Thursday, 24 September 2015

Grocery Haul

One of the first questions that people usually ask us when they discover we don't own a car is how we do groceries. The answer is "similar to how we did when we had a car. We make a list, buy our goods and bring them home." The simplest way to do this is weekly and with four panniers. We'll sometimes do a mini-shop mid-week to top up on our cravings, and we'll definitely do a huge "Costco-size" trip every 5-6 weeks.

This week there's a Case Lot Sale at my favorite grocery store. In an effort to be frugal and food-smart, I made a list and tallied up what I was going to buy. It seems my wallet was bigger than my bike! I admit that this was quite a large purchase to make with only one bike. I was confident that I could get this $233 purchase to our place solo, without problem. JahJ had his (pannier-less) bike and Nae-J would hold on to the bags that the bungee cords couldn't get to.

As I was Tetris-ing the largest items in first (a 50 pound bag of oats on the Hooptie, two boxes of a dozen almond milk tetra packs), a stranger stopped to congratulate me. "I've only got 2.5 kilometers to get home, I can do this" I reassured him and myself. Another stranger stopped and stared. "Are you okay?" she asked. I was beginning to worry that my purchase may have been way too large. Jose was at his Jiu-Jitsu class and my favorite neighbour was at work. I didn't have a back-up plan. The lady offered to drive my groceries home if I didn't have too far to go. I accepted the offer without thinking of what could go wrong. We loaded the oats and produce in her van, I gave her my address and directions and off she went.

The skeptic in me showed up just in time to get her license plate number. JahJ and I biked home leisurely with my panniers over full of staples. Nae-J only had to hold on the the bag containing our library books. She was worried that the van would get home before us with the kiwis that she now had a craving for. I pedaled a little faster. I got home before the van and set up an unpacking location in the driveway. Three minutes later, the van showed up and I could breathe easy again. Rebecca hadn't run off with half my grocery haul and she was more than happy to help us unload. She mentioned that she sometimes feels that as a single person in a van she should be helping people by offering them or their groceries a ride home. I was her first and it worked out beautifully. The only thing that would have eased my cynic would have been a phone number to track her down if something had come up.

If you're looking to replace a grocery-hauling car trip with an empowering grocery-hauling bike trip, be sure to do it with at least two panniers per hundred dollars. Or, you know, find a gracious stranger who will bail you out!

Monday, 16 March 2015

A Day of Family Cycling

Of the last few leisure demonstration rides I've planned, I haven't succeeded in picking a meeting location that isn't confusing, nor have I been able to be on time. Try as I may, it seems lazy Sunday morning tempo is our everyday tempo. For the most part, we've adjusted our schedule and expectations to accommodate our lifestyle... for the most part!

Hastily, I changed out of my pjs and into my uniform: leggings, a tank top and a long sleeve T-shirt. I found my cowl and my trustee pink hoodie and rushed my kids down the stairs. For a person who woke up a tad before dawn, you'd think I wouldn't be late to an 11:30am meet-up! I spotted a friend cycling past our home, but since JahJ was riding, we weren't able to catch up with them before getting to the Gorge Vale Automotive parking lot.

While Kat and I exchanged pleasantries, we established that our spouses took our kids to a mutual friends' birthday party. Both sets of kids were feeling outgoing and got out of their family bikes to catch up, as best pals would. About a dozen parents had said they were coming on the demonstration family ride to promote the need for a safer Tillicum road. I was holding my breath for at least three bikes when Ashley sent me a text saying she was on her way. My new expectation was four.

One by one, friends arrived by the tire pump where we were congregating. Each parent was well prepared for a typical Victoria weather day, expecting a drizzle of rain, a cool breeze from the Gorge and some sun rays poking out of the clouds. After a "Bikes Belong!" chant and picture, a total of eight passengers and nine people pedaling took the lane from Craigflower Road to just past Burnside Road. One child kept shouting "Bikes Belong!", Nae-J waved her balloons and JahJ asked me to exclaim "Bikes Away!" as a superhero would before taking off.

