Archive for January, 2012

January 31, 2012

New York, New York: The Blogspedition Visits The City that Never Sleeps

Thanks to the Women’s Bike Blog list I can get a taste of New York biking life before I get there. Herewith a round-up of the blogs I’ve collected from New York City. They all give me different voices and views and I love the local insights.

I get to chat with some of them occasionally on Twitter and have reached out to ask what I should check out while I’m in New York. We’re now tweeting about the possibility of a women’s bike blog tweet-up (live meeting of people who know each other via Twitter). I love the community I’ve found through the simple mechanism of starting a list!

  • Sheryl Yvette: Love her attitude! She’s a glamour girl who blogs about her Weight Watchers and fitness. She also blogs at High Heels and Two Wheels on the Weight Watchers site. Twitter: @SherylYvette and @bitchcakesny
  • Houdini and Me: This blogger named her dog Houdini and her bike Martha Stewart. In the “it’s a small world” category she’s also an actress, which I thought was cool when I spotted that originally since Second Daughter is planning to embark on musical theater studies. Twitter: @HoudiniAndMe
  • The Fun Between My Legs: Points for title creativity! And have to love the 25-year-old author’s bio: “Lewd, crude and tattooed newlywed and stepmom living on a cruiser bicycle in the nitty gritty.” Twitter: @M3s0
  • The Bike Writer: 20-something Mandi commutes daily from Queens to Union Square so she knows city riding! If I were heading to New York to participate in a specific big bike tour I would definitely read her reviews before committing. Twitter: @thebikewriter
  • The Julie Blog: Julie rides a great-looking Linus Dutchie bike she has accessorized in pink. I love it. And she’s been on the Martha Stewart show to show how to make her pretty silk bead necklace. Twitter: @juleskills
  • Velojoy: She contributes to Momentum Magazine, which I read. Reading a guest blog post on winter bike cleaning may inspire me, since as I noted in a recent winter ride report the road is making for a pretty grimy bike these days. Twitter: @velojoy
  • The Monday Biker: She has a Brompton folding bike I’d love to get a look at. I learned a new term from one of her December posts: “Panda bike photography” is a picture taken of yourself, by yourself, while on your bike. I may have to try this when the roads aren’t slippery.
  • For the Love of Bikes: I love the illustration at the top of this blog: A bike with hearts in the spokes and pedals. A recent post tells me about a Greek restaurant I may have to check out: Souvlaki GR’s on the Lower East Side. You Downton Abbey fans should catch this post on the show’s bikes. Twitter: @4theloveofbikes
  • Inspired Cyclist: She posts some great ride photos—I loved her round-up for Thanksgiving. Twitter: @inspiredcyclist
  • A Packable Feast: Mostly writes about creative lunches—well beyond the PBH and carrot sticks my mom used to pack!—but also gets in a little biking now and then.
  • Adeline Adeline: A blog from a shop I hope to visit.
  • Changing Amy: She blogs from the Bronx about the weight-loss roller coaster she’s on.
  • Brooklyn by Bike: Title pretty  much says it all! Twitter: brooklynbybike
  • Mid-Life Cycling: Blogging and biking in Queens. I appreciate her voice—you’ll get a great understanding for who she is from this post.

A few possibly defunct ones but I know blogging can lapse and start again:

  • This Side of the Blue: Last posted in 2009.
  • Thoughts from the Bubble: Last posted in July 2011.
  • Thoughts of Mint Green: Last posted in April 2011.
  • Squid Knits: Last posted in September 2011. I’ve found quite a few knitting bikers in my rounds of women’s bike blogs.
  • Dykes on BiCycles: Site says it’s under reconstruction and they haven’t said anything on Twitter since last June, so…. Twitter: @dob_c
  • FixiePostcard: Be ready for the autoplay sound on the site. Last post May 2011 and the Twitter account she used to have no longer has the @fixiepostcard name so I can’t find it.

