Saturday, November 7, 2009

Teach Your Children Well

Do you have kids? If so, I bet you remember the last time you took a look at your precious angel and thought "do I really need to be with you today?" as they sprouted a second head and whined about whatever the hell it is they decided to whine about this time.

For myself, that was today. All day.

After running errands and grabbing a snack, I decided to tag along with James and Cameron. James just finished building Cameron a road bike and they wanted to go ride and play at the big empty parking lot at City College so Cameron could learn about his bike (which is very different from his every day bike).

I figured that a few acres of smooth pavement, free of cars and open for bicycle speeding would help contain the beast that Declan had decided to emulate for the last several hours. James loaded up the F.U.B. with his bike and Declan's and off we went.

James wanted to ride his Miyata around one last time before he turns it into a fixie (I know. You don't need to point out to me just how much opportunity there will be for teasing here).

While James taught Cameron the joy of the "brifter" and how to pedal with one leg (bonding),

I played with Declan.

There is a path that runs the length of the reservoir and leads nowhere. It has a great view and is one of those places a little kid can feel like they are having an adventure without any real danger of anything happening. I let him lead me up there so he could show me the stellar view of the motorcycle class taking place (as well as the McDonald's he has never been in but always tells me is his favorite).

When everyone was done, Declan was in a much better mood. He has been wanting to ride his bike on the street with us ever since we took off his training wheels. The streets in the neighborhood were unusually quiet and I had James with me to play sweeper so now seemed like the time.

After firm instructions to stay on my right side and a promise from him that he would listen, we started off.

This is an ironic picture to me. This is Phelan Ave. and it is currently one of the most contested streets in San Francisco in the battle for traffic calming and bicycle infrastructure. This is one of the things that has caused my neighborhood to be considered the least bike friendly neighborhood in San Francisco and my neighbors to be the most anti-bike.

I am very proud to say that this is the first City street that my 4 1/2 year old son has ridden on his very own bike.

Declan was great the whole ride home. He listened, he kept his eye open, he watched for cars and he made sure I stopped at the stop sign : ) We couldn't do this most days in my neighborhood, but I am glad we were able to do it today.

Get those kids on their bikes! They will thank you for it : )


  1. Geez...and here I am in SF for the weekend and I missed it! ;-)

  2. That picture on Phelan Ave is just so powerful. Wow!

  3. That is awesome. My daughter has started asking for a pink bike so she can ride like mommy. She is only 3 but I think it will be awesome to be able to take her out on rides on her own power.

  4. Thank you so much for sharing this, I found it a really powerful read. Great pics too - and oh my god, why is that road contested? Here in the UK we'd call that a motorway (but then our cars are so small they'd fall down the gaps in your drain grills)
    I like to think you and your son were striking one in the eye for the cyclists

  5. he is a big boy now :) yay declan!

  6. great post! i loved every bit of it, the emotions, the pictures and the write-up.

    we need to get all of our kids on bikes or skates or something other than video games and tv.

    mine does well when she rides with me though as she is getting older now, i hear some whining also.

    i grew up with no tv or video games --- thank goodness!

    i am happy to ride my bike instead of slouching on the couch, anytime!

    looks like you guys are doing great!

    happy trails to y'all.

    peace :)

  7. Mark- in this shot the street is very, very quiet because it is late on a Saturday afternoon. On weekdays every parking space is taken, it is bumper to bumper traffic and there are hundreds and hundreds of pedestrians as the largest (I think) community college in the US is on the right and a very large high school is on the left. The road its self is a short cut to the freeway and the neighborhood will not accept being "slowed down" through it (to the estimated tune of 30 seconds!). No one wants to reduce parking or lanes to create a more safe environment for pedestrians or cyclists. The sad thing is that this is part of a corridor that both the community college and the state university want to use as a pathway between the two campuses, even though the CC is one of those fighting the changes.

    I don't want to thumb my nose at anyone, but I would like them to see that there is another way and this is what it could look like.

