Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Car Free, Week 3

We are now solidly into our third week of going car-free.

We took the BART to our date a couple of weekends ago, which was fine. On the way back, a crowd of intoxicated twenty-somethings joined our car, and that was a bit annoying. We also got off a stop early and had to do some extra walking to the bus stop. But even if we weren't car-free, the BART would have been on our list of options. I have a friend who works in the city and she said that going in town on a Saturday evening can be difficult with traffic and parking and she said she'd recommend the BART even if we had a car.

The kids still love the buses. I have run into the small problem of time: I have a rule that I don't go anywhere unless we'll be at the destination longer than the time the round-trip commute takes. I think it's a reasonable rule. Unfortunately, the church playgroup last week was at a destination that would have been 2 hours of travel (hour there, hour back) for only an hour and a half of play. So we didn't go. If it were any of my other playgroups, we would have gone, because normally people stay 3-4 hours. It's actually a bit of a culture shock to go to a playgroup where people start leaving only an hour and a half into it! That's when the conversation is just getting started! Oh well. Mormons are strange like that.

And I'd like to give a few paragraphs to the awesomeness of biking in Berkeley. I've been regularly biking to Berkeley since January. It was my goal that I would either bike the kids some place for more than 30 minutes or run for 30 minutes a day. Most of the parks we go to in Berkeley are about 3 miles away, so that's 20-30 minutes of biking depending on lights, wind, and my energy, giving a round trip of 40-60 minutes of cardio. I'm no longer jogging because it was too hard to get back into it after the break I took during my morning sickness time, but I am keeping up the biking.

Berkeley has bike trails and streets labelled "Bicycle Boulevard" that are set up to accomodate cyclists. For example, California Street is a "Bicycle Boulevard," and at fairly regular intervals, there are roundabouts. I assume the purpose of the roundabouts is to discourage cars from driving on that street and to use the parallel Sacramento Street instead. This means that while you do run into cars on California Street, it's mostly empty and available for cyclists. There are also streets, like West Street, which are solely pedestrian and bicycle traffic. When you use Google Maps to plan a bicycle route, it takes into account the "Bicycle Boulevards" and trails and will suggest routes away from main roads like University. I find it very handy.

Drivers are mostly courteous to cyclists. I have had some run-ins with drivers, though. One felt like he had to pull over and give me a lecture on keeping my kids safe in a trailer (they had helmets, I stay as far to the right as possible, and were buckled well, not sure what his issue was). Also, interestingly on that same street, I had a vehicle full of people honk and yell at me yesterday. I was on the left of the lane at a red light, waiting for it to change so I could turn left. I waved the car by me, smiling since they were turning right, but all the while they were telling me to "Get on the sidewalk!" and "Since when is that a car?" Um... my bike is treated like a vehicle on the streets just like your car. See, I'm stopped at the light and everything! I just kept smiling and waved them on, secretly hoping that when thy got to their destination and complained about that annoying cyclist in the street, someone would correct them, "Cyclists are supposed to be in the streets and follow the same rules as cars." One can only hope.

I'll admit I don't always make full stops at stop signs though. I used to be really annoyed over cyclists who didn't do that but now I understand. If I had to make a full stop for every stop sign and regain my momentum with 65 pounds of children on a single-speed bike at every stop sign? I'd die of exhaustion and my legs would give out. I do slow down a lot and am ready to stop if needed- I have kids with me, after all. And I never run red lights. Ever. It's just when I'm on a quieter street and can see no one is coming for over half a mile away, I'll just slow down a bit and keep going.

I do find it annoying when I stop at a sign because another vehicle is at the intersection and then they wave me by first. I made a full stop for you! Take your turn! I know they are just trying to be nice, but it makes me a little self conscious: now I have to bring my bike back up to speed from a stopped position while they wait for me to take a turn that's not mine. I feel very watched.

But I do love riding my bike. I love the cool breezes and using my own legs to get myself somewhere. I'm probably the slowest rider in Berkeley; all the other cyclists pass me. It's fun: I kind of feel like I'm in an anime film or show and I ought to dye my hair bright red. Not sure why. I just associate people who bike with anime. I need to ride with some Japanese rock playing or something. I'm not the only person who has noticed a lot of anime has bike riders, am I?


  1. I love it! Such a great glimpse into biking. Thanks for the info!

  2. Hey I have some questions about bike riding.

    First, how do you handle the shoe-free-ness while biking? Second, what's your plan for after baby #3 comes? Will you take a break from biking? Will you put one kid in a seat on the bike? What's the minimum age you'd take a baby on a bike? I've read not under a year, but it seems excessive.


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