m scared. But in the meantime, bad things happen here. My nearest miss with a car happened here. Today was nothing so sinister–just a slippery plastic water bottle concealed by a pile of fallen leaves. This area is too unfriendly (fast cars, no room for bikes) for slow family bikes to ride in the street so I stick to the sidewalk. And sidewalk riding means curb cuts filled with debris. Not that streets–especially bike lanes on streets–aren’t filled with debris, but at least that’s usually just at the edge and easy to avoid.

I don’t mean to imply that the crash wasn’t entirely my fault. It was. But in addition to being mad at myself, I’m mad about the lack of bicycle infrastructure. It’s good I was inching along when the crash happened–we were barely moving when we went down, but the bike slipped out from under me and while the bike and I were unscathed, my passenger ended up with quite the scrape next to his eye. A scrape that wouldn’t have worried me if it was on my own toddler, but this wasn’t my toddler! So some cuddling, a safe return ride six blocks home, and a hysterical (on my part) call to a very understanding mom of the toddler later things were pretty much back to normal.

The first crash I mentioned has made me extremely wary of ice. Do I now, out of fear, steer clear of putting other kids on my FlightDeck? It’s such a tough question. Statistically, it’s not going to happen again, but it did happen. It’s impossible to predict how isolated incidents will affect one. I know people who don’t ride bikes anymore…or would never ride without a helmet…or won’t ride with their kids…for a variety of reasons. My friend’s brother had a very bad bike accident probably caused by a bike accessory. I think it was a fluke occurrance and I can’t find any mention of this happening to other users, but I would never ever ever ever (ever ever ever) use this piece of equipment.

In search of some good news, I attended tonight’s Cascade Bicycle Club Annual Membership Meeting. I didn’t hear anything new during SDOT’s Seattle Bike Master Plan presentation. But there are four public meetings coming up next months so hopefully those will yield some promising news:

  • November 7 Downtown at City Hall – 5:30-7:30 p.m.
  • November 8 South Seattle at New Holly – 5:30-7:30 p.m.
  • November 13 North Seattle at the University of Washington – 5:30-7:30 p.m.
  • November 15 Citywide online lunch and learn – 12:00-1:00 p.m.

But I did hear a couple exciting things during the Cascade update:

  • In the Events category: Cascade is looking into a ciclovía-type event, but it “takes a village” and they’d need to work with a lot of different organizations to pull it off…not to mention spend $100,000.
  • Education 2013 objectives: Cascade will establish a family biking program!! And the summer camps will expand to avoid the usual 20-kid-long waiting lists.
  • Daily rides are utilizing Meetup.com which will reach more women bicyclists.

Move-a-Thon

A week ago, hundreds of elementary school students swarmed a half mile portion of the Burke-Gilman Trail for our school’s biggest fundraiser, the annual Move-a-Thon.

I’ll admit I thought the event was soooo annoying in previous years, but having a participant this year, it’s the sweetest, most wonderful thing ever. And for the record, there are signs up ahead of time and marked detours if other trail users don’t want to weave through the kids at five miles per hour.

Most kids were on bikes, but participants also walked, tricycled, and scootered along. Parents accompanied smaller kids, including me. It was the first time I’ve felt like a helicopter parent, but I couldn’t imagine him biking alone, consider the day before was the first time I let him loose on the trail. Side note: his first trail experience was great because we were out with a friend and we kept him sandwiched between us. I think I would have been even more nervous about the Move-a-Thon had we not had this practice ride.

Even with so many kids on the trail and lots of adults who opted not to take the detour, the kids were great about keeping to the right and I only witnessed one scraped knee near the end of the event.

At either end of the half-mile course, volunteers punched cards to tally riders’ laps.

After what I thought was an impressive solo ride of 2.4 miles the day before (with water sip stops ever 30 seconds), my kindergartener managed 9 miles at the Move-a-Thon! It would have been even more, but I skipped the last hour for a Neighborhood Greenways meeting and Mr. Family Ride wasn’t able to tote our toddler on his regular bike so they only managed a couple laps with balance biking little brother along. But still: 9 miles!

And in even more awesome news, I reunited with my family at the top of Gas Works Park’s kite hill: my favorite victory spot, too!

I didn’t think to ask how they got up there. I can only make it up the back side on my longtail. On the way down, though, they opted for the switchbacks on the front of the hill. My little pedaler managed a couple turns before he had to go off course in the grass (as did I), but balance bike and Mr. Family Ride on this cross bike were able to make the tight turns.

The kids made it part of the way home, but the hills eventually proved too much and I ended up carrying kid bikes and the little kid while Mr. Family Ride ferried home our Move-a-Thoner.

Kids still have a week to collect their sponsored money, but close to 3,000 miles were tallied! Once the funds are turned in, the class with the highest participation and the class that raised the most money will win pizza parties. And one lucky kid gets a new bike.