Your Turn

  • Know of any NYC women’s bike blogs not on this list? Post links here and I’ll update the master list.
January 29, 2012

Looking for a Bite/Bike of the Big Apple: The Bikespedition Heads to New York City

Thanks to the talents of Second Daughter, I head to New York City this week. She will audition for several performing arts programs at the colleges she has targeted through diligent research. I will sit and knit in Stage Mom mode while she sings, dances, and delivers the monologues she’s been practicing upstairs.

I also hope to get out on the street and check out a few bike-related destinations. It will be co-o-o-old February,  and the New York bike share system isn’t yet up and running so I think I’m talking about taking transit, walking and looking. It should still be inspiring.

I plan to take some pictures while I’m there and post my fuzzy-cell-phone-images impressions of biking in New York to share the experience with you–a bikespedition of a different sort.

Here’s a partial list of things I hope to see and do and a few New York bike resources. If you’ve biked New York I’d love your recommendations for the must-see elements.

  • NYC Bike Share: I don’t get to do this! It’s launching summer 2012. I’m just noting it here as a future bike attraction. If I get to ride at all in New York it will be because some kind person lends me a bike and a helmet.
  • The High Line: A public park built on an elevated freight line that was transformed into a linear park.
  • Times Square: Sort of a “well, of course” for a trip to New York that revolves around theater, but my reason for being excited is that this will be my first trip to New York since they closed Times Square to vehicular traffic. (Can you say “transportation geek”?)
  • Adeline Adeline: Eldest Daughter gave me a way-cool ringy-dingy bike bell for Christmas that came from this shop. I’ve followed them on Twitter for quite a while thanks to discovering them through my compilation of the Women Bike Blogs list. I have a feeling they’re like the shop I would open if Bike Style Spokane ever became a storefront.
  • Bike New York: General resource site I’ll try to read through since I can only imagine how much hairier biking is in a city the size of New York compared to tame little Spokane!
  • New York City Bike Maps: Looking at the bike map of Manhattan they have the exact same situation as Spokane does: Bike lanes that stop and start. But seeing them installed in a major metro area with far more traffic than Spokane should reinforce my belief that we can have an outstanding bike network here at home. If they can make room for bike lanes in NYC, with some of the world’s priciest real estate underfoot, surely Spokane can!
  • Riding in general: We’ll be staying in the Theater District. Everything in New York feels close together to me—it’s either a walk or a subway ride away with no parking hassle or expense—and I’d love it if I could find a way to ride a bike through Central Park or Greenwich Village.
  • Celebrity spotting: Since lots of famous actors and actresses live in New York City, and quite a few have been known to ride bikes, I may spot someone famous on two wheels. Not quite as exciting as meeting Mia Birk, but still.

Back to the talents of Second Daughter, I just have to share a taste. I wish the sound were really true to her voice but I just appreciate having any kind of video record at all.

Your Turn

  • Have you biked in New York, or another major metro? What was it like?
January 28, 2012

Biking Is Good for Us: An Infographic “Duh”

Even though the title on this post is a big “duh!” for those of us who ride, other may not be aware of some of the benefits. This infographic has been making the rounds and I thought it was worth sharing.

Biking And Health
Created by: Healthcare Management Degree

Tags: ,
January 26, 2012

Winter Ride Report: Sunshine and Splatter

Alas, you can't see how the two peachy pieces on top complement each other. But you can see the snow on the ground. Luckily I don't have to ride in it with my skinny tires!As I’ve written several times throughout this weird, weird winter: Yep, still riding!

Mind you, the deep snows of last week would have stopped me, if I’d been in town. Instead I was in Olympia, where if anything it was even worse because everything was encased in ice. Limbs shattered off trees from the weight, reminding me of the 1996 ice storm in the Spokane region (so severe it’s in Wikipedia). I had thought I might try for a bike-share experience in Olympia since the hotel I stayed in was only 2.2 miles from the Capitol, but not in those conditions!

Back home again, I drove Monday (“Mom Taxi” duty made me miss riding on a day of brilliant sunshine), bused Tuesday (kinda gray but would have been rideable, although the end of the day had a “wintery mix” per the weatherfolk that meant fine, cold, drizzly rain), looked at the forecast for Wednesday and said, “Heck yeah!”

