Sunday, February 2, 2014

Hello again!

It seems like forever since I've posted here, mostly because I haven't been riding much unfortunately.
After a bit of a false labor scare in my 32nd week, I stopped biking, and by the time I was cleared to ride again, I felt too big and out of practice to start riding again.
On December 19th my future cycling companion was born by c-section because she was breech and had her umbilical cord wrapped around her neck.  I've been a little bit busy since ;) but in a mostly good way.  Fortunately my architecture school ability to go without sleep seems to have survived all these years, although the infrequent naps are much appreciated.

I'm pretty well up and getting around now, and have been walking increasing distances when it hasn't been terrifyingly cold. I'm fortunate that I live somewhere where I can do a lot of my errands by foot, so I've been walking to the grocery store, the pharmacy, the bank etc.   We have an industrial strength stroller to deal with gnarled brick sidewalks and un-cut granite curbs.  But I find myself more often wearing the baby in a stretchy wrap against my chest, snuggled cozily under my coat with her head near my heart.

I'm hoping to get the all clear tomorrow from my doctor to start riding ( sans baby) again. Once you're spoiled by the speed and the carrying capacity of a bike, it's hard to resign yourself to the slower pace.

I've even walked as far as the shop, which is also moving along at a slow winter pace.  However  I'm starting to plan things for the spring, even though that seems like a ways away.  I hope it's going to be a busy year for us, and I know it will be busy with the little one.  One immediate event for anyone local is a ladies' night next Friday.  At the shop (368 Beacon st, Somerville) Friday February 7th 6-8 pm.  Come meet other like minded ladies over drinks and snacks.  The baby girl may attend if she's feeling cooperative.

Hope to be seeing everyone from the saddle soon!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

"Are you getting enough exercise?"

My response to that question for years has been "of course"  And riding 30 minutes to work and 30 minutes back at a "sprightly-stately" clip for years has meant that "of course" I was getting plenty of exercise.

But now, my commute to the bike shop is 11 minutes (yes, I timed it- although it took several tries-I kept forgetting to hit the stop button when I arrived).  That's 22 minutes a day, which is better than many people get, but I probably need more like 30-40 minutes.   I end up riding more on my Monday days off, but not enough to really make up for it.

So recently I've been doing something I've never done before- purposely trying to add loops to my rides out of my way to add time.   If I go to Whole foods on the way home it takes 20 minutes, which helps, but even I don't need to go to the grocery store every day.

The reason that the question is pressing is that the Scientist and I are expecting a future cyclist, due at the end of December.   This isn't news to anyone who's seen me in person lately!  , but I haven't yet mentioned it on the blog.   I'm still riding, with the support of my OBGYN,  and one of the joys of running a family friendly bike shop is that not only do I get a lot of support from customers, but I also get to meet a lot of other women who are riding well into their pregnancy.

I'm mostly riding the Bakfiets- partly because I schlepp so much stuff to and from the shop most days, partly to add a bit of "resistance training" to my ride, and partly because the upright position and large "cockpit" are so comfortable.   I think I've retired Gilbert for the duration- while he's a pretty upright bike, I find I gently graze my belly on the stem when I push forward and raise myself onto the saddle.

I'm encouraged by how many other pregnant bikers I'm encountering.  I think that for many women to whom biking is a way of life, biking is the most comfortable way to continue to get around, even when walking starts to be less comfortable.  My doctor occasionally bikes to work, so I think she understands that if you're comfortable with your balance, it's not necessarily a bigger falling hazard than walking.  A Dutch woman in the shop the other day commented that in her experience, if you keep riding as your body changes, you can adapt and compensate to those gradual changes.  Plus it's good low-impact exercise.  

 It does really make you conscious of safer biking streets, and desirous of more separated facilities.   I went to a meeting about the proposed cycle tracks around the Boston Public Garden,  and there were some young male messengers who were anti- cycle track, saying that they wanted the "freedom" to bike fast in traffic, and didn't want to feel like they had to ride on the track.  Firstly no one is required to ride on the track,  and secondly,  even the strongest riders get colds, sprain ankles, or are otherwise slowed down (say by pregnancy) on occasion.   And if we're lucky we all get older, and people rarely rider faster and more aggressively as they age!

I'm not planning anything extreme like riding in snow, or riding myself to the hospital,  but I hope to keep biking as long as it's comfortable and convenient, and we'll see if that's all the way to near the end, or if I feel like I need to stop at 8 months or so.

And the shop?  Well,  the plan is to have the shop open limited hours during January and February- 3PM to 6PM or so.   Hard to predict since it's my first year, but I suspect those months would be slow anyway.  In February I can probably come in by special appointment, and I hope to be coming in- with the Future Cyclist in tow at least part time in March.  We'll see how that goes.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Workcycles are Coming!

