Sunday, February 27, 2011

My Father The Gardener

A while back, I asked a lovely gentleman (and he is a True Gentleman), that I am getting to know to write the story behind a wonderful picture that he shared on Flickr. His name is Dave (he goes by ColdIron on Flickr) and he works at Cycle City in Alameda, CA. Today, I found this in my in-box. All of us here at the blog would like to thank Dave from the bottom of our hearts for sending us such a wonderful and heartfelt story at a time when we really need it! I am quite sure you will enjoy it as much as we do.

Three generations on a Big Dummy at sunset
Three Generations On A Big Dummy!

If I asked you, Dear Cyclist, to talk about your fondest childhood memories, you would probably get all nostalgic and smile. You would definitely start talking about the important role bikes played in your youth.

You might talk about a special Christmas morning, when Santa left a shiny new bike under the tree for you. Your father cut his knuckles, and was up until 1 AM assembling it the night before, but he didn't ruin the surprise. You were on the good list, so as far as you knew, Kris Kringle delivered it while you slept. You might not remember anything else Santa brought for you that Christmas, but you'll never forget your first bike.

You might talk about the day your training wheels were removed. A two-wheeler never looked so intimidating. Dad (or mom!) chased you down the sidewalk, as you tentatively weaved back and forth, gradually building confidence and speed. You might show me the scar on your knee from one of the many spills you took that day. You were a little more grown-up when you went to bed that night. Your two-wheeler wasn't so intimidating anymore.

If you're under the age of thirty, you might tell me about the the trailer your Mom (or Dad!) would buckle you in to, and how trips to the park, grocery store, or preschool were bumpy and fun. There were toys and books and a little plastic container of Cheerios, and maybe even a sibling back there with you. Getting around in the trailer was better than being strapped in the back seat of the family car. You felt loved and safe in your little nylon cocoon, and your chauffeur always seemed to be in a good mood when you got to where you were going.

There are many more stories out there. They are all worth telling, and worth hearing. I encourage you, Dear Cyclist, to think back, and remember the highlights of your personal velo-history. Write them down, and share them with friends...especially the friends who don't ride. Take time to thank those who took time to make bikes part of your life.

I would like to share one, or some, of my fondest memories with you. I'll start by saying I never got a bike for Christmas. I learned to ride without the benefit of training wheels. I am too old to have ever been in a child trailer. My memories do, however, involve a bike. They also involve my father, Jim. He has always been 'Papa' to me.

Papa was ahead of his time. He was a stay-at-home dad back in the mid 70's. When International Harvester closed its San Leandro plant in the early 70's, Papa got laid off. He didn't fret, though. My mom had a job that paid well, so Papa didn't go back to work right away. He stayed home and took care of my older brother and me. My parents have always been frugal people, and my father streamlined the budget by keeping the '67 Chevy Impala parked, and chauffeuring my brother and me around on his '69 Schwinn Heavy-Duti. My brother straddled the paper-boy rated rear rack, and I sat side-saddle on the top tube. Before BMX was part of the American vocabulary, before you could buy a plaid top tube pad for your fixie, Papa fashioned a cushion for me from a carefully folded towel, and secured it with a length of rope. My perch was comfortable, and I could see the road ahead. Franklin, Lincoln, Washington, and Little John Parks were all a few minutes away. Papa would play basketball, and my brother and I would work up an appetite on the playground. Countless Summer days found the three of us getting around Alameda in this manner. I felt special and loved, sitting on that top tube, between my father's strong arms.

The school year was different. My brother went to a nearby school, and walked. Lum Elementary was almost 3 miles away, and I straddled the Heavy-Duti's rear rack while my father pedaled me to school for most of the 2nd and 3rd grades. I remember many foggy and cold mornings. The smell of the beach, the singing of birds. Crab Cove didn't yet exist, and the trail through that part of the beach was bumpy and unpaved. The bouncing and jostling I was subjected to appealed to my developing sense of adventure. No cars could be heard; the loudest sound was the bike's rubber rolling over the sand and gravel path. My memories of the paved streets between home and school are strangely absent.

I was unaware at the time, but I was getting an education in resourcefulness, innovation, and appropriate transportation. I don't think Papa was aware, at the time, but he was teaching me valuable life-skills. He had planted a seed in me.

