Saturday, January 28, 2012

Cars Can Kill

A local teen was killed in car crash recently and two of his friends were injured. One car, high speed, collision with a tree...terrible, tragic. Avoidable? Probably.

I remember driving as teen. I had a great teacher, my father. He taught we all sorts of wonderful things about watching sidewalks, driving defensively, looking both ways even when crossing one-way streets, always expect the unexpected, look out for bikes and pedestrians, drive the speed limit, etc. All things I grew to understand and respect, but as a teen I pretty much ignored.

My boyfriend made me upset? Drama ensued with me racing off in my car. Out for fun with friends? More than a few nights of riding too fast down country roads or doing donuts in parking lots. Late for work? Speed limit be damned.

What made me really take driving or even being a passenger in a car seriously was a friend/co-worker of mine dying in car wreck with her young baby. One car, high speed collision with a stationary object. It happens. It doesn't have to.

Please, please, please drive safe. No girlfriend/boyfriend is worth putting your life or other in danger. Going to the hospital or morgue is not fun. Be late, it will be okay. Cars can kill, use them wisely.

Friday, January 20, 2012

These Boots Are Made For Walkin'

Since the first real snow event of 2012, Parker and I have been walking to and from school instead of cycling. Rob would cycle with Parker (and a friend or two) to school and I would cycle home with him/them. Then the snow fell and Parker wisely decided it might be safer and more fun to walk. We get just enough snow in this area for people to not know how to drive in it, but think they do. Now Parker and I enjoy our one one one time so much that Parker isn't interested in cycling at all yet. When we bike to school he doesn't get much of a chance to chat. I love getting a couple miles of walking in before I start my homeschooling day with the two younger kids. It gets me out of the house when it is 10 degrees out so then the rest of the day I don't dread the cold. Rob has completely lost his winter groove and will sometimes go days without leaving the house. He is too soft from spending last winter in North Carolina. He used to be such a hard man cycling seven miles to work in sub-zero weather even when we had a car. Now he spends all day in his attic office with a space heater so it is the warmest room in the house. Luckily, this winter hasn't been too bad yet and we've already made it through the first month.

I bought a pair of Bogs boots from Champaign Surplus before Christmas and I used them a couple times, but it was almost too warm, but once the snow fell and real winter kicked in I found the Bogs to be a joy. My seven year old is our middle child and rarely gets new anything so I bought  him a pair this year too. He never complains about his toes getting cold and he was able to play in the snow all day without getting his feet wet. He can easily put his boots on himself since they have the handles. I predict the entire family will end up with a pair of Bogs as they grow out/wear out their current boots. Thanks to Loretta and Susan for recommending Bogs boots.

I walked over a dozen miles in my boots last week before the snow melted and they were not tough on my feet. I was happy to get back into my walking shoes since they are a little less bulky, but really the boots were very comfortable. I debated about buying a shorter pair because I think I could wear them all the time, even when cycling. I'll let you know how they well they wear as time goes on.

The younger kids and I walked to the bus station this week to buy new bus passes. I'm going to try to keep a running tally of how often we ride the bus. I'm curious with two bus passes (one for me and one for Parker) and soon to be three (Dema is about the height to need one now, but they said he was still okay to ride without) if we really use them enough of if we should just pay a dollar each time. It is certainly convenient to have the passes instead of tokens or cash, but we're trying to be more fiscally responsible.

After we walked to the bus station, we took the bus to the co-op and back so we have 2 rides for one pass holder so far this year. I was able to get Parker's pass too since his photo was on record, but he doesn't ride the bus as much anymore and he was supposed to be issued a bus pass through the school, but never received one. I'm hoping he uses the bus more independently this year. We'll see.

I wish I had a picture of Josie on the bike of the Xtracycle on the way to ballet this week. In some ways walking is more comfortable in the cold than cycling because walking expends more energy and doesn't create as much wind. Yet Josie was insistent on going by bike. I had to bundle her up with her toutou on. Only her ankles and cheeks were cold. We have several masks and balaclavas, but she refused to wear them since they really are too big for her. I need to look into smaller options of headwear for under her helmet or over perhaps. The ride is only a mile or so and she didn't complain.

