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Seattle Kidical MASSIVE 2017

Save the date for global cuteness: Kidical MASSIVE is Saturday, September 16, 2017

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It’s the third annual Kidical Massive ride!! Join us as THOUSANDS of families around the country go for a bike ride together. We’ll be showing that “Kids are Traffic Too” and that cities that plan for family biking are more livable, sustainable, profitable, and FUN!

Details (and theme!) are TBD, but we’ve already got a Facebook event set up if you want to RSVP.

Two years ago we had over 200 participants on our ride as we kicked off Ballard Summer Parkways. Read the recap here.

Last year we attended the Unveiling Party at Cascade Bicycle Club and enjoyed FREE CAKE AND ICE CREAM. Read the recap here.

About Kidical Mass
Seattle Kidical Mass rides are presented by Familybike Seattle. Familybike Seattle is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit that decreases barriers to bicycling for families of all income levels. We believe that biking as a family increases our individual, family, and societal quality of life, while at the same time moving toward sustainable lifestyles and communities.

Kidical Mass is a fun, safe, easy-going, and law-abiding family bike ride for kids of all ages. It started circa 2008 in Eugene, Oregon, and has since spread to other bikey burgs, like Seattle! Our monthly group rides include a nice mix of experienced cyclists, and folks just getting started. We hope to educate bike-curious parents about ways to bicycle with children, help kids learn to ride safely in the city, and increase the visibility of family biking on Seattle streets. Kids are traffic too! All manner of bikes and high-occupancy velos are welcome.

Counterclockwise Around Lake Union

We’ve biked around Lake Union several times on Thanksgiving (here’s how our 2016 ride went), but we always go in the clockwise direction. Today was errand-based (kid 1 wanted to see a boat and kid 2 needed a new bike helmet) so we didn’t follow the Cheshiahud Loop as closely as we do on Thanksgiving, but it was useful to see it in the opposite direction…and makes me like the clockwise loop all the more.

My nine-year old rode his own bike and the seven-year old rode the tandem with me. He just got over a cold and didn’t want to ride his own bike. Which was fine by me because it’s certainly a lot easier to have one loose kid than two!

Circle mirror selfie of tandem and 24-inch bike

It’s been almost four years since we got his last helmet at Velo Bike Shop so he wanted to go there again. Awww, toddler!

New Helmet Day, 2013

Today was super rainy and Velo proved a great stopping spot. We found a new helmet, admired the old bikes hanging from the ceiling and walls (triple tandem! penny farthing!), and had a long snack at the cafe tables in the adjoining hallway of the Via6 building. We didn’t go into the Home Remedy grocery store/deli in the building, but had we not had snacks along with us, it probably would have been a good resource. Drinking fountain and potties are also located in the hallway–everything one could possibly want!

From there we went to the flagship REI. We didn’t need anything there having already found the helmet, but you can’t mention flagship REI to kids in the morning and then not go. We usually hit REI from the other side and I never seem to find the same route twice if I approach from South Lake Union rather than Eastlake. With the one kid on his own bike, we stuck to the sidewalk for part of the way–primarily Westlake and Thomas for the portions with street car tracks. Thomas had one steep hill and the road was very patched and pitted due to construction, but it was a good street and I’d use it again.

Here’s the Strava recording of our 10-mile loop.

REI was awesome. There’s a play area upstairs and a World Wrapps right next to it–inside the store! So we let our gear dry out (somewhat) while playing and lunching.

We left via Thomas again, but rather than turn down Fairview as I had planned, I saw an enticing alley just before it. Fairview is very busy and I had planned for us to ride the sidewalk, but even though it’s legal (and necessary) in Seattle, I prefer to avoid it if I can. The three blocks of alley were great! Safe enough for my cautious nine-year old to want to ride ahead of me, even! That doesn’t often happen.

Alley to avoid Fairview

The alley ended at Mercer so we were on the sidewalk for a bit, including the Fairview Avenue part of the Cheshiahud Loop, for which we ride in the street when going the other direction. It sort of feels like salmoning (heading against traffic in the street) for the last block before seaplanes, but the dividers make it more of a trail than a street, I guess. It’s only awkward at the very end where it’s only wide enough for a single bike and not a full lane. I think we could have snuck off into the adjacent parking lot just before it got narrow, but I just plowed on ahead this time.

And soon enough we found the boat! The USS Turner Joy is currently visiting Lake Union Drydock Company for repairs. We usually see it in Bremerton on the way to bike camping at Illahee or Manchester. Yesterday we watched video of it coming through the locks on Thursday. We got a couple glimpses of it from the west side of the lake, but right by the dry dock is the place to really check it out.

USS Turner Joy at Lake Union Drydock Company

I decided the super steep parts of the two-o’clock section of the Lake Union loop are worse in the counterclockwise direction, but I’ll admit I’ve always been more comfortable with the hill I know over a new hill. My nine-year old rides the hills on Thanksgiving and opted to walk both up and downhill today, but it’s gotta feel a bit different when you’re charging ahead of the adults with a pack of friends versus all on your own.