While ice patches and clumps of snow-plowed grayness still filled the majority of the bike lane, the road was mostly bare and wet and very rideable, with enough pre-planning to brake in time for stops and no leaning into the corners because of the possibility of an unexpected patch of ice and a quick fall.

The day’s outfit was–seriously–just like what I was wearing in September. October. November. December. Recently the Copenhagenize guy took after Momentum Magazine for their article on dressing for winter riding, blasting them for making it sound as if biking in winter required “special” clothing.

What your boot looks like after around 2.5 miles on wet roads.

What your boot looks like after around 2.5 miles on wet roads.

I subscribe to Momentum and thought their article was fine. It told people that dressing for winter biking is like dressing for winter, period, and you can just keep riding. Sure, they showed some cute bike-specific product, but who doesn’t love to shop?

My outfit reflects their sensible advice: Dress in layers, wear wool underneath, keep your feet and hands dry and warm, remember that it’s dark and gray and drivers aren’t expecting you so dress for visibility. In Copenhagen? They’re expecting you on the road year-round. In Spokane? Not so much. Pays to be flashy.

My “special winter biking gear” consisted of:

  • SmartWool tights
  • SmartWool socks
  • Boots with a good grippy sole that cover my legs and stay on the pedals
  • My cut-off long johns that serve as knickers under skirts
  • Long gray wool knit skirt–another Goodwill $4 special
  • Peachy sweater–this is either a Goodwill find or possibly from Sequel, the resale shop in the Paulsen Building at which I’ve been scoring some cuteness recently
  • Lighter peachy suede jacket–from The Reclothery (yes, you’ll note a trend–I do love one-of-a-kind finds and those are only possible at vintage and resale shops where no two things on the rack are the same)
  • High-vis jacket; in the morning sunshine this is mostly for its value as a windbreaker, but riding home in the dark it’s a safety feature
  • Trusty black velvet scarf
  • Helmet with knitted earwarmers and helmet cover from Hub and Bespoke in Seattle (you can get them from me too)
  • Lobster-claw gloves
  • Face mask for the morning ride–not needed for the evening ride

The coffee cup in the bike bottle holder on my seat tube took a hit from the street splatters too.I walked my bike out of our incredibly icy driveway and set off in absolutely brilliant sunshine. Within no time at all my boots were completely splattered with muck from the road. I want to get some Splats from Rivendell! Or potentially these Canadian MEC shoe covers that Patty from Belles and Baskets has worn for years and highly recommends.

Leaving work after 5 I rode in heavy traffic on Browne because I was racing the clock to meet my daughter at Empire Dance Shop to provide the debit card action before they closed. At the corner of Browne and Sprague a pedestrian hurried across the street after the “Don’t Walk” sign had started flashing. I called, “Hurry, they’ll get you!” She laughed and said, “I know–I’m not as brave as you are!”

Not brave–just habituated. And so happy to be on the bike again after slushing around via “two-foot drive” on snowy sidewalks.

How this day relates to my 3 words for 2012 riding: I’m consistent, in that I’m still riding. It’s variety because I’m definitely riding in heavier winter conditions than I have in years past. And I’m mindful because that icy is slippery!

And then there's what the road does to your actual bike.... This will necessitate some serious clean-up. Grime is not good for gears and chains. Now, where's my Sweet Hubs when I need him?

Ride Report

  • Days ridden in 2012 (as of Wednesday, Jan. 25): 17 of 25 days. My goal is 250 days; this total includes a couple of days on the trainer indoors racking up some sweaty mileage. At this rate I wouldn’t be able to hit this target, but given that it’s winter and I’ve been out of town I’m behind my usual riding frequency. No problem catching up in the balmy days of spring, summer, and fall, when only the unfortunate lock themselves into steel boxes.
  • Miles: 144.01 miles. My goal is 1,200, which is only 100 miles a month. I’m on track for this one, no problem, but why move a bar I’m going to clear?

