Archive | March 2013

Little Free Libraries ride with KIDS CYCLING IN THE STREET!

Last weekend Spokespeople conducted a Kidical Mass ride to several Wallingford Little Free Libraries and then the “Sundays are Special” celebration at our local library.
Kidical Mass massing up

Only one of the ride’s four LFLs regularly has kid books so in the dark of night, the eve of the ride (conveniently during Earth Hour), I stocked all four with our to-be-donated books. It worked great, except we naturally ended up taking several of our books back home–“Hey! We have this book at home already! Now we’ll have two!” Uh, no. Also, I didn’t have many good choices for the older kids on the ride so next time I’ll stock up on a variety of books before secret mission night.


We were about three dozen riders and wanted the ride to be accessible to kids. The original route was three miles, but it was hilly for me, so Cathy Tuttle of Spokespeople okayed my lopping a mile off. Even still, I considered reboarding my five-year-old pedaler for the second mile since it was slightly uphill and 16-inch single speed bikes aren’t so great for any hills. The shortened ride meant we skipped the Poetry Bench so I recited a few bike-themed poems while we massed up to make up for this, including a limerick of my own creation:

I once met a bear on a bike
who needed directions to 1st Ave and Pike.
Parked by Rachel the Pig, did that bear.
Grabbed thrown salmon right out of the air
while fishmongers looked on with dislike.

Kidical Mass at a Little Free Library

My kiddo ended up riding the whole way–we were the sweeper(s) for the first half of the ride, but led the second half and he didn’t want to stop being the bike train train engine, understandably. I gave him a couple boosts along the way–I really need to work on that, by the way! I know several family bikers who are capable of riding in a straight line, one-handed, while leaning down and to the side to propel a little one along. But the bigger lesson was that this ride was a bit much for the smallfolks. The incline wasn’t fun for many of the smaller kids and the door zone was worrying for us big people.

Five-year old on the road!

The Spokespeople SPOKESKIDS page has some great tips about biking with kids, including:

Children younger than nine often lack the motor and developmental skills needed for road biking with cars.

And 8-80 Cities is a wonderful nonprofit that uses eight as a safe age to aim for as road ready (assuming those roads are made safe enough). BUT we will organize a smaller and flatter ride for small pedaling kids because even the two-mile ride with tricky intersections was big fun!

We had one non-kid passenger along on the ride. A group of UW engineering undergrads are working on a very cool e-assist kit for an Environmental Innovation Challenge (I think and/or LionTail Cycles will have details next month) and brought a cameraman along. I hope some of the kids made it into the background of his footage. Kids sell!

Cameraman in the bucket

And then the ride was over and life returned to normal and the kids rode home on the sidewalk.

Rolling on the sidewalk

Trailer pride (and the opposite)

The three-year old and I enjoyed a bit of trailer time these last two days. I’m all about cargo bikes nowadays, but we still have our single and double trailers and I often find occasion to use them. We got both of our trailers used via Craigslist, but if I had to go new (and I’m sometimes tempted to save up for one), I’d get a Wike, having read such great things about it by Pedal Powered Family.

I only took one picture of my bike with the trailer attached during our recent excursions–when we got stuck crossing the Ballard Locks. The little lock is currently empty with the gate slightly open, making the walkway angle harder to negotiate. Trailers can be such a pain to maneuver! I had to lift and rearrange a couple times to get through.

Trailer stuck in the locks

Yesterday we opted for the trailer because the little guy stayed home slightly sick from preschool and I really wanted to do some Critical-Lass-rides-to-Pedaler’s-Fair route scouting. The trailer meant he could immerse himself in stuffed animals and snacks while staying warm. It was incredibly windy out, too, so the trailer was a winner in that respect, too. He stayed unbuffeted and I think it probably kept me anchored in my lane, too.

Today didn’t start out quite as planned. I wanted to take Engine Engine Engine, but I couldn’t get engine one running. I do think it’s useful that I demonstrate one can be painfully clueless about bike maintenance yet still successfully bike with kids every day…but it was so frustrating when I couldn’t get the front wheel back on my cyclocross bike when it was time to hit the road this morning. So I whined and threw stuff and took off my clippy shoes and instead dragged the empty trailer to preschool with the Big Dummy so I’d have it for later. Then, after dropping the second kid off, it was a quick four blocks home to swap cargo bike for road bike and the other clippy shoes.

And then it was so great to be on a light quick bike, knowing I had the trailer waiting for me–it’s much easier to time things to get to preschool by a certain time rather than home for a bike swap and then preschool.

I did another pass at the upcoming Critical Lass route and found myself with so much extra time, I headed to the Tom Bihn factory in SODO to pick up a Messenger Stabilizer which is AWESOME! Much better than pulling the waist strap as tight as it’ll go and still having my bag slip.