One last little note on the day: since we weren’t able to find a “black helmet with red flames like two friends at school have,” my seven-year old selected some stickers at Fun Reflector to make it work. Stickers can’t fix everything, but they can fix a lot of things! When the little kid was ready to move from his 16″ bike to his brother’s 20″ bike before his brother thought he was ready to move up to the new 24″ bike, I got them custom decals at Do It Yourself Lettering and once they saw their steeds labeled “Officer Brandt” and “Darth Rijder” it was all good!

Public art stop at the Allen Institute for Brain Science

Bike/Bus to Kirkland feat. the Cross Kirkland Corridor

I knew this day would come: an invite to a birthday party on the eastside. I used to dread this day, but having used Zipcar once last winter I realize we’ve got an option for the rare trips to places too hard to reach by bike and/or transit.

Before reserving a car I thought I’d have a laugh and see just how impossible it’d be to take buses to SkyMania indoor trampoline park. I always use Google maps transit directions for bus suggestions, but if you like something better, please let me know in the comments section at the bottom of this post. Three buses over an hour and a half with nearly a mile-long walk at the end sounded horrible (especially the walking in a non-walker-friendly city), but I couldn’t help but notice how close SkyMania sat to the Cross Kirkland Corridor. I remembered reading about the trail on Seattle Bike Blog: Kirkland’s new trail changes everything. The third of the three buses, King County Metro Route 255 had a stop less than two miles from our house and many stops near the Cross Kirkland Corridor so bike-bus-bike could work after all!

Now just routing us there isn’t planning enough, big trips like this must include eating stops and it’s not exactly picnic weather. I poked around the map to see if there was food to be found along the Cross Kirkland Corridor, but I didn’t see anything perfect so I took to Twitter to ask @CrosswalkView, a family of six with a blog about family biking and walking in Kirkland at The View from the Crosswalk and @GlenBikes who lived in Kirkland before he moved to my neck of the woods and still knows everything about bicycling there. My suspicions were confirmed that there’s not much around the CKC, but I got some good advice if we wanted to leave the trail for Houghton Plaza: The View from the Crosswalk: Connecting the Eastside Rail Corridor part 3: Houghton.

So I ended up sticking with my original idea:

  1. Bike 1.7 miles to the bus stop
  2. Ride the 255 for 11 minutes to South Kirkland Park and Ride
  3. Bike 0.4 miles to Burgermaster for elevensies
  4. Bike 5.5 miles, mostly along the CKC, to SkyMania
  5. Two hours of bouncing and laser tag
  6. Bike 2.9 miles back along the CKC to Chainline Brewing for food truck
  7. Bike 0.2 miles (just around the corner) from the CKC behind Chainline to the bus stop in front of Chainline
  8. Bike 1.8 miles home from the bus stop

I rode the old mamabike with my seven-year old in the Bobike Junior rear seat and my nine-year old rode his own bike. It was tempting to take three separate bikes because Metro buses all have three bike slots (whereas some Sound Transit buses only have two), but I figured it’d be best to keep it simple.

LOL-brother-blocking photo filter

LOL-brother-blocking photo filter

It worked great! The 1.7 miles to the bus stop was flat except for the two downhill blocks to get from home to the Burke-Gilman Trail and the ramp by the UW light rail station to get down to the Lake Washington Loop from the Burke-Gilman Trail. And 35 stairs to the bus stop (I carried the bikes one by one).

Stairs down to 520

The other side (that we’d use on the way home) was recently redone to include a ramp:

Ramp up from 520

I was dismayed to discover the South Kirkland Park and Ride is on the side of a hill, but it was OK this one time and we can use a different bus stop in the future. The short ride to Burgermaster wasn’t bad–we cut through the parking lot of a La Quinta Inns & Suites and approached via the sidewalk…and immediately realized Burgermaster (like most of the eastside?) is designed for people in cars.

Burgermaster--drive in!

One drives up, chooses a parking spot in front of a menu, and orders through rolled-down window to a server who has walked over from the seating-free building.

Cars at Burgermaster

Had it not been cold and rainy, we could have eaten on the back patio. There’s even a bike rack back there!

Burgermaster patio

But given the weather, we were grateful to sit on the bench inside.

Burgermaster indoor area

Eating inside was pretty fun–my little guy was particularly enthralled by the order wheel: “I’ve only seen one of those on SpongeBob SquarePants before now!” And my big guy found the portable car jump starter by our bench quite fascinating.

Like the Crabby Patty!

Then we biked back uphill through the hotel parking lot and up quite a lot more hill for two blocks to the start of the trail (on the sidewalk). My nine-year old made up a little chant about how much he disliked the hill, but he was able to pedal up it without stopping. And then we were at the very beginning of the CKC. I read the Seattle Bike Blog article about it almost two years ago and had forgotten that it’s gravel! Fun!

