Friday, May 25, 2012

Jonah rides a bike! Nathaniel walks!

Jonah rode a bike for the first time today-- and he just turned 3 last month! I'm so proud :) Kudos also to his older siblings who decided to teach him and to the whole idea of balance bikes. Jonah has been tootling around for some time on a balance bike on our little bit of backyard concrete. I'm totally convinced they are a better way to teach bike riding than using training wheels.
Also of (perhaps more important) note is that, last night, Nathaniel took his first steps. Walking, biking... My littlest are growing up!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Busy biking weekend

This past weekend was full of biking. Saturday morning, Jeremy and Joshua headed (on bike + trailer bike) to Joshua's soccer game and the grocery store. The rest of the crew and I headed out to Sunnyvale's Family Fun bike ride. It was a fun event-- a pleasant 3.5 mile ride beginning and ending at a park with snacks afterward.
All decked out in yellow Walk and Roll T-shirts.

Some of the bikes. We were the only ones with a  bakfiets.

The ride! Great photo, Joey!
Later that afternoon, the girls and I headed to our church for a mother/daughter tea party. I enjoyed the time with them separate from our other children.

After the tea party. Note the pretty orange flowers (in the water bottle holder) that we got to take home,
Soon after getting home, Jeremy rode out on his own bike back to the church to take care of some weekly bulletin printing responsibilities.

Sunday morning-- in a bit of a rush-- we headed off to church. Afterwards, we rode four miles farther to stop by a friend's baby shower. (Sorry no photos for that day... too slow getting photos off my full camera card).

The weather was beautiful all weekend. I loved the things that we did, the people that we spent time with, and the large amount of quality time (a few hours-- up to 30 miles of riding) spent with family members getting where we wanted to be.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Bike to Work Day and Stopped by a Cop

Today (well, last Thursday... now that I'm finally getting around to finishing this post), was "Bike to Work Day". For the past few years, the big kids have really looked forward to this day. They leave for school/work early, and Jeremy leads them on a circuitous route with lots of stops at "energizer stations" where there are breakfast treats and bike goodies. This year, I stopped (or went out of our way, really) to stop at a couple of "energizer stations" on the way to preschool drop-off with the three littles. We had bagels and juice and Odwalla bars and chatted with others about bikes-- including how riding a recumbent is likely similar to riding a bakfiets (possibly?). I also chatted with a woman riding a black, very Dutch bike. She explained she'd imported it from Europe. It fit right in with the bakfiets.

Here's Jeremy and the school kids heading out...

And me and the three littles a little while later...

Eating snacks at Apple headquarters...

After dropping Joey off at preschool, Jonah, Nat, and I headed on our bakfiets toward the local train station. We had the morning free and Jonah wanted to watch trains. It sounded good to me. A block from preschool, a police officer stopped us (or was waiting for us, really) and informed me that "what you are doing [riding my bakfiets with helmeted kids in it?] is totally illegal". Uh? That immediately put me on the defensive and I began pumping out questions (Why is a child in a rear bike seat legal, but not up front?, What laws was I breaking, exactly?, etc.).  I left with a "warning" (about doing what, I'm still not totally sure) and an index card with a few sections of vehicle code and municipal code to look up. I left the officer with my name, email, and the web address, since after extended discussion, she conceded that she had never seen such a bike and would get back to me (about the legality of what I was doing, I assumed). We went on our way to the train station, me feeling like some (very slow-moving) rebel outlaw.

Later that afternoon, the officer did email me back with sections of the California vehicle code she thought were "applicable" to me and my bike. The relevant codes, in her opinion-- with her emphasis-- were:

21204.  (a) A person operating a bicycle upon a highway shall not ride other than upon or astride a permanent and regular seat attached thereto, unless the bicycle was designed by the manufacturer to be ridden without a seat.
(b) An operator shall not allow a person riding as a passenger, and a person shall not ride as a passenger, on a bicycle upon a highway other than upon or astride a separate seat attached thereto. If the passenger is four years of age or younger, or weighs 40 pounds or less, the seat shall have adequate provision for retaining the passenger in place and for protecting the passenger from the moving parts of the bicycle.

So, I'd say that as long as the kids are buckled on the bench or into a carseat attached to the bike, I have nothing to fear. And... all the kids-- even the baby in the carseat-- must be wearing a helmet (that's a well-known California law)-- which they were, even though I can't see how a helmet would help a child securely fastened in a carseat. But that's a whole other topic to explore...

After a few days of reflection and still riding with the kids, I guess what unsettles me the most is the sense that my efforts to bicycle my young children around appeared to be unwelcome in my city. How about being stopped with the words, "I've never seen a bike like yours before. Can we discuss whether it is legal or not?"?. I assume my encounter is an isolated incident and in my email communication with the officer, her attitude seemed changed. She actually contacted our local chapter of SafeKids and discussed with them safety issues related to biking with children, as well as did a little research on her own. Even though I may or may not agree with the safety opinions she passed on to me, I appreciate her efforts and hope to somehow turn my negative experience into something more positive. (A show-and-tell with the bakfiets at the police station, anyone?) As I'm not usually an outspoken or a loud voice in political/social/advocacy issues, I'm not quite sure how to do this. But I'll see what I can do. Or maybe I could just convince all of my friends and neighbors to buy bakfietsen too... And then everyone would know what they were.

Alright, enough for tonight.