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • Riding?
  • What do you wear to deal with the mucky bits?
  • See weather forecast below (for Thursday, Jan. 26). With a forecast like this would you plan to ride?
January 25, 2012

Getting Healthy: The Blogspedition Looks at Biking for Weight Loss

Weight loss may or may not be your personal inspiration for getting on the bike, but plenty of women appreciate the ease of putting a little exercise into each day with bike commuting. Others gut it out on the trainer to attain personal goals in racing. Still others approach it as a chore because they want to lose weight specifically. Any way you slice it, biking burns more calories than sitting on the sofa with a bag o’ chips.

I’m not talking about trying for an unrealistic uber-skinny body, mind you. I’ve already blogged about the notion that a healthy body image isn’t tied to fitting into a specific dress size.

I’m talking about the basic level of activity that’s recommended by the American Heart Association for good health. They specifically mention dividing your moving-around efforts into two or three chunks of 10-15 minutes each, which is almost precisely how my typical bike commuting takes place.

This blogspedition rounds up a few posts and blogs that feature this topic:

For a weight-loss bonus, give blood. Some of you may remember the saying, “A pint’s a pound the world around” as a way of remembering measurements in the kitchen. Turns out it’s true at the blood bank too! Give a pint of blood and lose a pound, then burn some more calories as your body kicks up its production of replacement blood cells–all while you help save a life. What could be healthier than that?

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • Is riding a bike part of a weight-control or weight-loss effort for you?
  • How’s it going?
  • Or does a post on weight loss piss you off because it seems to buy into unrealistic body-image issues for women?
January 23, 2012

Just Like Riding a Bike—Or Not

Alternatively you can point your right hand for a right turn, which I use more often because it's more intuitive.

When someone describes something you learn once and never forget, that person often says, “It’s just like riding a bike!” Meaning you can just get on and pedal away and muscle memory will do the rest.

That’s kind of funny, when you think about it: a bike analogy used routinely every day, probably by hundreds of thousands of people who don’t actually get on a bike very often, if at all, in their adult routines.

How this is accurate: Your body does remember the balancing act you learned all those years ago. You can get on a bike after years of not riding and pedal away—perhaps a bit shaky, perhaps having lost the ability to ride hands-free that you practiced and practiced and practiced in the street in front of your house, but still having the fundamental physical skills.

How this is not accurate: You most likely learned to ride a bike as a little kid. You knew nothing about the rules of the road except what your parents told you. You had never interacted with traffic as a driver. You may not even have crossed the street by yourself yet if you learned at a really young age. Your parents presumably (possibly) taught you the basic hand signals (although I don’t think mine did—when I was little we lived in the wheat and alfalfa country outside of Lewiston and there wasn’t enough traffic to warrant much signaling—I was faster than a combine or harvester).

(I remember riding last summer behind another woman on a bike who confidently signaled her right turn with the upraised bent arm–and promptly turned left. Good thing I wasn’t close enough to be counting on her to execute the maneuver she had signaled.)

Those physical skills from your childhood aren’t enough, though, for navigating city streets as an adult. You’re much more aware of the potential danger and you know more about the traffic flow, but you may not know much more about bike law than you did as a kid, particularly if you took your driver’s test a long time ago. It’s only in recent years that they started including bike-related questions on the driver’s license test.

You may misremember or misapply rules you think you know, too. I’ve seen adults riding against traffic because they’re thinking like pedestrians, but bikes are vehicles and should ride with the flow of traffic. And some places have special local rules, like the City of Spokane’s ordinances requiring you to wear a helmet and forbidding riding on sidewalks in the central business district downtown.

When I moved back to Spokane from Coeur d’Alene years ago, I remember my nephew—who had made the move before me—warning me, “It’s weird—there are lots of bike questions on the driver’s test!” We both wondered why that was. Well, now I know—it’s because drivers need to know the rights and responsibilities of people on bikes. People on bikes need to know, too.

Because riding a bike isn’t exactly, well, just like riding a bike.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • What do you remember about learning to ride a bike as a kid?
  • What do you wish more people on bikes knew about bike laws?
January 19, 2012

On Getting From Here to There–A Betsy Post

A guest post by Betsy Lawrence, AKA “yogaprof,” the founder of Belles and Baskets

I have written previously about how I began bike commuting; now here are a few lessons I have discovered along the way.