Cross Kirkland Corridor

We rode 4.9 of the 5.5 miles of Cross Kirkland Corridor and it was awesome! My nine-year old had the most fun of all, skidding–intentionally and alarmingly–every 50 feet the entire way. I was relieved I had just one kid skidding all over the place on his own bike this time, but we talked about coming back on three bikes–my preference is for a nice day in the summer, the kids’ is for an even rainier day because they’re really into wetlands habitats. I forsee summer visits with trailside blackberry-picking stops, the kids plan to search for the “very large duck and badger” depicted in the Environmentally Sensitive Area signs.

Environmentally Sensitive Area

There’s a marvelous view of Lake Washington and the most of the stairways off the trail have runnels for easy wheeling of bikes. One stairway leads down to small Terrace Park (no potties), but even bigger and better and right at trail level is Google Park with zipline (though also no potties).

Stairs with runnel to the Cross Kirkland Corridor

Google maps had me exiting the CKC at NE 112th Street, one block before our destination, but rather than ride that one long block (on the sidewalk, of course, in this area) I decided to stick to the trail because even if it tunneled under our street, we’d have a shorter amount of sidewalk to ride back from the following intersection. Turns out the trail did indeed cross under NE 116th Street, but that meant we got to ride a tiny bit more of the CKC. Unfortunately that also meant we had to cross a big street and the people turning right from 120th Avenue NE onto NE 116th Street were not keen on allowing us to cross in the crosswalk.

Skymania is in a big nondescript building with huge parking lot and no bike rack. But there was lots of space under the overhang by the front door so we locked up to a pipe under that.

Skymania parking lot

Skymania entrance

The kids LOVED the venue. Two big trampoline areas, arcade games, and laser tag. The Waiting Lounge has chairs and tables, couches, and free wi-fi. But no outside food or drink allowed.

Heading back we started along the sidewalk of 116th, prepared to check out the long block of 120th’s sidewalk we avoided on the way up. By the way, there’s a bike lane on 116th, but it has lots of cars crossing through it to get to the freeway entrances.

Bike lane on Skymania's street

I stopped above the trail to see if there was any better option and it looked like it wouldn’t be too big a deal to ride down the driveway east of the car dealership and walk/carry our bikes a short way to the trail.

View of the CKC from above

Other than one pesky blackberry vine at the end, it was just fine.

Shortcut!

We saw an even better entry point once we were down on the trail:

Future shortcut

The dirt road alongside the long building to the west of the trail continues for the entire block so that would work even better for a trailer or other bike that couldn’t make the short rocky traverse.

Convenient dirt road to the right of the CKC

Chainline Brewing Company was great! The food truck was a no-show, but we went in anyway to buy a bag of chips and use the potty. The bike racks are up quite a slope, but plenty of people had wheeled their bikes up to them.

Chainline Brewing bike rack

There’s tons of bike decor inside–as well as some very cool light fixtures. We’ll be back for sure–and we can bring Pixie because it’s kid- and dog-friendly! There were a ton of babies there, by the way.

Inside Chainline Brewing

The bus ride and bike ride home went well. I’m so glad I had my seven-year old on my bike because mere moments after he asked if he could disembark to run the last few blocks home he fell asleep back there. He tends to run at 100% capacity at all times–and sometimes burn out before the day is done–whereas my nine-year old and I pace ourselves. Obviously, we’re not nearly as fun. But we stay awake while plodding on home. I think a summer visit without two hours of jumping and laser tagging will leave us all with energy enough to ride the whole trail and visit all the playgrounds, though. Here’s my Strava recording of the Kirkland portion of our day. Can’t wait to come back!

Biking (part way) to the Womxn’s March on Seattle

Today’s Womxn’s March on Seattle was just one of many satellite events for the Women’s March on Washington. Please read the full Mission & Vision and Unity Principles, but here’s a peek:

The rhetoric of the past election cycle has insulted, demonized, and threatened many of us – immigrants of all statuses, Muslims and those of diverse religious faiths, people who identify as LGBTQIA, Native people, Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, survivors of sexual assault – and our communities are hurting and scared. We are confronted with the question of how to move forward in the face of national and international concern and fear.

In the spirit of democracy and honoring the champions of human rights, dignity, and justice who have come before us, we join in diversity to show our presence in numbers too great to ignore. The Women’s March on Washington will send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us.

The first I read about Seattle’s march was “Get a babysitter and come march with us!” so I figured I’d just follow along virtually, but a few days ago I realized it’d become incredibly more inclusive and open to all. Hooray!

Even given the short time to prepare, I did a lot of hemming and hawing over how to get us to the start. I LOVE that the march started in the central district, but the sheer distance from our home means we don’t get down there often, and the one-way march made things tricky as well. It was nice to see the location addressed in the FAQ, though having a ton of friends who live in that area I think calling Judkins park “out of the way” is unfair.