Fast bike at Tom Bihn

And I still had a bunch of time left so I had lunch at SODO Deli. I had considered going to nearby Jimmy John’s since I was feeling rather the bike messenger with my new bag strap (Jimmy Johns sandwiches are delivered by fast bike guys), but even on the fast bike, I’m a cargo biker and I wanted to gaze out the window at the SODO Deli delivery trike. And I wanted to check on its status–last time I came by it had recently been stolen and then found in some bushes and in need of repairs. It’s all better now!

Parked by the SODO Deli delivery trike

And then I still had time left so I checked out Velo Bike Shop. It’s nice! Lots of bikes, including the current Bianchi Milano–same as the old mamabike, though the new look is quite different and will take some getting used to for me. Oh, and the guy at the register and I talked cargo bikes.

Visit to Velo Bike Shop

Returning to preschool, I had traveled 20 miles with the road bike and I still had half an hour to kill so I grabbed a drive-through coffee at Electric Cloud and headed down to the ship canal. Unfortunately, I’m not one of those Seattleites who can bike one-handed while holding a cup of coffee so I had to walk the two blocks.

Coffee, canal

But my whole silly point of this post is two incidents that happened once I finally reunited bike and trailer:

Stopped at a red light with kid in trailer, a guy walked by, peeked in, and said, “That’s some cool cargo! Does that carriage thing really work?” I told him it was heavy, but yeah, it did the trick. I really wanted to ask him if he had half an hour to sit down so we could talk about cargo bikes. Poor trailer.

Ten minutes later I saw “Bakfiets Dad” on the Burke-Gilman Trail. We ding our bells and wave to one another when I’m on the Big Dummy, but he never acknowledges me if I’m with the trailer. I tell myself he doesn’t recognize me, but I feel snubbed. Poor trailer.

Dog on the family bike

My first sentient bike passenger was the late Lyle, a chihuahua. Eons ago, he rode all over Isla Vista, tucked into my sweater with his head poking out the neck hole. His younger (she’s a sprightly 13) cohort, Bettie, had never had the pleasure of bike commuting until this week. I didn’t think she’d be cool in my sweater so I used the bungee net to secure her in a soft doggie carrier to my front basket. I won’t say she had a blast, but she was perfectly relaxed. Maybe I should let her poke her head out next time.

Dog on board

We traveled just seven blocks to the drop-in vet, but we got to do it twice since they didn’t have time to see her before kindergarten pickup time. Check out the sign: FREE CUSTOMER PARKING.


Naturally, that’s just for cars. Bikes either park at the bike rack of the neighboring business (and I didn’t want the bike that far away) or the glass-strewn tree out front.

Glass-strewn parking tree

Bettie got her fifth bike trip the following morning when I took her in sans kids. This time I opted for the old mamabike and just set her carrier on the front kid seat without bungee. It worked great, too. She stayed at the vet for a while to get an x-ray and I would have liked to pick her up with the little bike, but I had the three-year old along by then and didn’t think he would give up his front seat to Bettie and I didn’t want to stick her behind me so soon in her biking career. So she was back in the big bike’s basket.

Dog on the little family bike

Obviously, I don’t know as much about biking with dogs as I do biking with kids, but as luck would have it, I ran into Juliette of Hub and Bespoke this morning. She didn’t have her sweet doggie along, but here’s a photo from the bike counter launch party:

Doggie at the bike counter

Hub and Bespoke has carried dog carriers in the past, but don’t currently stock any. However, Juliette is happy to share knowledge and place orders.

Here’s a dog I saw recently, in a milk crate. I’m sure he’s happier than he looks.

Dog in milk crate

If you want to read a bit more about getting your furry friend on board your rig, I enjoyed Cycling Gypsies’ Dogs on Bikes, TreeHugger’s 11 Ways to Take Dogs on Bikes slideshow, and Amazon’s Best Sellers in Dog Bicycle Carriers.

Bettie has a recheck in two weeks so perhaps we’ll figure out an even better method for toting her.


Alki two ways

Sunday was so sunny! Tulips and daffodils are emerging, birds are chirping more, and the sky was bluer than it’s ever been. Maybe it wasn’t warm enough for a true beach day, but it was over fifty and the boys screamed “Alki, Alki, Alki!”


But first: Saturday. My original plan was to have Mr. Family Ride drive the boys to an afternoon birthday party at Alki Beach so I could co-lead the Spokespeople ride (my first co-lead as I strive to become a Cascade Bicycle Club Ride Leader) and then race over à la road bike to meet them at the end and either catch a ride in the car or [preferably] ride home while he took care of dinner and bedtime for overtired kidlets. But he had to go out of town so we resorted to the car to catch part of the party after Spokespeople.

