Thursday, January 19, 2012

25 Reasons to Love Family Bicycling, #2: Puddle Readiness

In more breaking news about the small pleasures of riding a bike with children, yesterday we splashed around in a staggeringly large puddle.

This little moment of kid joy was brought to you in part by the humble bicycle, which required the kids to travel fully suited in raingear for the sake of a nearly horizontal downpour.  We usually wear just our regular coats for short trips (woolen long underwear keeps the kids warm even if their jeans get a sprinkling of rain), but yesterday's weather forecast included a warning about 30-40 mph winds and heavy rains.  Biking alongside the creek (where the winds seem to be a bit stronger) felt something like a cross between swimming against an angry current and pushing an elephant with my bike.

Anyhow, because they were covered in waterproofed fabrics, the boys were able to really whoop it up in any puddle they liked.  The one pictured here is satisfyingly deep and broad, and there is a little seasonal pond nearby that we tramped around in, too.  Little's enthusiasm meant that we got five -- that's right, five -- separate puddle splashing sessions in today, ranging from two minutes to a little over an hour.  Every time we passed a puddle, he took the bait: before school, after Little and I dropped Big at school, when we returned to pick Big up from school, and then again after school.  Plus one post-nap puddle jump in our backyard, a place which essentially becomes a small lake at this time of year.

I sometimes suspect that other parents think I am a little cruel to subject my kids to these rainy rides.  True, no one likes to be pelted in the face with cold rain.  (Actually, though, Big discovered this morning that he can swivel a bit on his seat and face away from the wind, and Little just tucks his head into my back with even better results.)  But there is no way we would have stopped for all out splashing if we weren't already forced by bicycling to travel with the perfect puddle jumping attire.  And, believe it or not, only ten minutes after we returned, Big begged me to give his brother a nap on the bike so that we could spend an hour or two riding around the model solar system along the Ruth Bascom bike path.  Either he has a very poor short term memory, or he doesn't mind the weather that much.  (We stayed home, by the way.  The bike is the most convenient way to make necessary and short trips, but in weather this fierce, there's no reason to overdo it.)

While we were drying all our mittens and coats above the heater, we folded a few of these origami boats.  We used kite paper (which is waxed, I think) so that the boats might make it through a round in the seasonal pond tomorrow.  I can't say I'm excited for more of this weather, but it's bearable for short trips.  And really, how else would we find ourselves with such an irresistible constellation of puddles nearby?

Eugene Bike News: Last Chance to Help Put Bike Lanes on 24th Avenue!

A couple of weeks ago, I shared a link to Shane MacRhodes' excellent coverage of neighborhood and school groups' efforts to put bike lanes on 24th Avenue.  This road is an important route for kids walking and bicycling to Arts and Technology Academy, Adams Elementary, and Family School.

You have one last chance to meet with city staff to voice your support for this project!  Please speak up in favor of bike lanes on 24th Avenue tonight, from 7-9 pm at the Washington Park Cottage (2025 Washington Street), at the Friendly Area Neighbors Meeting.  That's the little building at the cheese park, to you turophiles out there.  If you can't make it, please consider writing to Mayor Piercy and the city council to give your input about the need for safe, family-friendly bikeways along this school route.

Eugene Mayor and City Council:

You can read more about this project at the Eugene Safe Routes to School website.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Eugene Bike News: 24th Ave Open House Today

If you live in Eugene and find yourself bicycling or walking near Adams Elementary or ATA/Family School, please consider attending this evening's open house for the street rehabilitation project on West 24th Avenue!  I understand that the City of Eugene is planning to repaint the striping on this street this year, and that even very simple bike and pedestrian improvements could fall by the wayside if there isn't strong citizen support for walking and biking in this area.

I hope to join the conversation, but I'm still not completely healthy and may not make it.  I'll be sending a brief letter of support to the city if I can't be there.  If you have a couple of minutes to do the same, or to give your feedback to the city in person, please do!  This is an important street for people walking and biking in this neighborhood (especially to the schools nearby), and some simple improvements could go a long way.

Location: Adams Elementary School (Cafeteria/Multipurpose Room) 950 West 22nd Avenue, Eugene
Date: Thursday, January 5th
Time: 7:00 to 8:30 pm
Questions? Please contact Reed Dunbar at or (541) 682-5727

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Bike vs. Car: Staying Warm in Winter Weather

"Aren't you just freezing?"  I think I've been asked this question (or some variation on this question) at least a couple of times a week since October.  Last winter was the same -- people seem to think that I must be cold and uncomfortable riding my bike through the rain and (relatively) low autumn and winter temperatures of Oregon.  Isn't this how "off-season" bicyclists are often seen in North America -- as gluttons for punishment?

Actually, I am quite comfortable on my bike in the cold weather.  Over time, I've figured out what keeps me warm, and I wear it.  Simple, right?  I'm not seeking out discomfort and chill, I am wrapped in soft wool scarves and mittens, happily avoiding it.  I'm always tempted to make people feel how warm my hands are when they make remarks like these.

Just before Christmas, I needed to have some unexpected surgery.  During my recovery, I've mostly stayed at home, but I've also been transported to a handful of places in the passenger seat of a car.  In the course of these little journeys by car, I've been shocked at how very cold it feels to sit in a car before the engine has warmed enough to get the heater running.  (And the weather this year has seemed unseasonably mild, at least from my perspective.  I'm sure I would feel colder in a more typical winter.)  In a car, I've noticed, I am cold on my walk from the door to the car, cold for the first few minutes inside the car, and then cold again when I step out of the superheated car to walk to my destination.

When I am walking or riding my bike somewhere, in contrast, I stay warm from my door to my destination.  I bundle up inside, scramble around getting my keys or my thermos of tea, and then I walk out the door feeling very warm and bundled.  Then I get on my bike and pull my scarf up over my nose if needed -- still very warm.  In fact, I usually take off a layer if I'm riding for awhile.  I notice a bit of chilly wind on my cheeks, perhaps, but I typically have warm fingers, toes, ears, and nose.  (Unless someone sneaks my scarf from the basket by the door to make an astronaut costume for the dog.  There have been some big sacrifices around here lately in the name of space exploration.)  Our climate is milder than some, true, but even in the nastiest of Eugene weather I'm usually quite comfortable.

Most people seem to prefer wearing only light layers when driving in the winter, relying on the heater in their car to keep the cold away.  It's awkward to buckle yourself into a car wearing heaps of layers, and since the heat is often turned up quite high in cars during cold weather, it might feel too hot to wear a hat and mittens and a big bulky coat.  Plus, with a seatbelt on, it can be difficult to remove layers when the interior warms up.  Most of the folks I know who usually get around by car seem to be under-layered a lot of the time.  No wonder they see me outside and assume that I'm cold.  For those few minutes they spend outside moving from car to door, they're very cold!

Actually, I have to confess that this used to be me.  My friend Erin rides her bike long distances (and short ones) in all kinds of weather.  Not that long ago, I saw her choice to ride her bike through the winter as some kind of mystifying self-sacrifice.  Why was she always turning down my offers to give her and her bike a ride home?  Did she really think it was fun to ride her bike on a chilly evening?  Or, heaven forbid, in the rain?

Of course, Erin was right.  It can be fun to ride your bike in the winter, as long as the astronaut dog doesn't have your scarf on.  Take the car?  Something in the reptile part of my brain instantly recoils at the thought of chilly air blasting from the defroster and freezing dashes from car to destination.  No, thanks.  That would be too cold for me.