Editor’s Note: Austin on Two Wheels would like to welcome our latest guest writer, Sally Miculek. Sally is a friend and mother of two young children who is attempting to drive less and ride more to get around Austin. She has a nice introduction here but if you liked my wife Amy’s articles about her commitment to ride 30 days in a row , you’ll really love Sally’s articles. I’d also like to apologize that this first article is about 2 weeks old (but still great!) I was on vacation when it came in had it took me quite a while to catch up last week on my return. We’ll have a second post from Sally later this week which will get us up to the present. Enjoy!
What I ride:
I ride a cheap bike. Inexpensive is one of its nicest qualities—in 2007 I bought a 2006 Fuji Monterey 2.0 for $250. Shortly thereafter I added a rack and a couple folding panniers as well as cheap-a** battery-powered head- and taillights. I should qualify that. *I* didn’t add those things to my bicycle. I got the nice fellows at the bike shop where the Fuji was purchased to put the rack on for me, and my husband was put in charge of lighting. The panniers were affixed with zip ties, and I found I could manage that much.
In the parlance of children’s clothing, one might say that the Monterey is a “husky” bicycle. It weighs something on the order of 5,000 lbs, and it’s got front fork suspension that can’t really be locked, so it’s all mushy and soft. The wheels are of impressive diameter, and the tires are thicker than my wrists. In short, this bicycle is not built for speed, and it’s certainly not built to catch the eye. It’s pretty comfy, though, even though I don’t sit totally upright, cruiser-style, when I ride it. That mushy front fork and the gigantic tires? Nothing but smooth on Austin’s many bumpy streets. Its extreme huskiness and overall lack of style? Any thief that’s deciding whether to cut my cable of that of the swanky cruiser that’s likely to be parked next to mine is totally going to go with the cruiser every time.
The fanciest accessory on my bicycle is the lovely blue and yellow Burley D’Lite trailer that I use to tote my daughters, Iris (4) and Camilla (1), as well as sundry child-related accessories and whatever else fits back there. My husband and I take turns pulling the Burley, having acquired a second hitch that allows us to trade off whose bike it’s behind. We chose this trailer due to its capacious cargo space: ample room for Camilla’s pool float and a host of noodles when we go for a swim or three bags of groceries plus the diaper bag when we do our weekly shopping. It has many flaws of design, but no more than the other trailers we researched, and this one had a few features and a price point that beat out the Chariot, which was our other top contender.
I am definitely not a person who wants to tinker with her bicycle. As far as I can tell, there are people in the world who spend a fair amount of time learning how to keep a bike running smoothly, and I’m content to pay them a fair price for their time in repairing mine when something’s gone wrong. I do know how to change a tire, but when it comes down to it, I find that it takes far less time and a great deal less frustration for me to take a tire to a shop and wait ten minutes for the shopkeepers to replace the tube than it does for me to go through the misery of changing the tube myself. I can’t even imagine taking on more substantial repairs on my own. My husband has a degree in mechanical engineering, and has plenty of capacity to take care of a bicycle, but, as seems to be the case with many engineers, he enjoys the process so much and wants to spend so much time geeking out over machinery that I really don’t have the patience to pass bicycle repair projects on to him. So I’m a shop-goer, and proud of it!
That’s my introduction. I’m going to try to write a few posts for Austin on Two Wheels to discuss the ups and downs of learning to ride in Austin’s traffic with and without my daughters, as well as my efforts to master the art of making an 8-mile trip immediately after getting a pedicure without chipping my nail polish.
Today is an off-Friday for me, which means that I’m not at work! My daughters are at their respective daycare facilities, however, as I use my off-Fridays to get stuff done. These are the days I catch up on laundry, run some of my errands, and clean house. Lately I’ve been travelling by bicycle on off-Fridays: it’s a good way to get in some extra exercise, and it’s more fun than schlepping around in the car. Plus, Iris and Camilla are fans of bicycle travel.
This morning, the weather was a bit drizzly, but when I suggested to Iris that we might do the trip to school by car, she informed me that she was planning to go by bike. Well, I figured, if she’s game, I should be, too. So after getting the girls fed and packing up Iris’ lunch, I went outside to get my bike ready.
The process of changing the Burley jogger to a Burley trailer is a simple one, and can usually be accomplished in two minutes or less. But Camilla can’t see the trailer without thinking she should be in it, and dealing with a 1-year-old who wants to climb in to the trailer while also trying to get the front wheel off, attach the bike hitch, and then hitch the whole thing to my bike meant that the process took about ten minutes. Meanwhile, my kickstand kept sinking into the very soft, damp ground, causing my bike to tip over. I had to keep standing it back up, as the trailer can’t easily be hitched while the bike is laying on the ground. So the scene was this: grab the baby, set her aside; pick up the overturned bike, find a hole-free patch of grass for the kickstand; grab the baby and set her aside; move the bike hitch into place; grab the baby; right the bike… I finally got everything squared away, though, got the girls installed, and took them to their respective destinations.
I’ve been doing my best to stay off the sidewalks and behave like a car lately (on the theory that if I behave like I’m driving a car, drivers of cars will treat me with the respect they accord to other drivers of cars), but I do find myself faced with some serious bike-as-car questions while I’m out and about. Perhaps some more advanced urban riders can help me out:
First off, where should one stop to wait for a light? To my way of thinking, if I’m behaving like a car, then I should take my place in line wherever I am when I get to the stopped cars. But I’m always seeing bikes riding past all the cars (which seems a bit dangerous to me—what if the car turns??) and then waiting at the front of the line for the light. Should I be doing that, or is it better to just stop and take the middle of the lane at whatever is my spot in the queue at the light?
Second, how gauche is it for me to cut through a parking lot when a bus is in the bike lane and I can’t readily get into the next lane to the left in order to go around? Should I just suck it up and wait for a hole in the traffic, then try to go around the bus? That doesn’t seem safe. What if the bus pulls out while I’m still trying to go around? Should I stop and wait behind the bus, breathing its fumes the whole time? Or is it okay for me to pop over into the available parking lot, cut through, and rejoin traffic on the road on the other side? That last seems like the least courteous option, but also the easiest.
This morning’s trip took me to and from the girls’ sitter and school, to the Upper Crust for a tasty treat and some light reading (photo), and then off to the Austin Shoe Hospital at Steck and Burnet, where I dropped off my trusty Teva sandals for a re-soling.
Somewhere around Anderson and Burnet, it started to rain. I got to the Shoe Hospital and completed my transaction. The shopkeeper asked me why I was so sweaty, since it’s not too hot out. I explained that it’s raining, to which he responded, “I guess I should say you’re perspiring, since you’re a lady.” Again, I mentioned the rain. Clearly we were experiencing some kind of communication breakdown.
I returned home to do some much-needed housekeeping (photo) and to watch the Netherlands/Brazil game en español. We don’t have Cable, but, fortunately for us, Univision is broadcasting the World Cup. Turned on the TV just in time for a “GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLLL!!!” putting the Netherlands one point ahead of Brazil.
Today’s travels, including this afternoon’s planned trip to fetch the girls: 20 miles!