That’s when I realized I don’t know how to get to Alki by car. My car has a built-in GPS system because I’m quite skilled at getting lost…but it’s on the fritz. The thought of having to drive the car more than once a month, just for the sake of taking it to the shop to get fixed has kept me from dealing with it. This must be how people who use bicycles for purely recreational purposes feel about having to go in for bike tune-ups. But we eventually found our way there–after getting lost twice. Not fun.

But Sunday! Sunday was fun. 17 miles of fun on the way there. I even enjoyed East Marginal Way South, though I know on weekdays it’s teeming with huge trucks. Today I only saw a couple of cars on the half mile stretch and could easily skirt the many massive puddles.

East Marginal Way South

I let my little pedaler loose when we reached the Alki Trail. It felt just like our ride over with Andy a year and a half ago when his daughter did the same. I didn’t have the Big Dummy yet (or a pedaling kid!) so it was truly a glimpse of the future. Speaking of Andy, he just wrote an awesome guestpost: Becoming a Biking Family on the Paranoid Stay at Home Mom blog. It’s so great! Read it!

On the Alki Trail

Much of the Alki Trail was wide open, but some was a bit congested. Of course, the kid’s only mishap was when he looked to the side too long, squealing “Train, train, train!” and cruised right into a curb. Fortunately, he’s very practiced at intentionally banging into things so he [just barely] kept the rubber side down. And this became a wonderful teaching moment I used to routinely remind him to watch where he was going.

On the Alki Trail

Gratuitous bikes and view shot from Don Armeni Park:

View of Downtown Seattle from West Seattle

My three-year old did a teeny bit of riding on the trail, but his 10-inch balance bike tires make it hard to keep up with his brother’s 16-inch wheels, so he didn’t last long. But I made a cool discovery when I quickly bundled toddler and balance bike back onto the Big Dummy: it rides fine with one little wheel hanging out. I’ve only carried it completely in the FreeLoader bags before so this is good to know if I’d rather deal with drag than sacrifice cargo capacity.

Tiny bike in the FreeLoader

The beach was great! The kids went barefoot and got wet and sandy, but I huddled under a towel to stay warm. Fifty degrees isn’t really my idea of beach weather.


I saw a big grey cloud on the horizon so I consulted Dark Sky iPhone app and saw we had 25 minutes until a short light rain hit. So we packed up and headed to lunch…but as much as I hate getting rained on, I had to stop when I saw this Xtracycle. Look at those cool homegrown deck seats! And Xtracycle RunningBoards. And Rolling Jackass center stand.

Xtracycle at Alki

Heading back towards the beach after lunch, we were on the street-side of the bike path for a few blocks. I guess this would be referred to as a “two-way parking protected bike lane”, and it’s the first time I’ve had to worry about my babe getting doored. Kind of freaky!

Kindergartener in the door zone

Now, it was pretty exciting when we saw a train from the lower West Seattle Bridge a week prior, but this trip we saw the draw bridge in action as a tug boat pushed a barge through. It pivots! I had no idea. I may have been more excited than the children.

Pivoting Lower West Seattle Bridge

Pivoting Lower West Seattle Bridge

I was tempted to take the long, flat route home along the Elliott Bay Trail/Ship Canal Trail, but I wasn’t sure the Magnolia train yard would be open as it was nearing 7pm. I’ve never hit a closed gate yet, but I didn’t want to risk it. So our ride home was only 13.5 miles. And it afforded us a chance to check out the new Westlake Park Play Area. It’s quite small, but we’ll be back during the day to climb and jump.

Westlake Park Play Area

And finally, we got to see the new digs of Velo Bike Shop at the super-bikey Via6 apartments.

New Velo Bike Shop

Yes, we got home much later than we would have with the car, but the trip was all pleasant and full of wonderful experiences. Traveling by bike certainly isn’t as quick, but I just love that every trip is an action-packed adventure.

Bike corrals will save the world

or possibly tear it apart.

Essential Baking Company bike corral

I’m hoping Seattle Bike Blog readers can help me fill out a map of Seattle area bike corrals. I’ve only seen seven of them personally. I knew of one other, and Tom of Seattle Bike Blog tipped me off to two others. There must be more!

In the SBB article I didn’t mention that city to the south that starts with a “P” and ends with an “ortland,” but they’ve got bike corrals up the wazoo (91 as of this writing)! It’s very inspiring. Plus they’re rows of regular racks that are easy for big bikes like mine to use.

Portland bike corral

We should leave a few spots for cars, of course. Read this brilliant LA Magazine article Between the Lines by Dave Gardetta and see the light.