Along the way we picked up two more pedalers, each carrying two passengers. We made quite the procession to Hampton Park. It was a breeze to bike on the bridge, taking the lane without being intimidated by the cars that slowed down to gawk at us. When we got to the park, we parked our vehicles and all the kids jumped on to the playground. Sometimes they would ask for snacks or a drink, and then it was time for others to be on their way. I encouraged Nathan to take his kids to the next appointment by bike, assuring him that his errands were all just a block off from the Galloping Goose. Wendy and Trish left together, heading back along the quieter side streets. Lyndze and I bit the bullet and rode on Tillicum together. It's amazing how much more confident I feel with another person riding with me on the treacherous bridge!

I went back to Hampton Park on my own to spend the rest of the afternoon hanging out with friends. After some soccer playing, frisbee throwing, and general tuckering out of the children, five of us loaded our bikes and headed to the "ice cream store". On these community bike rides, it's not uncommon to try to fit as many bikes as possible into one parking spot. Today was no different- five bikes carrying twelve people in one stall!

The group split and headed home, via another "ice cream store". Hilary and I took the newly renovated Craigflower Bridge for the first time since it opened to motor-vehicle traffic. It was such a pleasure! Engineers, take note and please replicate and/or improve on this design! The bike line merges bikes into an elevated separate section of the bridge for about 400 meters. Though the bike lane is not decidedly separated from the walking lane, there is ample room for both modes of transportation without one feeling more vulnerable than the other.


We rode to Banfield park on the newly paved and open-for-use E & N Trail. Since it was nearing the end of the day, the trail was quiet as we enjoyed the view of the lighthouse at Fort Rodd Hill and the cranes on the ship yard. We spent a good hour playing superheroes and royalty before parting ways to head home, for real.

 All in all, it was a fantastic day of family cycling. Having spent my day off biking with other parents and kids, I feel as though today was a kick-off of the year's cycling season. Slow-hasty start to the day, and slow riding with JahJ reminded me of how much fun simple things like traveling on my bicycle from A to B to C to A can be.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Demonstration Family Ride 2 - We Are Safe

Just a quick note to remind you that we are still on for the second Demonstration Family Ride on Monday, March 16 at 11:30. We are meeting in the parking lot of Gorge Vale Automotive and riding on Tillicum Rd to Hampton Park.

The purpose of this ride is multi-fold. First, I want to show onlookers that biking with kids is possible, safe and fun. Second, I want to show politicians and engineers that Tillicum Rd needs a make over. This road isn't easy to bike on without a crowd that takes the lane. Ideally, there would be bike lanes with a physical separation from motor-vehicle traffic. Third, I want to bike with friends, and chat about other road treatments that can be done. Too many adults bike on the sidewalk along the more uneasy stretched of the road. Many more people would hop on their bike to the corner store, to the neighbourhood pub, to the nature playgrounds nearby if there were a more pleasant route to take. Fourth, I want to chill at the playground to catch up with new friends and old while our kids burn some energy running around.

If you aren't able to ride with us, please consider joining up at Hampton Park at noon. I'm hoping the sun will come out and we can enjoy the afternoon together outside.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Winter Bike to Work Day

Somewhere in North America it is the dead of winter, the ground is covered in feet of snow, roads are filled with dirty slush splashing around. There's probably a blizzard preventing an airplane from taking off on time. Parents are encouraging their kids to pee one last time before bundling their precious cargo up for the trek to school. Some people have the luxury of pressing a button to preheat their car and defrost their windows. I know that I don't control the weather, and it seems silly to brag about it. But that doesn't stop me! Friday's forecast in Victoria calls for a high of 12 degrees Celcius with a high probability of rain. I trust the sun will peek out and ensure that my ride to work is dry. I'll be sure to wear my contact lenses and a brimmed helmet to prevent a second face shower. Really, though, I'll take a bit of wet over what my Mainland counterparts are weathering.

Friday February 13 was my first Winter Bike to Work Day and I'm thrilled that it looked a lot like many other Bike to Work Days! Since I don't work the 9 to 5 daily grind, I didn't get to enjoy the coffee and treats offered by the Bike to Work Week Society. I'll be sure to stop by a Celebration Station in the spring, though, since I like getting credit for daily bike rides, and a chance to win prizes.

What I thought was snow was soap bubbles. I guess a neighbour was washing her car.