Q: Why is the march starting at Judkins Park? It’s a bit out of the way.
A: The location of Judkins Park was the result of several factors: 1) budget, 2) the need for a space that can accommodate 50,000-75,000 people, 3) availability on the day of, 4) approval of the city of Seattle. While there are several locations that meet one or two of these criteria, Judkins Park is the only location that was approved by the city for the march.

I’ve walked with a bike in marches before and I don’t like doing so, so I wasn’t too put off when I read that bikes weren’t allowed (several people walked bikes anyway and did fine, but I still would have found it difficult). I figured our best bet was to bike to the end point of the parade, the Seattle Center (a.k.a. the Space Needle), leave our bikes there, and catch the bus to Judkins Park. I checked on the bus options to Judkins all the way from home and we would have had to transfer and not being a regular bus rider, I dislike dealing with transfers–one bus is plenty for me!

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I figured the buses would be packed and if it proved too difficult, we could always wait at the Seattle Center for the march to come to us, but I really wanted the kids to be part of the rally at the start. We left home at 8:15 a.m. and biked 5 miles to the Seattle Center to get in line for Metro bus 4 (“A new bus!” The kids were so excited for a new bus route).

The 9:10 bus was packed and didn’t even slow at our stop. Moments before the 9:40 arrived (late), one kid needed the potty now so we went inside the Armory building of the Seattle Center to take care of business and missed out on that bus. I was convinced the bus would have had room for us, but in retrospect it was probably full, too. The 10:10 (also late) was also too full to stop. We kept waiting because I knew 50,000 attendees were expected so even if we missed the 10:30 program and 11:00 beginning of the march, people would still be at the park waiting their turn to hit the route. Lots of people left the bus stop, some to run across the street and hop the bus in the other directly to loop around, some to catch $70 Ubers, and some for the monorail to Westlake Center (we saw an incredibly long monorail line when we headed back from the potty) so we were at the front of the line for the 10:40 (again, late). This bus stopped! But only to say she was full and that they’d be rerouting from now on so no more buses would show. No!!!! But fortunately I had my backup plan of just hanging at the Seattle Center, though I had figured that’d be more about having gotten out of the house late or an overwhelmed kid.

We heard many people in our long bus line mention they’d never taken the bus before. Of course, most of these people never made it on the bus; I hope they were able to bus home at the end of the day. Given the purpose of the day, no one I saw was angry about the lack of buses and seemed happy to get creative. Many new friends were made squeezing into shared taxis and Ubers. I’ve been on light rail when it’s packed with sports crowds and love hearing people talk about this awesome first trip and plan to use it more for other reasons. I wonder if the overcrowded buses were able to leave anyone with the that feeling today–I sure hope so because transit is the future (after bikes :)).

I remembered reading about three designated access points and looked them up on the spot and saw the closest to us was at Westlake Park. This must have been where the monorail riders were headed. I know the monorail runs a mile so I figured we could manage walking there considering I’d originally expected the kids to march 3.6 miles. Of course walking just the three of us isn’t quite the same as being swept along in an exciting crowd so we had to stop for a couple “MY LEG IS GOING TO FALL OFFFFFFF!!!!” rest breaks. But we never walk anywhere so it was pretty great! We saw that new street park at 5th and Vine I noticed from our last monorail ride. There’s a small parklet across the street the kids happily ran around in.

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And we found a great alley!

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We also stopped to read the plaque on the historic bell in front of fire station 2 and mess with the giant Popsicle™.

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There were a ton of people at Westlake Park. I would have liked to immerse ourselves in the crowd and read all the signs, but the playground called so we hung out there for an hour or so until the march arrived.

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We hopped in near the beginning of the march and it was amazing. Ours was a silent march, but waves of sound traveled from the back of the crowd to the front periodically.

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We peeled off as soon as we hit the Seattle Center to make for the food court, but I suspect the march went one block farther and ended at the International Fountain. I was sad to skip the grand finale and miss out on exposing the kids to one more element of the day, but I hope the small part of the march itself had a big impact on them. Feeding hungry, tired kids is important, too, as was visiting the playground for a bit before heading home.

In retrospect we could have hopped the 9am #4 bus in the opposite direction and looped around, but of course I didn’t think of that at the time. And there’s a good chance Judkins Park would have proved overwhelming for the kids and the whole 3.6-mile march would have been too long. So the lite version we ended up with was probably perfect. There will be more peaceful protests and as their legs get longer and their hearts even bigger, we’ll participate more fully.

For more from today, see timelapse video from KING 5 Seattle News and The New Yorks Times: Pictures From Women’s Marches Around the World. The last count I heard for Seattle was 175,000 participants!

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Snowboarding for the car-free family

Warning: contains cars. Also, no bike riding…but lots of snowboard riding.