I switched to Longfellow Elementary for the 4th grade. It was a 5 minute walk from my front door, so...I walked. Papa needed to go back to work, so my brother and I took to pedaling ourselves around. Papa's trusty old Schwinn was relegated to the balcony, and he rode it less and less. For very practical, unavoidable reasons, my days of being chauffeured by bike came to an end.

The seed that Papa planted sprouted and grew into a tree. That tree started to bear fruit. I continued to ride for fun and basic transportation. I got a mountain bike for my 12th birthday, and taught myself how to adjust my gears and brakes. I started commuting to work on my bike when I was 16. My first bike shop gig came when I was 20. I entered my first mountain bike race when I was 22 (crashed and bent my frame while in 2nd place...DNF!). I took a 6000 mile, 100 day solo cycle-tour of North America the Summer of my 28th year (that's a story for another time). I can't count the number and variety of characters I've met, and friends I've made, through cycling. That tree continues to bear fruit.

I hope you enjoyed my story, Dear Cyclist. It's my pleasure to share the fruit. If you enjoyed it, please don't thank me. Thank my father.

Papa, I am so very appreciative of your gardening skills. I am grateful beyond words for so many fond memories. Thank you.

Saturday, February 26, 2011


The beauty of having a cargo bike is its utility in a variety of situations. We are all familiar with the "normal" situations where cargo hauling capability is good, but here are a couple of alternates.

The Sun Is In My Eyes Situation that turns into The Nap Situation.


The Kid Is Bored So Give Him Your Camera Situation

Mom's Right Hand Man

One should always carry a Swiss Army style bike for what life has to offer you!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

me and my bike

when you ask for reader submissions, you get them! here's a video link from another reader and colleague of mine.

i have been off the bike blog interwebs for the past two weeks or so, so i apologize if it has already made the rounds....

via my colleagues in anti-oppression fun times y aquí

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

the sweetest thing

sent in by a reader and former classmate of mine:

"cupcake bike stand outside of a cupckae store of course. long beach."

cupcake bike rack

as that oh so wise movie, clueless, said back in the day it's "so sweet it's giving me a toothache." groans all around? yes, no? heehee.

as always, we love reader submissions!! especially right now when we're getting back into the swing of things, why not show us what you are made of?!

much love,

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

And We're Back!

We will be slow for awhile, but we are back! Who has a story for us out there? How is the snow going? Send us your stories to share with the group!

Toe Touch

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Stay Tuned

Change Your Life. Ride A Bike! will be on hiatus for the next week. In the meantime, check out what is happening at the Flickr group! We have people from all over the world showing us what bike life is like everywhere!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Beginning Of The End

Aaah, the 80's! A time of wisdom and modernity. When all lessons were wise and men's running shorts left little to the imagination. I can't help but wonder if this is part of why people stopped riding.

Is it just me, or do those old helmets look a lot like the training potties you use for toddlers?

Found via Imagine No Cars (when are you coming back?)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

three fer tuesday

this is the latest reader submission we've gotten from a friend who likes to take pictures of bikes while using other modes of transport (airports, trains, you get the idea).

the title of the email was simply, "blinkies."

this is found on caltrain, the commuter train that is similar to metro north or long island rail road over on that other coast. we are allowed to take bikes on caltrain and bungee them up to the railings as you see here. multi-modal transportation is totally the way to go.

thanks for submitting pictures as always!

do you have pictures you want to send into the site? please email us or join our flickr group!

Monday, February 7, 2011


Should I ever be hit by a car I am fairly certain it will be either-

a) A car share car. The people who use them do not drive enough to be good at it and always seem to be on their cell phones because they are lost.

b) The Department of Public Works. They know they will never be fired for anything and think they own everything.

c) A taxi. Click on the picture for the back story.

Driving Tips For Taxi Drivers

This isn't to say I couldn't be hit by a bus or minivan or street sweeper, only that in my observation of vehicles that nearly hit me, these are the three types that stick out.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Baby, It's Cold Outside!

I really can't stay

Ice beard.
Ice Beard by Rudyluciani

but baby, it's cold outside!

I've got to go away

Cold Weekend Ride
Cold Weekend Ride by spiderleggreen

Oh, Baby, it's cold outside.

I simply must go.

no bike lanes on harbord
No Bike Lane On Harbord by Happy D

But Baby, it's cold outside.

The answer is, no!

Trees + Sharrow = Awesome
Tree + Sharrow = Awesome by gregraisman

Oooh, Baby, it's cold outside!