Last night we all walked the mile downtown to watch a movie and it was single digits for our walk home. The little ones were snuggled in the Chariot bike trailer and the rest of us kept warm by walking fast.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Let It Snow!

The snow started falling in our part of the world as my eldest was getting his coat on to leave for school. Rob and I were debating about cycling or walking to school. Actually, Rob saw no problem with biking there, but I thought it would be silly to bike there just to have to walk his bike home. I don't trust drivers around here on the best of days so there was no way I was going to trust them on the first day of real snow this winter. I was a lovely walk and I was able to have a great chat with Parker. Of course, he is almost twelve and is more than capable to walk to school on his own, but we both really enjoy our time without his siblings.

Josie is dancing around the house singing "Let It Snow" (not the real version, something she just made up). It is kind of infectious. Days like this I am so relieved to not own a car. I don't have to worry about driving on the roads, I don't have to clean off the car, I don't have to move the car to let the plows go by, etc. It takes the suck out of snow.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Bike Safety Ed

NEW!  BICYCLE SAFETY FOR ADULTS – Do you want the confidence to bicycle more often?  Would you like to learn the Rules of the Road and how to safely bicycle on local streets?  Then this class is for you!  Join local League Cycling Instructors, certified through the League of American Cyclists, to learn:  Illinois Rules of the Road, Bicycle handling and traffic skills, How to fix basic mechanical problems and Safety – common causes of crashes and how to avoid them.  This will be a two-hour classroom presentation and interaction program designed to equip you with the basic information to bicycle more confidently.  Interested students can then take the Bicycle Safety Skills for Adults class that offers parking lot drills to practice bicycle handling skills. Class meets Apr. 26. 
Thursday - 6:00 - 8:00 pm...... Room 1156 UHS
One session (2 hours)........... $15.00
NEW!  BICYCLE SAFETY SKILLS FOR ADULTS – Do you feel you lack the skills to bicycle safely?  Would you like to learn basic bicycle riding skills from a certified instructor?  Sign up for this class and you will learn and practice basic bicycle handling skills.  Local League Cycling Instructors, certified through the League of American Cyclists, will demonstrate and assist students in learning and practicing the following skills:  Starting & Stopping, Straight Line & Shifting, Scanning, Scan/Signal/Turn, Quick Stop, Rock Dodge, Avoidance Turn and Quick Turn.  This class is open to students 16 and older (16 & 17 year olds must have parental permission) who can ride a bicycle.  This is a two-hour class that will be held off-road in a parking lot.  Students must bring their own bicycle and helmet.    Class meets May 3. 
Thursday - 6:00 - 8:00 pm..........
Urbana Parking Lot #24 (near corner of Illinois & Broadway)
One session (2 hours).......... $15.00

For more info go here.

Use Your Turn Signals, Please!

This has been a pet peeve of mine for, well ever, since I learned to drive certainly. Please, please, please, please use your turn signals! I was almost hit a week ago when a car was on Washington heading west (or so I thought since he had no turn signal) and I was on Washington crossing Prospect heading east. It was dark, but I had a front light on and reflective clothing. The car ended up turning left (south) onto Prospect and came within inches of my bike. I had the right of way since we were both at stop signs and I arrived first and was going straight. I was in the street. I had a wary eye out for the driver because I know often drivers do not use their signals when no cars are in front or behind them. Use your signal EVERY time. I don't care if the place is deserted, use it.

