Monday, November 24, 2008

A Little Detour

The weather gave us a break today – a mere two degrees below freezing for this morning’s roll in to school and a nearly normal 45F for the afternoon trip home. We decided to visit our duck friends in the park along the way home.

The Bridge on the River Quack

Cold Duck Time

Take it to the bridge

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The road ahead

The road ahead is looking smoother for bicycles in Philadelphia and the surrounding area, according to recent posts by the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia. Here are a few highlights: (read more details on the BCGP blog)

  • Bicycling has increased by 104% since 2005 in Center City and West Philadelphia (location of the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University, among others), much faster than in previous years. The Coalition conducted bicycle counts at a number of major intersections and bridges and has released a report showing the results.

  • A whopping $31 million in funding has been committed to the Chester Valley Trail in the suburbs west of Philadelphia. This trail will eventually extend from Exton to Norristown, where it will connect with the wonderful Schuylkill River Trail leading to Philadelphia. More trails mean more bike commuting possibilities, in addition to recreation.

  • The esteemed Danish architect Jan Gehl will be giving his presentation, “Public Spaces, Public Life” in Philadelphia on December 5, 2008. He is an Urban Design Consultant and Professor of Urban Design at the School of Architecture in Copenhagen. I hope all the right ears will be in the room taking notes on how to “Copenhagenize” the Philadelphia area.

Thanks to the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia for keeping us informed and working hard for better bike facilities in the area.

Friday, November 21, 2008

It's a beautiful morning for a bike ride!

Don't you agree? My daughter didn't, unfortunately. I need to be more firm. Another chance of snow predicted for next week...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Good things come to those who bike

This is National Education Week, and our school has planned many activities involving the parents. There are opportunities to observe a lesson in your child’s classroom, or join them for a special event, such as today’s Thanksgiving Lunch in the cafeteria. With parents coming and going to school throughout the week, parking is scarce at all times of the day, not just the usual drop-off and pick-up times. Naturally, I chose to ride my bike to today’s lunch date. When you have a terrible habit of always running late, it doesn’t make sense to waste time looking for a parking spot and walking blocks to school when there is an empty bike rack waiting for you just outside the door. The ride to lunch was a special treat itself because a snow shower kicked up just as I got on my bike. The unseasonably cold weather has been hovering just above and below freezing all week, with winds adding an extra bite, but today was calm and the pedaling kept me warm. It was exhilarating to be on my bike, riding amidst the snowflakes, instead of sitting in my car watching them die on the windshield.

Dead snowflakes

The kids were disappointed that the snow had stopped during lunch, but as they went out for recess, the snowflakes magically reappeared. My daughter and her friends held their breath while trying to get a close look at the beautiful crystals on their coats and gloves.

Live snowflakes

They waved as I rode away from the playground, and I could tell my daughter regretted taking the bus today after arguing that it was “too cold to ride our bikes”. I think we’ll both be hoping for more snow tomorrow.

Monday, November 17, 2008

One more reason to ride

Studies have shown that riding a bicycle improves your mood. It can also improve a bad hair day. That has been my experience since rediscovering the bike this year, so I made it my little motto when I started this blog (see right side). Apparently Farrah Fawcett knew that 30 years ago (1978):

*Individual results may vary. Mine sure did.
*Be sure to check with your life insurance agent before starting any new hair treatment.
*Side effects may include, but are not limited to, frizz, flyaways, and a reduction in the use of hairdryers.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Fend For Yourself

It amazes me how few bikes are sold in the US with fenders (mudguards) included. Bikes with fenders used to be thought of as “nerdy” in this country where bikes are considered sports equipment. However, this attitude appears to be changing, most likely due to the vintage bicycle trend and the increase in commuting by bike. Have a look at these two beauties now offered by Fuji Bikes:

Men's Cambridge

Ladies' Cambridge

Notice the fenders – perhaps influenced by the Danish bike designer Sögreni? After riding a fenderless mountain bike for a few years, I was determined that my new bike would have fenders, yet the bike I ultimately chose did not come with fenders. By all accounts, SKS fenders are the best quality and easy to install, so I chose a pair in black and added them to my bike with no trouble. (Well, except for the fact that the stays extended past the wheels by about three inches, which meant I had to buy bolt cutters to chop off the excess.) I love the subtle stripes below the finish.

My daughter chose her bike, the Jamis Capri 24, for its curvy, retro style and its fenders.

What girl wants to arrive at school with a spatter stripe up her back? Not mine. She couldn’t wait to ride through her first puddle. Straight through it and – oh dear, back spatter! Seems the rear fender comes up short. Didn’t they test it?? She quickly learned to avoid puddles, although the fender did protect her from lightly wet roads. Even that protection didn’t last long, however. One day last month the rear fender fell off during our ride home from school. It had broken off like a soda can pull-tab through the hole where it was bolted to the frame.

Not too impressive after only 8 months of regular but careful use. I wrote to the customer service department on the manufacturer’s website, but so far haven’t had a reply after almost a month. Even less impressive. Moral of this story: If you want the job done right, do it yourself. I’m glad I did.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Rainy Day Remedy

Cloudy with a chance of showers? Don’t forget your shower cap! Even if you forget to put it on your seat before it rains, you can always put it on afterwards. No one likes a soggy bottom. And what a bargain they are – we bought a package of three different colors for about $3 at the pharmacy.

You can even wear one as a lovely rain beret!

If you are a “serious cyclist” (what are you doing here?!), feel free to buy a real seat cover in serious black (Sirius Black!) from REI for about $15.
Dry Ride Seat Cover

But if you prefer not to take life so seriously, spend your $15 on these three shower caps instead (only $5 each at

Raspberry Beret

Little Devil


And don't forget to wear your swim goggles!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Pride goes before a fall; the lawsuit follows it.

I arrived at my daughter’s school yard this afternoon to find her little circle of friends taking turns riding her bike around the basketball court. This wasn’t the first time for most of them – it had become almost routine back in the spring before school ended. But her bike is the next size larger than the bikes her friends own, so the demand still exists. My daughter was obviously proud that they were so anxious to take her beloved bike for a spin before she left. I was happy to see the girls smiling as they circled the court, gaining speed at each corner, hair streaming behind them… which reminded me that they weren’t wearing helmets (we stopped sharing the helmet after head lice enrolled in our school last year). Then it occurred to me that they were riding a bike slightly too large for them, without helmets. As the last girl hopped on and rode away, she informed us that she had never ridden a bike with only hand brakes. Visions of lawyers danced before my eyes, as I yelled after her to squeeze the brakes slowly to stop. She didn’t need my advice, however; after not quite turning the next corner, she side-swiped the chain link fence which brought her to a complete stop, laughing and unscathed. As we rode home, I lamented the loss of innocence of a simple childhood pleasure, trying out a friend’s new bike. Oh well, at least everyone had a turn, and no one got hurt, and we get to keep our house. Until next time, if there is one.
(You may notice there are no photos or names to accompany this post, since not all of the children involved were mine, and I can't risk being sued by another parent for putting their child on the internet. In fact, all characters in this post are fictitious; any resemblance to persons real or otherwise is entirely coincidental, etc., etc.)