I've got to go home.

Wool Knitted Hat, Jigsaw Sweater
Wool Knitted Hat, Jigsaw Sweater by Lovely Bicycle!

Oh, Baby, you'll freeze out there!

Aerial Winter Bicycle 02
Aerial Winter Mikael Colville -Andersen

Screw it! Go ride!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Bike Party- The Sequel

Tonight. Civic Center. Rolling out at 8:00. Here for details. Come on out and show your bike love! The M's and I will be present.

Blurry San Francisco

A great deal of what San Francisco has to offer is in this picture.

Everything SF

The SF experience can leave you seeing like this sometimes, too.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Can You Spot Me?

Meli brought my attention to these cute, reflective buttons the other day.

I believe Meli likes the hearts

The best thing is they are reflective, cute and you can put them anywhere- a jacket, a messenger bag, the back cuff of your trousers...and they are made by hand which puts it over the top!

Unfortunately, Spot Me does not ship outside of the UK. Perhaps one of you UK readers could try them out and let us know what you think. We all love reflective stuff here at the blog!

Too Freaking Cute!

While we bang on about it, the kids just get it and go.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A Little More Thinking Out Loud

We are all aware of the less than optimally well behaved bicyclist. Most know them by the term, a term I loath, "the Scofflaw". We see them, or perhaps you see me, failing to stop at every sign or riding on a sidewalk or taking the wrong way on a one way street... and we instantly assume that that rider thinks they are "entitled", another word I loath for its inappropriate overuse. For the most part, very few of us out here in the world look at those riders and think "if this street were better designed there would be no need to run that light/ride on that sidewalk/go the wrong way..."

A Situation Fraught With Opinions

Just as all of us feel stressed out, harried and late the second we hit the freeway in our cars, we also feel vulnerable, threatened and squeezed when we take to the poor excuse for public space we call the streets and roads of the United States on our bicycles. While there are many people out there who feel that the law is in place to keep us "safe", it is my opinion that, for the most part, the law is there to prevent us from behaving in our own best interests in environments that have developed in a way that prevents us from acting normally. So much of what we see is the result of adapted behavior to sub-optimal environments that all of us, regardless of transportation choice, are forced to survive in.

These thoughts came to me as I listened to the talk David Byrne gave at the 2010 TED conference on the influence of architecture on the development of music over the centuries. His feeling is the music developed as a result of the environment it was created in as opposed to humans first adapting the environment to our musical needs. As I listened it made me think of all the things in life that we do that are a result of our adaptation to the already built environment of the cities we live in. An example of this would be a city like San Francisco that has such a strong history of small, fully contained neighborhoods where you could walk to everything you needed- if the hills around you make it very difficult to walk or ride a horse/bike then you will make sure that your neighborhood has a market and a cobbler and a seamstress and a school... because it is just too hard to keep schlepping over the hill for every little thing. Our modern times have tried to superimpose a suburban, car based drive-through model on San Francisco since the 1950's and by just about every measure this has been a failure which we now all live with and have adapted to- up to, and including, the sub-optimal behavior of many bicyclists.

If Gregorian chanting came about in part due to the echoing nature of sound in grand cathedrals, then it isn't a stretch to say that people do seemingly odd things on bicycles because they can not pretend to be 40MPH delivery trucks racing to get across town. If we want those who ride bicycles to "behave" better than we have to give them an environment that encourages that behavior by making it easier and more convenient and a great deal safer to do so. Just as the Gregorian chant loses something when performed in an open air amphitheater, the urban cyclist loses something when they are forced to "share the road" with 30 ton buses and cab drivers who only know that time is money.

If I have not lost you to this point, perhaps you would like to hear the thoughts of Mr. Byrne yourself. Perhaps you will find some parallels of your own.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Seeing spots of red

Here are some nice shots, all of them including a dash of red to kick off a brand new month.
Have a great February everyone!

Col de Marocaz
 Col de Marocaz by Vélocia

Thank... by AmsterS@m - The Wicked Reflectah

Mario en Bullitt
Mario en Bullitt by Quiltro Elemento

Novi Sad 026
Novi Sad 026 by E-klasse2010

Faster! by ibikenz

Lone Parker
Lone Parker by vanw

Uber at Sublime
Uber at Sublime by Georgie_grrl
DSC_6900 by Giorgio Vianini

++ All images link back to its original credit/user via our flickr pool.