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I love living in Seattle and the many varied activities available to us right here in the city, but it’s fun to get away every once in a while, ya know? We commonly do so in the form of summertime bike camping. Apparently we’re not the only ones who like to skip town, per the Seattle Weekly’s article “Do Urbanists Have a Wilderness Problem?” Stoked to share the 10th paragraph down with my friend Tom:

“…Seattle Bike Blog creator and anti-car urbanist Tom Fucoloro or family bike expert Madi Carlson, both Seattle residents who frequently journey to the forested outlands by bike alone (and in Carlson’s case, with two kids in tow).”

We expanded our repertoire last January when I signed up for Zipcar car sharing. This is incredibly silly, but I immediately felt more legitimately car free. Now when people get that horrified look on their faces and ask, “But Madi, what will you do if you ever need a car?” I no longer have to fight the urge to ask back “What the f–k would I need a car for?” Now I can easily say “Oh, I have Zipcar!” and I don’t even have to admit that I’ve only used it once.

Zipcar is often at bike events with various discounts (and free sunglasses), but I signed up online because I can be impulsive and decided late on a Wednesday night that we should go snowboarding the coming weekend. The threatened 1-3 business days to approve my application only took a few hours (thank goodness!) and I opted to bike downtown and pick up my Zipcard in person rather than wait the 3-7 business days for it to arrive in the mail. We ended up not going snowboarding that weekend so the rushing around was for naught, but I tend to opt to pick things up rather than have them driven over to me.

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We eventually used Zipcar for the first time a couple months later for day trip to the closest ski area, The Summit at Snoqualmie, where I’ve brought the kids snowboarding a bunch of times back when I was a car owner.

The snowboarding was awesome! My ability of following the Zipcar rules: not so much. Totally my fault. It’s all right there online. Plus I received an email with subject line “Your first Ziptrip – the one you always remember” that would have been very helpful had I read it carefully.

So let’s talk about the snowboarding part first. Summit is an hour’s drive from home–just how I like my snow. There are four little resorts: Alpental, Summit West, Summit Central, and Summit East. We’ve tried three of the four in the past and Summit Central works best for us. The kids use the magic carpet (the conveyor belt lift thingy) which is great for me because I don’t need to shell out for my own lift ticket–I can easily walk up the bunny slope after jogging down alongside them. This also means I don’t get to do snowboarding myself, but that’ll change as they get bigger. I’m not a very good snowboarder and the one time I helped my older kid up the lift and down a run in North Vancouver was really hard. I don’t think I could manage two kids. But back to Washington: the bunny slope at Alpental is a little too steep and long so I can’t keep up as I jog after the kids hollering at them to sit down before they careen into each other, the bunny slope at Summit West isn’t steep enough and I have to give them pushes every few feet to keep them moving, Summit East doesn’t have a magic carpet, but Summit Central is just right!

Bears!

New this year: they carry stuff! From wearing the baby on my back and carrying one kid’s gear, to wearing a toddler on my back and carrying two kids’ gear, to this!

Carrying their boards

Here’s what the magic carpet looks like. Our regular lift operator back in the frequent weekday visit days used to let me stand on it to ride back up, but it’s easy enough to trudge on either non-moving side.

Magic carpet

Now to admit my many Zipcar oopsies:

Zipcar oopsie one: I forgot there’s a gas card! I used my credit card to fill the tank (had I asked for a receipt, I could have been reimbursed). Doh. Regular rental cars come with full tanks, but Zipcars don’t. This might be enough to dissuade some renters.

Zipcar oopsie two: I LEFT THE ZIPCARD AT HOME AND LOCKED US OUT OF THE CAR IN THE SNOW AN HOUR FROM HOME! Thank goodness for modern technology–they unlocked it remotely over the phone. One checked out a Zipcar by holding the Zipcard near a sensor to unlock the door; the key is very conveniently zip tied to dangle near the ignition. So the key stays in the car and the card [ideally] stays in one’s wallet.

Zipcar oopsie three: I didn’t realize I had to tap my Zipcard on the sensor upon returning the car. This is mentioned on the website and in the helpful-if-read email, of course. Fortunately, I went online to see if I could let Zipcar know I’d returned the car two hours early in case someone else wanted it, so I read about tapping out before it was too late.

Despite all the problems of my own making, it was a great experience and we’d do it again. I don’t want to tempt fate and say I’ll never make a Zipcar mistake again, but there’s a pretty good chance I won’t repeat these specific mistakes.

Price

Zipcar isn’t the cheapest way to get a car for the day–it’s really best for an hour or a few hours–but it’s definitely the most convenient for us. There are a couple Zipcar spots a couple blocks from our house, and another set 10 blocks away. Two traditional car rental places (Enterprise and Budget) are an additional 10 blocks farther. Convenience is key when you’re traveling with kids. I figured as long as Zipcar was cheaper than three $40 ski shuttle tickets, it was an acceptable price. The daily rate for the car we rented was $73 (total with tax was $85). That price includes 180 miles and we went 115 miles.

