Friday, 6 November 2015

If My Kid Can

JahJ has been riding his bicycle on most of our commuting trips for about six months now. It's been an awkward and unexpected change from carrying him on my cargo bike since he makes up most of my bragging weight. I was getting used to the oohs, ahhs and congratulatory comments about carrying 2-3 big kids, their stuff and groceries. I still get noticed for doing something out of the mainstream ordinary, but it's being somewhat overshadowed by my kid's bike-commuting feats.

On Wednesday, I didn't have to work during the day and we were experiencing a perfect autumnal day for biking: not too cold, not too hot, not windy and no chance of rain. Instead of taking an hour or so using transit and walking to go to the "fun gymnastics" in Langford, I convinced JahJ to make the journey by bicycle. I figured it would take about the same amount of travel time, even with his pedaling speed. We layered up our clothes, packed some snacks and water bottles and set out for our 13.5-kilometer ride. I hadn't biked to Langford in a year because of a mental block: the route was too treacherous and unpleasant. If you look up routes to get to this part of our island, you'll be unimpressed by my definition of treacherous, especially since the newly paved E&N Trail keeps me off the main roads most of the time. At any rate, I knew that if my kid can bike there, so can I.

 A kilometer into our journey, I was a little sweaty and wanted to remove my fleece. The kids were comfortable, so I didn't interrupt our cadence. By km 5 Nae-J wanted to know if we'd arrived. Since we don't usually commute more than four kilometers, I told her we were a long ways off yet. The hill climb I was dreading the most, the impossible-to-top-don't-ask-me-life-questions-now Wale Rd was just ahead of us. "I'll walk a bit of this one", JahJ affirmed. I thought this was a solid plan, and knew that if my kid can, so can I. Slowly we crept up the incline and when we'd reached the top, I huffed and puffed the proudest thumbs up of the journey. "One thumb up to you too, Mom!" he beamed. I too was encouraged. We flew down the last hill to our destination, hurriedly threw our coats into the panniers and ran inside since we were five minutes late.

After a seemingly quick hour, the free play at the gym was over. We went to get our stuff and powered up on the juiciest grapes, the juiciest apples, the best hard-boiled eggs and the best-tasting water we'd ever had. JahJ agonized over the long ride home ahead of us. The skies had cleared and the sun was shining brighter but without the cloud cover, we were a little bit chilly. I knew that once our hearts started pumping a little faster, we would be warm enough to enjoy our ride home. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. I had to wrap Nae-J up with a fleece blanket and JahJ accepted my scarf, and homemade wool cuffs. He was still cold. I reminded him that if we kept moving, we would get home faster. But his arms and legs were still cold. We stopped at a grocery store to warm up. After the 23-minute break which included a chocolate-chip muffin and a banana as fuel-up, we hit the road again, hurrying to the hot chocolate at the end of the travel.

I can't say that I'd be up for doing this trek daily, but I am thankful that because my kid can bike to the furthest gymnastics place from our home, I can too. It was a trip filled with very few complaints on my part and the mental block of going to Langford is getting smaller. The kids will have to pack more layers to wear to ensure their comfort, particularly if the sun is going to be unpredictably sunshine-y. Since I've got one less passenger to carry, I have more room to pack their balaclavas, mitts, rain/wind breaking gear and boots. I don't want JahJ to have a reason to get back on my bike any time soon!

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.