Lesson one: Be flexible

Once I committed to biking to work, I started the work of fine-tuning my commute. I soon realized one of my favorite things about commuting by bike—it challenges the brain. I am constantly watching, assessing, and switching my plans.

For example, the first time I biked to work, I crossed the Greene Street Bridge by riding in the car lane. I know the rules—ride a bike as though it is a car. That day I learned to sometimes break that rule. This bridge is a very narrow four lanes and packed with trucks and cars.

I was terrified and realized the sidewalk is a much better choice. It is rarely used, and whenever I see pedestrians on the sidewalk, I get off my bike and wait for them to pass.

I often have to tweak my route or wait for an unexpected delay. Flexibility is part of bike commuting and is good for the brain.

Lesson two: Create a route that feels comfortable to you

I have had to rework my route several times due to road construction. While trying to come up with a new route, I learned that following the advice of a male friend who is a hard-core commuter was not the best plan. I ended up cycling along busy streets in industrial areas, surrounded by stinky vehicles and passing endless buildings and parking lots. The only wildlife I saw was an occasional pit bull or dead rat. That is not what I want out of my ride.

Now when I need to change my route because of construction, I choose to go the more picturesque way; an additional five minutes of biking that is pleasant is preferable to saving time but losing my lungs.

Lesson three: Break the commute into several short trips

To keep my ride from feeling daunting, I mentally break it into four segments: a ride to Barb’s house, a ride downtown, a ride to the river, and a ride to work.

Each segment consists of different terrain, neighborhoods and sometimes even temperature. I can mentally high-five myself after each portion and prepare for the next. It’s not an eight-mile ride; it’s four, two-mile rides, each with its own delights.

And most importantly, lesson four: Enjoy the view and say “hello”

I am privileged to have the option to bike commute. I have a nice, economical car, a pre-paid bus pass, and plenty of time. I am allowed the choice to cycle, and I choose to make it pleasurable.

I have the delight of riding along the Spokane River for a few miles when I bike commute. I see geese, ducks, and dog walkers. While that segment is easy to enjoy, even the most urban parts of my ride have their pleasures: the people I see.

I make it a point to say hello to everyone I pass (yes, EVERYONE) from spandexed runners, to street people with their shopping carts, to kids on skateboards, to folks exiting their Hummers. I figure these moments allow my community to see that cyclists are nice people and they give me the lift as well. I keep my eyes up and enjoy the view of nature and my neighbors. I feel immense gratitude when I can bike to work, and I hope to share that joy with everyone I pass.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • What bike commuting lessons have you learned along the way that you share with beginners?
January 17, 2012

My Favorite Posts of 2011: A Blogspedition in Bike Style

I launched this blog May 1, 2011, at the beginning of Spokane Bike Month and National Bicycling Month, after nearly three years of blogging about biking and a lot of miscellany over at Bike to Work Barb.

Not knowing what kind of blogging pace I could keep up, I started out cautiously, then picked up steam. Celebrating 30 Days of Biking with my own 30 Days of Biking Blogging showed me that I could find plenty of fodder as long as I made the time to write.

I’ve slowed down the writing a bit–it’s winter and hibernation season, after all–but am happy to report that the fodder keeps coming and the blog is gaining readers and views. For that, much thanks!

As I look forward to 2012 I thought I’d look back at 2011 and pick out my favorite posts, as well as tell you which ones were tops for views.

It’s tough since they’re all my children and we don’t have any favorite children, right? Some of these are ones I think deserve more readers than they’ve had so far; others capture something near and dear to my heart.

First, my personal favorites:

Now for the ones the stats say are the winners:

Related Reading

  • All the other posts

Your Turn

  • What was your favorite post and why?
January 15, 2012

Spending the Day Running Around Downtown: Bikespedition #4

My original definition of a bikespedition included the idea that I would target a particular neighborhood and explore it pretty thoroughly.

Saturday, though, I spent the day on a bikespedition of a different sort: just running around on my bike from place to place for a fun day of activities.

I thought I’d catalog it to show how easy—truly easy—it can be to use your bike for a day of friend time and errands. Even if you never venture into rush hour traffic on a bike, you might spend some weekend days pedaling around.