Note: It looks like the Zipcar spots closest to our house aren’t there anymore (per the website, I’ll have to bike by to look for sure) so there’s a good chance I won’t renew my membership. Bummer.

Car seats: RideSafer Travel Vests

Lugging regular car seats around is a pain. That’s why I got RideSafer Travel Vests when I went car-free, following in the footsteps of Dorie from Hum of the City and Elle of Tiny Helmets Big Bikes. They are as safe as traditional car seats (with a price tag to prove it), but back when I got them, they were for use in taxis, rental cars, and car share, but not in one’s personal vehicle. However, I don’t see that mentioned in the RideSafer FAQ so I think they’re approved for us all the time now. They’re lower than car seats so the kids don’t have as good a view and I’ve heard that they’re uncomfortable for very long trips.

RideSafer Travel Vests

Other options:

Traditional rental car
If frugality was more important to me than convenience for this once-a-year trip, I’d use one of the car rental places 1.5 miles from our house. Honestly, I’m not sure how I’d easily manage that on a weekend. For a weekday one-day rental I’d grab and return the car while the kids were at school, but I’m not sure how I’d get us all there (or especially how I’d get us all back after a long day of snowboarding). Peeking at pricing, SUVs (which is what we used from Zipcar) are more expensive at both car rental places, but smaller cars are a lot cheaper. An economy car would work fine for the two kid snowboards. Dealing with office hours would be less convenient, though, and probably mean we’d keep the car overnight the day before or after hitting the mountains.

Ski shuttle
I mentioned the $40 round-trip shuttle bus, Seattle Ski Shuttle, above. Last year they departed from REI if I remember correctly, but now they leave from a hotel. I had planned to try it out myself first before subjecting the kids to a super-early wakeup. The bus leaves at 6:30am and it takes at least half an hour to bike there with a snowboard on the Big Dummy, and longer if I’m also carrying kids. I think I might still try this on my own this winter because Zipcarring alone doesn’t seem worth it. I really doubt I’d do it with the kids. They wake up too early for my taste many days, but to be ready to leave the house with snowboarding gear before 6am is a whole different realm.

Other rides
The Summit has some great resources listed on their Carpools and Shuttle Services webpage.

More? If you know of other ways to get to the mountains, I’d love to hear them!

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First Family Ride of 2017

Happy New Year! We celebrated the last day of winter break with a bike ride to the beach. It was a couple degrees above freezing (brr!), but the sun was out and the kids wanted to collect seashells. I more or less bundled us up in snow gear: the kids wore snow bibs, snow boots, combo sweater/jackets, gloves, and caps under their helmets. One kid started out in his balaclava, but changed his mind. PRO TIP: call balaclavas “ninja masks” for better chances of kids wanting to wear them. I don’t own warm base layers for them or wool socks, but they did OK with cotton under all of that. I wore snowboarding pants over cotton leggings, wool socks and boots, thin merino wool long-sleeved shirt and merino wool sweater, and cap under my helmet. Pixie wore her thickest sweater and has a warm liner than goes inside her basket bag.

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And I brought a bit of backup stuff along: extra set of gloves for the kids, thick gloves for me to wear while at the beach (my bike was wearing its Portland Pogies handlebar mittens so I went gloveless on the way there, though had I been more organized, I would have worn thin cotton gloves), snowboard jacket for me at the beach and on the way home, balaclavas for the kids in case they came to their senses, and two HotSnapZ reusable hand warmers.

Like most of our bike excursions, the journey is just as much (and sometimes more) fun than the destination. The kids chirped “Happy New Year!” at all the dogs we biked by on the Burke-Gilman Trail, I got to say, “Hey, cool bike!” to a bunch of kids, and we watched a guy in a sail boat taking photos of the Fremont Bridge as it opened for him to sail under (but he didn’t hear us calling “Ahoy!” at him).

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We stopped for a water break along the ship canal and discovered a heart-shaped tree trunk! The kids threw sticks into the water for a little bit and could have gone on forever, but Pixie attempted to roll in something stinky so I packed us up and moved us along.

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I was surprised to see so many people at the beach. Coming out on a cold day like this was a BIG DEAL to a wimp like me, but these real Pacific Northwesterners are very hardy. We met a fellow Big Dummy owner visiting from Arizona–he must have been freezing, though he didn’t look it.

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The one thing I have yet to figure out is how to time things so the kids don’t get hungry and want a snack five minutes after we’ve left the house. I’m pretty sure it’s impossible because they ate a huge breakfast right before we left. I was able to get us all the way to the beach (with one water stop and one rest stop) before we had a snack and were able to last a couple hours at the beach. I had noticed a new-to-me cafe, Jibe Espresso Bar on our way over so we stopped there on our way home and discovered that the Shilshole Bay Marina is AWESOME!

