Monday, September 21, 2009

bruised knees, bruised egos

I saw this woman on my way into work the other day. I've seen her bicycling with her child before, and cursed myself for not catching a picture. This time I got it!

Some people would see this and say to themselves, or to the mother, "shame on you, exposing your child to risk."

Somewhere... somehow... bicycles and bicyclists allowed themselves to be portrayed, labeled and branded as risk taking imbeciles on par with adrenaline junkies who base jump and dive with sharks.

When you start bicycling with your children, then people really pull off their gloves and they let you know what a meth-smoking, irresponsible parent you are.

This post is grounded in a couple of experiences. First, my sister Dawn got yelled at by a bunch of people when she was bicycling, WITH her child, in the street. People told her she should be on the sidewalk. I could write a ten thousand word essay as to why bicycling on the sidewalk is no guarantee for safety, and why you are exposing yourself to additional risks that are not present on the street. There is a long standing belief that bicycles belong on the sidewalk, this is simply not true.

Children, yes - should learn to ride safely, both on the sidewalk and street and should certainly be monitored when learning to ride.

The other experience happened to Ashley and I. We went on a trip by bike to Costco and had to cross a busier street. We safely crossed the street, but had to stop in the middle of the median/center turn lane to wait for a few cars to pass. This woman looked at me like I was Abraham ready to sacrifice Isaac. She gave me the dirtiest look, and mouthed, "that is a baby."

As if I needed a reminder that I was transporting my first and only child around. George was not in traffic, nor was he in danger. But this woman really wanted us to know that she disapproved of us taking our baby on a bike ride.

These experiences, and others... have led me to believe that if you are going to be a part of any lifestyle or past time that isn't the norm, then be prepared for people to look down on you.

We live in such a risk averse, sterile, germaphobic, anti-bacterial world. Parents are scared of letting their child walk one block to school, meanwhile you can hear their arteries thickening as their poor child is neglected a basic human right - exercise and fresh air.

George is about 7 months old, and I'm already aware that I'm an example to him. I want to set an example that is one of courage - courage to live in a way that is healthy, happy, and rewarding. People will likely look down on us as I take him to school by bike, or pick him up from a sleepover on my bike. Part of me thinks it's jealousy, and an other part guilt. People know that they need to be living healthier lifestyles.

We know that we can't continue to consume gas the way we do. Our economy, the environment, our infrastructure - won't support it. We can't continue to shelter our children under the "guise" of safety by transporting them everywhere in a car.

I grew up in an era where I played with lead paint in my toys, where my mom breastfed me while she drove her car, and I walked to school.

While I'll always be concerned for the safety of my child(ren), I'll never equate safety with a car trip.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

bike trailer 101

Last weekend we had our first foray into bicycling with our child. Now this blog can be built on actual evidence, rather than "hearsay and conjecture," Lionel Hutz's favorite kinds of evidence. It was a total success, and I'd like to go over some of the nuts and bolts of the event, for anyone interested in recreating this experience.

First, the facts:

a. George is approximately six months old.
b. Our trailer is a Burley Bee
c. George's car seat is a Peg Perego Primo Viaggio

George - excited as I am?

Many people want to know, "how old does your child have to be to ride in a trailer?" The Burley website says that a child should be strong enough to hold their head up unassisted. Most of the reading out there says that trailers are intended for children as young as 10-12 months. It's really a floating figure, and if you have any doubts you can always consult with your child's pediatrician... also stated by Burley.

Because our Bee is designed for children a little larger, we decided to look into securing his car seat into the trailer. I didn't know how, or if this would work, so we were a little curious about the outcome.

It turns out that the Bee is designed really smart, and totally allows for all kinds of alterations to how you use it. With little effort, I quickly realized that securing the chair would be as simple as securing his chair when we use it in other cars, without the base.

When we use George's seat in our car, we just click it into the base. But when in other cars (when we haven't brought the base), it sits on top of the seat, and then you bring the lap part of the seat belt over George's lap, and into the two little slots on each side the seat, designed to secure the strap (picture below).

Overhead view of the car seat secured in the trailer. Note how the nylon strap holds the infant car seat in place

We did the same sort of method with the car seat in the trailer. We used a ratchet type nylon belt to loop in between the frame and up and over the car seat. The results were surprisingly sturdy. This allows you to quickly tighten and loosen the strap, which is important when trying to put your child in the trailer, or take them out. With very little effort and ingenuity I was able to fasten George's car seat in the trailer that made me completely certain it wasn't going anywhere.

Doubling the nylon strap around the frame allowed us to cinch the child seat in the trailer VERY securely

I would imagine that this type of set up would work well for most Burley's and other child trailers where the inner roll cage/frame is exposed.

Now that we've got security down, I want to look into enhancing visibility of the trailer for both day time and night time use. I've emailed the guys at Bike Trailer Shop and I'll let you know what I find out.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

a b(ee)iking we will go!

We finally took the plunge! We bought a near new Burley Bee on ebay. Unlike other people, I've had great luck on eBay (knock on wood). I bought it from a guy who had over 2000 transactions with a 100% approval rating. Good grief that guy is awesome, I thought my 16/100% status was robust. But I digress...

So why did I pick the Burley Bee you ask? Well, it's quite simple really:
  1. It is a Burley. I trust their products. I've seen them in action, and they are good enough to have spawned countless impostors. For me, that is the sign of a good product.
  2. It is their economical brand. In these tough economic times, you have to save somewhere
  3. It has everything you need, and nothing more. Can convert to a stroller, if you want, but is primarily a bike trailer. That's what we wanted. Some of the other trailers out there are much more customizable, but honestly, we already have a bob for everyday stuff + jogging, and I'll give you a $1M if we ever used something like this. I think you pay more for the ability to put all their fancy doo-dads on the trailer, but we're bike folk.
  4. Technically this should be a subset of 2, but we're still kind of toying with the idea of winning/acquiring a Madsen, so we didn't want to put all our eggs children in one basket trailer.
  5. It seats 1-2 kids. Just in case George has a sibling. : )

That's about it for the rationale. I'll let you know as soon as we get it. Pictures and adventures to come!