It also turned out to be a 100% “buy local” experience (counting one larger retailer that is headquartered in Washington state). Spokane’s greater downtown area is fortunate to be home to many one-of-a-kind businesses, which makes this pretty easy.

Letters below correspond to spots on the map.

A–Scout: My monthly girl gang get-together assembled at this new restaurant at First and Monroe next to the Montvale Hotel to check them out. Our crowd of a dozen or so was probably a bit much for the servers, but they were cheerful and the food was decent. This is in the same block as the tail end of Bikespedition #1 to Carnegie Square.

B–REI: To get to the north bank I headed east to Wall, then doubled back to take the Post Street Bridge up to Boone and west to REI—a slightly quieter route than Monroe. This was a quick errand; I’d been carrying around a receipt thinking I’d been overcharged but turns out I read the sale price wrong.

C–Rocket Bakery: Next I had a shopping date with a couple of girlfriends (Megan and of course Betsy of Belles and Baskets) back at Carnegie Square.

From REI I took the straight shot across the Monroe Street Bridge, although I could have backtracked via Boone to Post if I wanted to avoid the heavier traffic entirely. From Monroe it’s a nice ride along Riverside Avenue to Cedar, and I parked my bike in the rack in front of Carousel Vintage.

Fringe and Fray: In the same building as the Rocket—they don’t have a lot of dressy things but it was worth checking.

Carousel Vintage: Right across from the Rocket and Fringe and Fray. Owner Jenny Stabile knows from vintage and brought some great knit suits (perfect for riding) up from downstairs for me to check out—too bad they didn’t fit, but I’ll be back!

Megan was hoping to find a vintage dressy dress for an upcoming gala. This was the fun kind of shopping: open to possibilities but no “must find it today!” pressure.

D–Finders Keepers II: Staying in the dressy-dress hunt, we headed to the block of West Main between Browne and Division. They have bunches of special-occasion dresses–not vintage, but some things made to look vintage. Megan still didn’t score a dress but I got a great wool hat.

E–Nectar Tasting Room: Owner Josh was holding a couple of bottles for me (a Washington wine from a vintage that was about to sell out) so I swung by the corner of Main and Stevens to pick those up.

Because I was on the bike I could skip some of the one-way messing about by walking my bike for a block, although it wouldn’t have been more than another couple of blocks out of my way if I had ridden. Biking is often more directionally efficient than driving because of the flexibility to switch modes and become a pedestrian.

F–Neat Old Stuff: We came here specifically because of my SoDo bikespedition, without which I never would have found this place. We got to taste some amazing fudge owner CP shared with us, Betsy got a way-cool piece for a Halloween costume that I won’t describe because that would spoil the surprise, and Megan tried on more dresses. Still no luck, but this was one fun time.

I thought about making a couple more stops at Sun People Dry Goods and the Spokane Public Market because they were only a block away, but decided to head home to Sweet Hubs and cook something delicious for dinner.

Basically I spent time with friends, shopped, ate, and had fun: the definition of a successful bikespedition!

I’d also add that if I had done all this running around in a car, I know from experience that a day with eight stops in it would have felt more like a series of chores because of the constant parking/reparking. Because all I have to do is hitch to the nearest tall signpost, I’m inside and shopping in a flash.

Oh, in case you think I can’t count when you look at the titles of the bikespedition posts below, there’s a missing #3 that I need to write about. Betsy and I explored South Perry back in October and I keep meaning to write it up. One of these days! Meanwhile, you should just go there and check it out for yourself.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • What is the biggest number of stops you’ve made in a single day running around on your bike?
January 14, 2012

Seeing with New Eyes

Sometimes I Would Like New Eyes, by Andrew Coulter Enright. Used under Creative Commons license.

Taking up biking for transportation has given me the same experience that becoming a mother did. No, not endless anxiety, sleepless nights, and sh**—well, at least not too much of the latter—but rather the experience of learning just how much the world was designed not for you, but against you, by people who do not share your particular circumstances.