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It’s across a busy street from the Burke-Gilman Trail, but one can stick to the sidewalk of Seaview Avenue for half a mile to avoid that.

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We can’t wait to come back when it’s warmer (OMG is that a petanque court? We’re coming back with our boules!)

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but it was pretty great even for a day like today. The cafe didn’t have restrooms so we walked to the main entrance (just two doors down) and discovered a great area to hide from cold and/or rain! There were restrooms, drinking fountains, and a warm, dry area for snacking (because eating at the cafe wasn’t enough, of course).

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I also saw a sign for free loaner bikes. Not that we’ll ever be overnight moorers, but that makes the place that much cooler!

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The bikes are yellow and clunky, but they all have rear racks and it’s flat all around here. So they’re perfect!

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The kids warmed their hands with the HotSnapZ while I unlocked the bikes. The heat packs are a bit big for shoving in gloves or boots for use while riding so I haven’t yet figured out my favorite way to use them, but this worked well.

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Heading home was an adventure, too. My seven-year old started getting tired so we took a rest break at Kitty Cat Rocks. There are a couple rocks recently painted with cats alongside the Burke-Gilman Trail that we’ve never bothered to stop at before, so it was exciting for all of us. Even Pixie thought they looked very authentic.

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The kids threw sticks in the water for a bit and it was perfect.

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Just when I was patting myself on the back for having weaned the kids from needing (and myself from offering) rides on the Big Dummy, my littler dude said his poor sore back couldn’t take it anymore. Of course at first I said, “Hmmmm perhaps your back wouldn’t hurt had you listened to me about not bunny hopping with a sore back,” but I’ll happily tote him the last couple miles home lest he change his mind about loving bikes. So I popped his bike into the Xtracycle FreeLoader bag and he climbed aboard the deck.

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But really, I rarely carry the kids these days, though I will continue to drive the Big Dummy just in case I need to carry one or both of them and their bikes.

Turns out he was pretty tired because he tried to sleep on the way home. I know this because his brother tried to bike alongside us and chat with him and he snapped, “Shut up! I’m trying to sleep here!” I glanced back and saw his eyes were closed so perhaps he did sleep! It’s actually easier to take selfies over my shoulder and peek at the phone to see what’s going on back there, and that showed evidence of closed eyes, too:

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Fortunately he woke up just in time for the big hill to give me a “Jedi Push.” The Jedi Push is when you push against the back of your pedaling parent and use The Force to help propel them up the hill. It totally works.

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Here’s to lengthening days and lots of biking. Happy New Year!

2016: Better Biking in Seattle!

For months I’ve wanted to blog about how much bicycling has improved in Seattle, but then something happens that makes me shelve it until a better day. Seeing as it’s the last day of the year, I don’t want to put it off any longer…even though biking along the Wallingford Neighborhood Greenway earlier today, mere blocks from home, I watched four cars blow through cross-traffic stop signs. So unfortunately my mood today isn’t as celebratory as I’d hope for, but here goes…

There’s a lot of great new stuff! These new things might mean more to me than the average bike commuter since I spend a lot of time biking with kids and encouraging new city bicyclists and family bikers.
Read 2016 Year in Review by Seattle Neighborhood Greenways for a great recap of all that’s new.

The kids are riding their own bikes more and more these days and it’s very exciting…and makes biking uphill a lot easier for me minus their 125 pounds! I made an amazing discovery when we fetched our Christmas tree by bike four weeks ago: the kids have been listening to me all this time! They’re great little city bicyclists. They like to sandwich me as lead car and follow car when I carry precious loads (like a fish tank a year ago) so my seven-year old led the way to check for potholes and other hazards while my nine-year old trailed behind, making sure Fluffy (they name the tree) stayed put.

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Back when they spent the majority of their time sharing my Big Dummy’s deck I spent the majority of my time spewing a steady stream of chatter to keep them distracted from fighting with one another. Some of it was non-bike-related stuff like pointing out cats and squirrels or asking the kids to count dogs or buses. But lots of it was narrating our ride: “We’re going to turning left at the end of this block,” “A hill’s coming up so I’m going to downshift now,” and “Wow, that woman must be in a hurry to skip stopping at that stop sign so that’s why we always carefully check intersections.” Everything is a teachable moment, right? So it was adorable when my seven-year old darted ahead so he could call back over his shoulder, “Mama, there’s a hill coming up! You’re going to watch to downshift when you get right here.” Which is hilarious since the kid refuses to shift out of his hardest gear.

One of the most frustrating things about the nice new bikeways is that none of them connect to other nice bikeways. Which is why Ryan Packer’s Best Bike Infrastructure Of 2016: The Sidewalk for The Urbanist resonates with me. I often apologetically tell visitors that the best thing for bikes in Seattle is that it’s legal to ride on the sidewalk, but at the same time it’s such a shame that it’s necessary for so many people to resort to the sidewalk. Granted, a lot of times it’s just for a couple blocks to transition between bike-friendly-ish streets or in my case for parts of our routes when the kids are on their own bikes. I doubt anyone thinks it’s ideal, but it sure makes it possible for a lot of people to get around by bike in this city.

