Monday, May 23, 2011

Declan Storms The Castle

Every time I turn around the kids are ready to do something new. You would think I would be ready for this after so many years of kids, but it always catches me by surprise. With an unexpected day off from school it became apparent Declan had reached one of those points.

Declan is now just a bit too big for me to carry on the Bat. His height sets my balance off quite a bit and these days his knees end up under my butt. He likes using the pedaler because I do all the work when he is tired, I like it because he helps on hills. It can be difficult to park safely and it is heavy. The Metrofiets is always an option in these cases, but I wanted Declan to get some exercise and my knee is not ready for the extra weight, yet. We needed to get across town and there was only one option left, Declan would have to take his own bike!

Bike Lanes For All!

Our neighborhood is in no way street friendly for children (there are days when I wonder if it is safe for the adults) so we headed to the BART station on the sidewalk. I hate riding on the sidewalk, but you do what you have to.

Why Won't You Work

We took the train because we couldn't ride our bicycles into the Mission from our home (a ride of about a mile, all downhill). The City & County of San Francisco has deemed it necessary to separate the two neighborhoods with an under utilized, 6 lane, 45 MPH freeway with a dinky little bike lane on the side that is the bicycle infrastructure equivalent of throwing a toddler into a professional Roller Derby rink. Declan likes riding the train, anyway.

BART Commuter

Declan is an old pro when it comes to balancing his bicycle on a moving train. We didn't have to go far, just two stops. We will be using the BART system quite a bit this summer to get around the Bay Area with our bicycles as we try to visit some of the 70 state parks that have been slotted for permanent closure in September.

Just One In The Crowd

Once we hit the streets again, Declan blended in with the rest of the crowd. At this spot he was asking me if we were stopping for coffee (that's my boy!). As we were on a mission for dinner groceries, I decided to just push on.

Lock It Up

Declan is a lock pro. He takes it very seriously and I never have to worry about him forgetting to do it right. Of course, he thinks that if the bike thieves come along they will hit his totally awesome bike first.

Door Zone

After mastering the fine art of riding in the Door Zone (our lanes are just wide enough to give us a generous 8ish inches of door free space to ride in),

Never Too Young

Declan was given the opportunity to experience his first bike lane parker. I have decided that instead of a comprehensive bike route what we really have in San Francisco is an amazing extension of the airport's cell phone parking lot.

In spite of the obstacles put in our way, we really had a good, clear, safe ride. At times I was a bit over aware of the density of my fine City. In reality, we spent a lot of time like this

14th Street

free and clear. Declan kept telling me "I am nervous, but I like it!". I thought that summed it up pretty well for his first big inter-neighborhood adventure. He must feel awfully small when he is out there like that. He is used to being surrounded by the rest of the family, like he was today on the way to lunch.

Off For Lunch

So many more adventures for us this summer! All of the kids will get to try something new on their bicycles- a little camping, some bike/train trips outside of the Bay Area... who knows? I can't wait!


  1. Congratulations Declan! What a rush that must have been. Last July, my son and his wife moved to San Francisco. They live at Broderick and Lombard, and he bike/BART commutes across the bay to Oakland where he teaches HS Math. My wife and I visited them last November, and he and I rode bikes across the GG Bridge to Sausalito, then took the Ferry back to SF, where he showed me his bike commute route as we rode back to their apartment. Even I, a long-time bike commuter, was a little bit intimidated by the Urban Bike experience.
    Well done, Declan, well done indeed!


  2. If I had known that watching kids develop and grow would be something I would look back on with such fondness I would have paid more attention.
    Squeeze everything you can from these years. You will not regret it.

  3. 70 state parks to be permanently closed ?

    are these all in the SF area alone ?

  4. The very first sentense of this post pretty much sums up why I am committed to bicycling as my primary form of transportation. Would that we all continue to be ready to try something new, regardless of our age. Rock on, Declan!

  5. Great photo essay. Declan is so self-assured and poised! It's my fond hope that we'll improve San Francisco bicycle infrastructure to the point kids really can ride in the city without their parents constantly holding their breath in fear. Even when I bike with my 13 year old, I constantly worry ("that person's pulling out--watch out", "we have to go around that double-parked car","watch your tires crossing these Muni tracks", "wait back here for that person turning right or he'll clobber you" etc.) Even for adults, city biking is complex and there's a lot to negotiate.

  6. Jim- I live near Glen Park and bike/BART communted to and from Richmond for years. It was a great commute! I really enjoyed it.

    OF- I think the kids are sick of me documenting their lives : ).

    Anon- 70 state parks throughout California, most of them in Northern Ca.

    SRAB- the more you bike, the younger you feel!

    Karen- it has taken a lot of breathing and trust to get to where we are. The funny thing is, my younger kids are the better riders. It is my 16 yo son who makes me crazy!

  7. What a wonderful adventure! I can't think of a better service to the next generation than teaching your kids well and setting a good example. Declan seems very levelheaded and awesome :-)

  8. Awwww Declan is just the cutest kid!! :-)

    I ride with my 8 year old son everyday here in London, UK. And what can so easily be a stressed out and dangerous ride for any parent cycling with a child (especially on these good ol' London streets!) becomes such a wonderful moment as you watch your son handle the "streets" like a pro: I'm always in that state of welling up with pride when we cycle to school, swimming, skateboard park (which is a good few miles away), as I watch him handle evrything that our roads throw at him. He too is master over his own locks and revels in the idea that he's making life oh so difficult for "those thieves".

    Your photos bring it all home and I'm so proud of and for your son - a proud moment for any parent, I think.

  9. This post was so inspiring! I look forward to taking my own little bike loving boy out on the streets on his own bike soon. Thanks!

  10. Thank you for putting together such an inspiring piece. I'm regularly told it's impossible for children to do... well, anything. This article beautifully illustrates how capable they are and shows how things can be. I'll be forwarding it to all my friends :)

    It also shows how important safe, pleasant, segregated bike-infrastructure is. My route to work is along Edinburgh's wonderful canal - it takes longer each day, having to look at all the ducklings, swallows and signets, hiding in the reeds! I wish more people had such nice routes to work :D