Yes, cyclists need to signal as well. I try to, even when I don't see anyone else around. The only times I don't signal is when I can't spare a hand from my bike to keep it upright. This is an issue with a full load on my bike and making a turn. I wonder if we should have handlebar lights that can be used as signals. I wonder if cars would notice them. Sometimes I think we are completely invisible and it doesn't matter what we do, drivers will never see us or care. I mean they never seem to have any negative consequences to hitting a pedestrian or driver. Oh to live in a place where pedestrians and cyclists were respected instead of loathed.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Staying Warm

It is that time of year again when we opt for the bus more than our bikes. Here is Josie (four) waiting patiently and warm for the bus. We still ride to school and home with our 11 year old son. With all of us expending energy we can keep pretty warm. Josie starts to get cold for long trips on my Xtracycle even when she is pretty bundled up because she gets the breeze from riding, but none of the warmth producing exercise.

She does ride her own pedal bike now (she was loving her balance bike so much she wasn't interested until Thanksgiving weekend). Yet, she is slow close to the ground and not super visible (even with her bright orange bike) that she still rides on my Xtracycle for longer rides.

Skull caps are key to cycling in the winter, in my opinion. They are thin enough to fit under your helmet, but warm. Add a neck gator and you are toasty. Good gloves are also nice. Lobster gloves in sub-zero temps are great, but any quality gloves work most of the winter. Especially for the kids, make sure the gloves still allow for good bike control and breaking. Don't forget, the shorter days mean you need a light with you at all times. Be careful and be seen!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Dress for Car Free Success

What to wear, what to wear? It is that time of year in lovely C-U when the temps start to fall and so does the rain.

Yesterday I walked Josie to ballet for her comfort and mine. I stayed warmer and dryer walking with her in the Chariot trailer than if I'd hooked it up to my bike. I was completely comfortable in my Mountain Hard Wear jacket there and back in low to mid-40's temps and steady rain. I didn't even need gloves and walking/pushing Josie kept me almost too warm (I had a short sleeve shirt and thin hoodie underneath). Layers is the name of the game, I suppose. My only complaint is my shoes. The puddles were unavoidable on the walk home and I definitely day dreamed about rain boots by the time my cold toes were home since they didn't come into a nice warm house. We don't have the heat on and our sweet old home is in the 50's from now until next spring.

The bike ride to pick up Parker from school (need to cover same cycling to school soon) was not as pleasant. My Mountain Hard Wear jacket is not a good color for cycling in the dark gray rain and it was still quite soaked from my late morning walk. I grabbed my brighter colored old North Face jacket. It is really a bit to big for me. I bought it about 15 years ago on sale, but it is a men's small and really never fit right. I can bring the hood over my helmet a bit, which was nice. I'm thinking of getting a non-traditional helmet. They seem to have good coverage and be warmer. Anyway, Parker's helmet was soaked and both our seats were too by the time he was out at the bike rack. I need to remember to keep a towel in my Xtracycle for rainy days. I had fingerless cycling gloves on and my hands were cold. Parker had full cotton gloves and he was fine.  I need to find him some better fall/winter cycling gear. His Marmot coat is getting snug and really isn't waterproof. It has held up great to a lot of use and abuse for two years and will be handed down to Dema so no complaints.

I was checking out options online before Champaign Surplus has their sale this weekend. I am eyeing the Portland Jacket at Shower's Pass since it is on sale. Only smalls and XL left. I bought Rob a medium a while back and he loves it, but his is definitely too big for me. I wonder if a small will work and it really wouldn't be warm enough in winter.
 Rob wears his a lot, but usually just spring and fall (or ice skating). Is there such a thing as rain/winter cycling wear that I could use for all seasons? I also like Nau's Sussinct Trench, on sale, but can't tell if it will be warm enough and after a closer look it is actually out of stock. I was in Evanston a couple weekends ago and found a jacket I would love to have at Athleta, but I don't see it online and it wasn't a top layer for winter.

The one thing I am sure I'll be wearing from now until April is my Title Nine Pants. I bought them several years ago and the only thing I see on their website similar is this. I practically live in these pants in cooler weather. I never feel cold below the waist with these babies on, but be warned they are super warm and don't try to workout inside in them unless you want to pass out from heatstroke.

What are you wearing?