    KT- They are lovely gloves. Now you just have to show up for coffee so I can give you money for them! : )

    Cosmo- It is super cool to have them next to you. I have some footage I need to put up of Declan's first bike lane ride in the (car free) park.

    anna- he looks so small compared to everything else : )

  8. Chandra- thank you! We get plenty of complaining and whining. I just refuse to give in : ) My oldest boy can not have a Driver's License so a bike is more meaningful to him. The other two... I have to be more patient with : )

  9. Methinks mommy needs to have her head examined for putting her 4 1/2 year old child on a street shared with cars(1st photo), with nary a bike lane in site, and all to make a 'political point'. The little tyke now thinks streets are safe for children his age, and might even decide to go it alone, when he gets a bit older (6) and mommy isnt looking.

  10. Anon- in the climate that is the current state of cycling and parenting in the US it is a political statement every time any of my kids get on a bike. I am sure you could find all kinds of things wrong with my 10 year old riding to the library by herself or my 15 year old using his bike to ride home from a friend's house at night. I am sure that all sorts of things could be found wrong with the way I raise my children as I do not raise them in a bubble but in the environment they live in.

    Isn't it interesting that helping children learn about their limits has become strange?

  11. Adrienne- what I think is strange is for you to compare your 10 or 15 year old riding their bike to your 4 1/2 year old, as if they have the same level of critical thinking skills, or maturity, when clearly they do not. As far as it being a political statement everytime your kids get on a bike, dont be silly. Kids have been getting on bikes for a hundred years without it being a politcal statement.It becomes a political statement when YOU choose to put YOUR toddler on a bike on 'one of the most contentious streets.... in one of the most anti- bike neighborhoods, with the most anti-bike neighbors'.
    As far as an appropriate biking environment for a toddler, no , its not a bubble. Its a park, a protected bikepath, or a sidewalk.

  12. I find it interesting that you make assumptions about the "danger" my son is in in these pictures. All but the last picture are taken from behind, meaning that an adult, my son's father, is behind us protecting us from cars from behind. You assume I put my son in a street with cars whizzing by at 40 MPH when in fact we were passed by 2 cars the whole way home,each of whom gave us wide berth because they saw my husband and I taking up the lane to buffer our child. When we came to a place where there was more activity than was safe, Declan moved to the sidewalk.

    If having my children on bicycles was not political then you would not make comments assuming danger. You would not jump to a conclusion about my motivations or my ability to judge the safety and appropriateness of any situation I put myself or my children in.

    Now, as I suspect that you are most likely someone from my terribly bike unfriendly neighborhood, next time you see me, make sure to wave and say hello! I am currently organizing a food pantry at my daughter's school and we need volunteers. You will have the chance to see my kids and how they are raised and then you can make informed statements about how I raise them and my motivations for sharing some of those stories.

  13. I am so glad your husband is strong enough to 'protect' you and your son from two ton cars. How lucky you are. Most mortals lose those battles with cars.
    Btw, Im not from your terribly bike unfreindly neighborhood,or even your state. I do however, ride a bike.

  14. @Adrienne Thanks for the clarification as to why the street is contentious. If, as you explained, there are 2 major education establishments either side of the road surely this should be a 20mph MAX limit area and there should be lots of traffic calming measures - not for the cyclists but at least for the kids crossing the road every day trying to get to school?! What a sad state of affairs it must be in it's current format.

    As for Anon, I think it's pretty mean-spirited to post anonymously on someone's blog and criticize the way they raise their children. I think Adrienne has demonstrated that she was careful and considerate of her surroundings in the post and that she is teaching her children well. What would you prefer? That she drives them everywhere in a car instead?

    As she said, get your kids on their bikes - they WILL thank you for it!

    Keep peddlin' Adrienne - I think your post and your actions rocked.

  15. I have ridden with Adrienne and her family several times and am impressed with how she and James have raised their children to be socially conscious, personable, careful, lucid and aware. I only wish I could say the same of my brother's 17 and 20 year olds who act as if they haven't a clue of how to live in their own environment due to over protection. Ride on, Adrienne. Really enjoyed this piece.

  16. Mark- It is very sad to see people drive through my neighborhood everyday- a neighborhood that has 6 schools and 3 preschools in it. It is even more sad to know that people are willing to let it be the way it is because they are afraid of being inconvenienced. There is much work to do.

    Eric- now if I could just get them to clean their room : )

  17. dear adrienne,

    you rock. that's all there is to it.

    all the best,