Friday, June 4, 2010

Bicycling With Children

Fat bottomed girls they'll be riding today, so look out for those beauties, oh yeah.

I haven't written about my bike in awhile. Just in case you were wondering, I am still madly in love with her. Although, our relationship has changed in some ways. Just as the passage of time creates wrinkles and scars on all of us, so it has on my beauty. She has nicks in her paint and her skirt guard has faded to more of a cream, her basket liner is stained and she no longer holds a baby seat. But...just like each scar tells a tale about us, and as women we bear the badges of motherhood proudly (sometimes, wink wink), so each nick and stain tells a story about my bike.

The scratched paint near the bottom of the front basket is from the time I crashed on the trolley tracks on St Charles Avenue in New Orleans. We were but young lovers then, me and my bike. I didn't quite know how to handle her, but now we speak the same language and are almost like a horse and it's rider (except in this case it is I who have to do all the work) in that I have learned to anticipate the next move and maneuver accordingly.

We've come a long way from the shiny, white maiden cycle and timid (no, PETRIFIED) mother of only one baby. I now am able to hook the Chariot up and have it out of my apartment with the kids loaded (which is no small feat, BTW) in less than 10 minutes. I bike almost everywhere and I have learned to be cautious while really enjoying myself. Believe me, the world is much better appreciated from the seat of a opposed to a car.

I have many friends who are just getting into cycling, some with kids, some without, so I thought I'd just share some of the things I do/don't do and some tips I've those of you seasoned cyclists who may read this, if I've left anything out, please comment and let us know.

I make it a point to walk almost everywhere that is easily walkable, this gives Ellie a chance to ride HER new bike. These places include the grocery store, the post office, dry cleaners, pool, and Hooters (bet you didn't know that was one of my favorite wing places). For those places that are further than reasonable walking distance with two kids, I ride my bike. I pull both kids in a Chariot Cougar 2 which, by the way, is just about the MOST. AWESOME. THING. EVER. Not only can it hold over two large reusable grocery bags full of food in it's storage compartment, but when I reach my destination, I just unhook it and convert it to a stroller and VOILA!

I have two baskets on my bike. In the front one I usually keep: A small purse, a bottle of water, my lock and keys, and whatever else I collect along the way...hey, injured rabbit, want a ride to the hospital? In the rear basket ( which was conceived out of necessity to hold MORE SH&T!) I have been keeping library books, goods from the farmers market, or just bags of stuff I have purchased. (husband, if you are reading this, that was just a little joke, no matter who says they saw me doing it, I DID NOT go shopping this afternoon) It could hold takeout and beer or wine nicely, although I have yet to figure out how to get a pizza home on it.

In the storage compartment of the Chariot (which we shall hereafter refer to as Hercules) I usually keep: an extra change of clothes for each kid, a few diapers and wipes, hand sanitizer, snacks, drinks, and a tire pump and patches. After today, I think I'll carry an extra set of clothes/skivvies for myself because after biking about 10 miles in the BLAZING HEAT, I looked like I had peed myself. Lovely, I know, but I'm telling you this to spare you from the same disgrace. You see what I just did there, that's called self sacrifice, and I do it because I looooooove you.

That leads me to my next point, while those Copenhagen girls may look perfect all the time, if you run into me on my bike this summer, I'll probably be as brown as a paper sack and dripping sweat like Michael Jackson at a T-ball game...oh wait, that was wrong wasn't it? Can't help it, cuz, I'm BAD, I'm Bad, you know it, I'm bad! OOOOOOOOOW! Sorry, now where was I? Yes, appearances. I do get dressed nicely and put makeup on before I leave the house, but it is hot, and humid, and there are a lot of hills here and my bike only has three gears. least I try, right?

I do NOT wear a helmet. I also do NOT ride my bike in the street, EVEN if there is a bike lane. Sorry, but I'm travelling with two small kids and there's half of Central America driving like they're being chased by INS WHILE talking on their cell phones on these roads. Not for me, no thanks. These kids have to live. If something happens to them who's going to change my diapers when I'm old? With those points being said, I am VERY careful. I use cross walks, give pedestrians the right of way, use hand signals and look both ways...twice and inform someone when I am passing them by saying on your left or right or by just ringing my bell at them until they move over. I also shoot daggers with my eyes to those dotes who pull their vehicles out into the crosswalk when I have the right of way. AGHHHHHHH! That makes me want to use language that my children need not learn. But hey, I was stupid(er) once too.

I live in a pretty bike friendly city with a lot of trails and I try to use them whenever possible to avoid the main roads. Sometimes I prefer the main roads for the sense of safety they provide as some of the trails are in wooded areas and don't seem all that safe to me, AHEM, Chandra Levy anyone? But overall, if there are a lot of other people out, I feel it is a pretty safe place to bike almost anywhere.

My kids are actually their happiest when riding in Hercules. I give them snacks and drinks and a couple toys and they can see the world and all the action it contains. Although you will notice in the pictures that the screen is up on Hercules, when I am cycling, I always put it down because you never know when your bike or a car or an act of God might kick up a small rock or piece of glass and them BOOM! another pirate in the family. And...OH OH OH, I am almost too excited to tell you this, but...we just ordered a harness and leash for our pet dove, Olive so that he can come with us on bike rides too. He thinks I'm his mate, which is another post entirely, but I feel bad leaving him all the time. Anyway, we'll see how that goes.

I'm going to leave you with the hand signals for cyclists...who knows if the drivers of cars even know the signals but it seems pretty obvious to me that when someone is on a bicycle and is pointing left, that they're probably going to turn left.


Amanda said...

Must get the strolling adapter!

I am so proud of you/impressed by you/amazed at you for all that you do with your girls and that bike! I whine and complain about a few hills and I wasn't even pulling my ONE child. You are a superhero on a bike. (Now, THAT'S a book idea!)

XOXOXO said...

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Nice share from you. Your story can be inspiration for us to start moving.