Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Change is in the air

First off, last week marked the end of classes. Finally. The end-of-the-year has always been crazy busy but it’s even crazier now with three kids in school. In addition to everything we always do; we had three end-of-year performances, five class parties with the requisite goodies (all peanut free which is harder than you’d think), end-of-year meetings, and teachers’ gifts to wrap.
It’s been a time of change aboard the bike as well. My kids are starting to put up some resistance whenever I bring out the bike – it turns out they would “prefer to drive thank you”. I, however, have come to thoroughly enjoy my biking experience and since I am in charge I usually get my way. The fit throwing has put a bit of a kinker in the process and generally makes us later which, ironically, is why my older sons don’t want to take the bike. Schroeder is three and doesn’t want to do anything so I’m just ignoring him. It’s very much a catch-22. At first, I thought our lateness was due to the fact that I wasn’t giving myself enough time to ride – maybe I was going much slower than anticipated. I realized last week, after looking at the clock before heading out the door and looking at my phone as we actually left, that I wasn’t allotting enough time to prepare…
Our biking excursions start like this: I get everyone out to the garage, we find helmets/load backpacks/check tires and then I realize Peanut and Schroeder are over in the neighbor’s yard without shoes. I chase Peanut and Schroeder down - put on their helmets and shoes. Then while loading Peanut into his seat I realize he needs a diaper change, which he did NOT need before, so it’s back in to change his diaper. Heading back to garage, I put Peanut into his seat and now discover I’ve forgotten my phone/purse/house keys. Finally, I shut the garage door (no going back now), replace Peanut’s helmet, fix the rearview mirror he managed to unscrew, coax Schroeder onto the bike with promises of food, and leave. Phew. Thanks to last week’s random time check, I’ve finally grasped that all this rigmarole generally takes longer than the ride itself as such I’ve taken to pre-preparing as best I can. Hopefully this and the beginning of summer/end of strict schedules will help.
Much to my dismay, I am realizing it’s time to start reconfiguring the bike. The current set-up works incredibly well but Peanut insists on growing and he is now too tall for his front seat. His helmeted head comes to my chin and makes it hard to see directly in front of the bike. Also, the helmet has become a weapon when he gets angry and throws his head back as hard as he can. I think it would probably be very difficult to ride unconscious. I REALLY don’t want to do this. I love having him up front and any seat change means I will also likely need new bags which can be quite expensive. On the up-side, I should be able to fit a bread basket and cup holder on the front handlebars - a very slight silver lining indeed. I have about another month to decide because...
In other news, I’ll be off the bike for at least 4 but most likely 6 weeks starting in June. It’s really going to suck especially since the weather is still so great. I am having a minor, but very necessary surgery. If everything works out I’ll have a much better quality of life in July, so keep your fingers crossed, pray, and/or send positive thoughts my way.
Holy Bikes! It seems we have started a trend at church. :)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Hello. My name is Kate..

And I’m a bike-a-holic.
There are two images that come to mind when I hear the word “biker”. The first is usually a man with copious amounts of facial hair clad almost entirely in fringed leather. The second (also known as a “cyclist”) is someone flying down the street at 40 miles per hour wearing $200 dollars of matching team spandex bent over the aero-bars of a $4000 + bike. Neither of these images fit, although I am starting to wonder about the facial hair thing. Just kidding - sort of. :)
Before “the bike” I took the car everywhere because there wasn’t another option. I didn’t even think about it – we went out to the garage, got buckled in, and left. Now I find myself thinking first about using Yuba wherever I want to go. I sometimes have to talk myself out of taking the bike because I don’t have enough time, or I have to be in two (sometimes three) places around 9:00 am. That’s difficult in a car but damn near impossible on a bike. Still, biking is never far from my thoughts. If I’m not riding (which I do 4 or 5 days/week) – I’m either thinking about riding, how I could make riding work next week, plotting good routes, or shopping on-line for bike stuff. I currently have an Amazon wish list 15 items long of stuff I “have to have”. I also spend an inordinate amount of time at the bike shop where I rarely leave without buying something – I think it’s the only reason they still tolerate me. :) I’ve even learned how some basic bike maintenance which means I now have a plan B that doesn’t involve calling my husband to pick me up.
I guess all this makes me a biker/cyclist. I’ll have to add a new image to my mental repertoire…
A middle aged, slightly overweight (but getting less so) mother wearing absolutely no spandex or leather, hauling three kids, going upwards of 8 miles an hour and loving every minute.
These photos were taken by the May is Bike Month Folks at their 2012 Kick-off event.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

To ride or not to ride?