You chose these circumstances. You love these circumstances and they bring you joy no matter what. But better design would make it a bit easier to enjoy these circumstances.

Disclaimer: I do not present these thoughts under the assumption that the entire world should be redesigned for new moms and women on bikes (although heavens, what a civilized world that would make).

I ask you only to consider what it might be like for someone whose circumstances differ from yours—to try to look through their eyes a bit and consider whether you can make some adjustments that accommodate more ways of viewing the world. We all wear blinders; can you take yours off?

I have never taken part in one of those days where you take on a particular disability to learn what the world can feel like from that vantage point, the way City Councilman Jon Snyder did when he spent the day in a wheelchair. But wrestling a baby stroller into and out of buildings that lacked automatic doors certainly made me wonder how people in wheelchairs could possibly manage (and probably made me a better Idaho state legislator and later a better grantwriter for a disability rights organization).

When I had my first baby (who’s all grown up now!) I began a voyage of discovery, as Marcel Proust would have it: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” 

Dealing with the needs of a baby or child when surrounded by people who don’t have one, as any parent can tell you, often gives you a new lens through which to view the world.

Riding a bike for transportation has taken me on another voyage and given me new eyes as well. Most parts of this voyage give me great joy. What I get to do on my bike:

  • See my city from a fresh vantage point, without the isolating barrier of over 3,000 pounds of steel, glass, and assorted petroleum products wrapped around me.
  • Make actual eye contact with people out walking, biking, or driving. smile, and connect.
  • Give directions to lost drivers who can’t ask another driver, because how would you?
  • Notice details I never saw in all the years I drove: architectural features on buildings, interesting signage, side streets that offer a different route to my destination.
  • Spot businesses I had no idea even existed that I make a mental note about so I can come back and check them out—or I stop on the spot because I don’t have to search for a parking place so I feel free to make these spontaneous decisions.

If you have never ridden a bike on streets you usually drive, you have no idea what you don’t see.

Then there’s the flip side—the one created by design that leaves you out.

I remember pushing my stroller into a crowded conference room and realizing there was nowhere to stash it—because women with babies were not expected in those particular marble hallways.

Similarly, taking your bike to a destination that has nowhere to lock your bike or store it securely presents you with something you have to figure out. People who don’t have strollers or bikes to deal with don’t see the lack of facilities.

While the vast majority of the time it’s easier to stow my bike than it was to stow my baby stroller (which I could never have left locked to a signpost on the street), I still encounter obstructions, lack of a good fixture to lock to, bike racks installed too close to the wall of the building to be usable, and other design barriers.

That’s just one example.

Then there are the other barriers: The ones not presented by design of things but rather design of events.

If you’re a new mom, is the event held at a location that permits you to step aside and breastfeed discreetly? (Somewhere other than in the bathroom, please—would you want to eat your lunch in the can?) Will the bathroom have a space for diaper changes?

If you’re riding your bike to a destination, did the organizers send out any transportation information other than where to park your (assumed) car? Say, telling you about the availability of bike racks or the transit route and stop that serve the destination? Is the location even served by transit? If there are no bike facilities will you be allowed to bring your bike inside for safe storage?

Is the event meant to go late into the night so you end up with a fussy child or an expensive babysitting tab?

Is the event meant to go late into the night so you’re biking home in the dark? I enjoy riding in the dark but it can present more hazards than daytime riding and not everyone is comfortable with it.

The next time you’re designing something, whether it’s a building or a meeting, take a look at it with new eyes. If you weren’t you­—if you were someone with very different circumstances—how would it work for you?

And if you haven’t gone out to take a look at your world from the saddle of a bicycle, I highly recommend it. That’s a set of lenses you may just never want to take off.

(As for parenthood, that’s a call you’d better make on your own.)

Afterthought: Perhaps this metaphor has particular power for me because I’ve worn glasses since I was five years old. I’m terribly nearsighted–and now have the joy of adding farsightedness to the mix as I get just an eensy-teensy bit older. Being able to see clearly is not something I can afford to take for granted.

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Your Turn

  • What design issues have you encountered–of places, events, or other things?
  • What parallels between biking and some other activity do you see?
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