It’s exciting that Seattle grabbed the number one spot in PeopleForBikes’ America’s best new bike lanes of 2016 for the Westlake Bikeway. We love the Westlake Bikeway and I use it for lots of the Kidical Mass and Critical Lass rides I lead. Unfortunately, the Westlake Bikeway is not without its problems–see Seattle Bike Blog’s As tacks return, Westlake bikeway named nation’s ‘best new bike lane’ for 2016.

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When I ride without the kids I often opt to take Dexter Avenue instead of the Westlake Bikeway so I don’t have to worry about stopping for a tack-induced flat tire. I haven’t picked up a tack myself yet, but I’ve been with three people who have. However, the bike lane on Dexter–paint-separated at some points, flexi-post separated at some, and regular bike lane for the rest–is usually worse. I need to take a few minutes before I leave the house to remind myself to stay calm as I encounter countless delivery trucks and Uber private taxi service cars (usually Priuses for some reason) parked and waiting in the bike lane. On the days I don’t take the time to remind myself to not engage, I get progressively angrier as I pull into car traffic to pass each bike-lane-blocking vehicle. On these bad days I’m sometimes unable to resist the urge to [politely!] point out open parking spots to Uber drivers and ask why they don’t park legally in a spot that’s safer for me. I don’t feel that this makes any difference, thus the pep talks. However, I do think pointing out to people [also politely!] they’re turning right through a no-right-on-red light where Dexter crosses Mercer often does make an impact. I’d love if there were more no-right-on-red intersections (see Seattle Bike Blog’s Banning turns-on-red is an exciting first step to taking back our crosswalks) so people were more used to checking for the signs.

One cool event that highlighted the recent infrastructure changes was the annual Critical Lass ride to Candy Cane Lane. Our route has evolved a lot thanks to the flexi-post protected bike lanes over the Cowan Park Bridge and the contraflow bike lane on NE 62nd Street.

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Unfortunately, when the kids and I went on our own to Candy Cane Lane it wasn’t all sugar plums and kittens in Santa hats. I was excited when I realized we could take the new protected bike lane on Roosevelt on our way home. It’s a one-way street and situated such that it doesn’t make sense for us to use, but heading home from Candy Cane Lane made sense! My Kidical Mass to Celebrate Roosevelt went well, but I have to admit I don’t feel completely comfortable on Roosevelt. It’s better than it was before when it was a regular bike lane (we never used it before), but the intersections are crappy. There are some people (usually vehicular cyclists) who argue that protected bike lanes are never worth installing because they provide a false sense of security. I certainly don’t agree with that, but this particular protected bike lane really makes a case for protected intersections and I hope someday Seattle has some of these! Oh, and better “protection” than flexi posts.

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So this night I stupidly chose to not take our usual hillier, more round-about route from Ravenna to Wallingford because I knew the kids would be excited to ride in the protected bike lane. We were extra cautious at each intersection, slowing nearly to a stop in case a car turned without checking for people on bikes or on foot crossing the street. And then a block before we were due to turn off Roosevelt, we encountered a car parked in the bike lane. We stopped behind him so I could consider our next moves. There were a lot of cars on the street so I didn’t really want the kids to have to ride around it. And another car was pulled into the driveway behind us (but only partially blocking the bike lane) so it wouldn’t have been easy to get up to the sidewalk…not to mention I prefer not to ride on the sidewalk unless it’s really necessary. I parked my bike in the bike lane, asked the kids to wait, and tried to get the driver’s attention by waving at his window several times. He was engrossed in his phone so I tapped on the window only have him to roll it down and shout at me that it wasn’t OK for me to tap on his window. I asked if he could re-park so we could bike through, but needless to say, that didn’t go very well. I took a photo of his license plate and filed a Find It, Fix It ticket with the city. I didn’t expect them to come quickly enough to do anything about the car, but hope that if that spot is a regular car-in-the-bike-lane area, something might change. And in the meantime, we won’t ride Roosevelt again.

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The Roosevelt thing made me nearly forget that a family in a minivan honked at us during the one block we rode on Ravenna Blvd to get to the entrance of Candy Cane Lane. The passenger poked her finger at us (pointing at us to get on the sidewalk?) and after a few-seconds delay, they had space to fit past us. We never get honked at, probably because I tend to choose the sidewalk (best bike infrastructure, remember?) for the spots where this might happen. For this short block, I didn’t want to take the narrow sidewalk in case we encountered people walking to Candy Cane Lane. It’s a very steep short block so it’s harder to ride in a perfectly straight line. Tricky call this time, in retrospect.

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So bike-infrastructure-wise: lots of good, a bit of bad, and that’s 2016! Here’s to more good stuff in 2017. Happy New Year!