I have been meaning to write about this for some time but needed a nudge in the right direction. That nudge came from Mr. Brown of Ione, CA in the form of a letter to the editor at the Sacramento Bee. For those of you who don’t know, I was photographed riding around downtown Sacramento with three of my four boys on the bike. To Mr. Brown’s credit the original picture was published in black and white and I have had a number of people confess that it looked like I just threw kids all over the bike. I, unfortunately, only have access to the color picture which looks much better.
The paper published the picture again this morning with the letter in a special box in the editorial section. I think they were trying to pick a fight and I think it’s going to work. There are already 20+ comments in the on-line article. :)
Here’s his letter and my reply:
His letter:
I found the picture of Kate Burns and her three sons on her bicycle quite disturbing. I did not see an excellent advertisement for "May is Bike Month." Instead, we saw a woman who was violating Ca. Vehicle Code 21204 and endangering her small children. I hope she discontinues this practice immediately.
-- Timothy D. Brown, Ione
My letter:
I would like to respond to Mr. Brown’s letter regarding the picture of me and my three sons posted in the Bee on May 2nd. The black and white picture posted in the Bee did not do this bicycle justice and I understand the confusion and concern. To clarify, I would like to address this letter specifically and generally.
California vehicle code 21204 states:
a) A person operating a bicycle upon a highway shall not ride other than upon or astride a permanent and regular seat attached thereto, unless the bicycle was designed by the manufacturer to be ridden without a seat.
(b) An operator shall not allow a person riding as a passenger, and a person shall not ride as a passenger, on a bicycle upon a highway other than upon or astride a separate seat attached there to. If the passenger is four years of age or younger, or weighs 40 pounds or less, the seat shall have adequate provision for retaining the passenger in place and for protecting the passenger from the moving parts of the bicycle.
Glossing over the fact that I was not on a highway but riding in downtown where there are lights every block; the bike is made to operate as I am using it. All the passengers under 4 are restrained in place - the child on the front has a belted bike seat and the first child on the rear has stoker bars, foot pegs, and a healthy dose of common sense. The back seats - and they are seats - are firmly attached and protected from the wheels and gears twice - once with bags and once with wheel skirts.
Generally –
Many people assume that biking is dangerous – you will die. “Is it safe?” is a question I hear frequently and most don’t seem to believe my answer. Webster’s defines the word safe as being secure from harm, injury, or danger. Safe does not exist in the real world - everything we do involves risk. I am reminded of this every time I fall down the stairs, slip on my tile floor, buckle my kids in their car-seats, or book an airline ticket. Indeed, even sitting on our backsides doing nothing carries risk – the risk of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and too-tight pants.
Of course biking carries risk but is it dangerous? In 2009, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 630 pedal-cyclists died and 51,000 were injured in traffic accidents. Those numbers account for 2% of all traffic related fatalities and injuries in 2009. These numbers imply that the other approximately 86% (pedestrians accounted for 12% of traffic fatalities and 3% of injuries) of people injured or killed in traffic accidents in 2009 were driving or riding in cars. Obviously, being in a car does not ensure safety. In fact, based on these statistics, one could argue that riding a bicycle is safer and less dangerous than driving and definitely less risky than walking. Additionally, there are ways to minimize the risks of bike riding – riding with traffic, obeying traffic signs, wearing helmets, signaling, using bike lanes/ trails when available, and wearing lights and reflective gear at night. Although I take care to minimize the risks as much as possible, I realize that I am also depending on motorists to be considerate, law abiding, and in control of their vehicles. When I ride with my kids I am teaching them how to bike safely - they are learning traffic laws and experiencing how important it is to “share the road”. Lessons I hope will make them not only better (future) drivers but better people.
I weighed the risks and the benefits and decided to ride with my kids. I have found that riding my bicycle is invigorating, relaxing, economical, and enjoyable - even with the kids on back. I can’t very often say that about my car trips. I think we will continue this practice indefinitely.
I feel very strongly about the general safety part of my letter. I cherish my kids and would never put them in a situation where I thought they would absolutely get hurt. I spend a lot of my time on this bike off of main streets riding mainly on bike paths or through residential neighborhoods. I’m not saying that everyone should ride that way, it’s just how I prefer to ride. Anyway, this hasn’t changed my mind a bit - I don’t feel judged or threatened. I feel like I need to ride more so people get used to seeing bikes and bikes with kids.