I was tempted to play Paul Revere on my ride in this morning, calling out the news to all as I passed!
After a long process- we probably started at the end of May, and here three months later, the final result of all that agonizing, emailing and skyping  is about to be revealed!

We're getting 12 bakfietsen.  10 long and 2 short.  We have 5 FR8's coming, and 9 GR8's  and a special order Opafiets.  It was hard for us to predict what the market is/ will be,  so we perhaps were a little cautious on the FR8's and GR8's.  Unlike the Bakfietsen, those can actually be shipped on pallets, so if all else fails, we can get more mid-year.  

People have been very excited about all these bikes, so I hope I under-ordered and will need to place another order soon.   The whole import process is a bit scary,  but so far it's gone pretty smoothly, hopefully this last stage will go smoothly as well.  I'll post photos as soon as things arrive-
check out @Bikingheels twitter for updates and instagrams of the big reveal!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Hungry Hungry Bakfiets

I was fortunate enough to be able to flag down the family riding with this bike past the shop.  I was curious what brand of bakfiets this was, since I didn't recognize it.  With good reason it turns out, because it was built by its rider after looking at lots of other bakfietsen.   At first he just had a flat platform to which he fastened a child seat, but last winter he built the fabulous box with a caterpillar theme from the Hungry Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.  








Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Month In

Well,  I'm a month into my new routine,  and I thought I'd give an update.  I'm settling into the rhythms of it fairly well.  The slightly later mornings, into which I always try to cram too many things- emails, cooking, cleaning, appointments.   The morning settling in, tidying up, chatting with the UPS or Fedex drivers, generally broken around noon by a couple of people coming by on their lunch hours.   The early afternoon lull in which I follow up on orders or emails and sometimes assemble a bike.  Finally the late afternoon when people start to trickle in between 3 and 6.  Followed by closing up and heading home to make dinner.

The first couple of weeks were largely marked by the incredible heat, and lack of AC.  I came home every day feeling lightly roasted,  especially on sunny days where the western windows drove the temperatures up dramatically.  After a comedy of errors involving an illegal 220v outlet masquerading as a 110 outlet, Home Depot's incredible return policy and a long hot wait for an installer to put in the new 220 unit, we have nice cold AC,  which is a huge relief.

People who come in randomly off the street not knowing anything about the shop seem fairly divided.
About half are very interested and excited that such a shop exists.  They gush about how pretty the bikes are or talk nostalgically about the bikes they used to own and the simpler life of three speeds.   Several of these people have bought bikes, and it's a real kick to see them riding by weeks later through the shop windows.

Another 25% are just window shopping,  not really interested in buying a bike, not having a bike that needs accessories, they're just checking out what's in this funny triangular space.  They like to tell me about the businesses that have failed in this spot.  Cheerful!

The final 25% are not really interested in this kind of bike and some of them are not afraid to tell me about it.  Like the woman who did a quick lap and then asked me for directions to Wheelworks because she wanted a bike with shocks (!)   Or the guy with stereotypical piercings, tats and facial hair who wanted a fixie because he had a friend with a fixie.  Or most disconcertingly the guy who told me he'd thought about buying a dutch bike, but got a mountain bike instead because dutch bikes were too heavy and impractical.  Those people are better served elsewhere, and fortunately there are a lot of other local shops which can really help them out.

Beyond the people coming in randomly, I've had a ton of bike-friends, bike acquaintances, and friends of bike friends who had heard about the shop through the blog or through others' blogs or tweets.  Many of these people already own a bike,  but it's still great to see them, and meet some in person after only knowing them through the blogosphere.

Henry the Shop Dog enjoying the AC
And finally I'm starting to get people coming in who are specifically looking for the products I sell, and have found me through the website.  They call asking if I have the Bobbin birdie in Mint (no, as far as I can tell, it's been discontinued)  or to ask about when the Edgerunners will arrive (mid September).  I am trying to figure out how to boost the signal out to those people.   I've joined up with the Boston Family Bicycling group, and a lot of people from that group have contacted me.  But I need to reach further out, to people who don't necessarily think of themselves as cyclists, but whose lives would be made easier with a comfortable, attractive city bicycle.   I'm still trying to figure out the best ways to do that.  I've gotten a lot of calls from "marketers"  who have all kinds of ways that they promise to increase my profile, for a fee.   But I still need to do some thinking about how to reach the people I'm trying to reach, and I don't think that a yelp ad that pops up when anyone searches for "Bicycle" is really the right tool.

Working 6 days a week has been an adjustment, and I pack my Mondays off with lots of errands and to-do's.   I definitely don't know everything there is to know about bikes, and I am never going to be someone who has all the details of gear ratios and frame geometry at the tip of their tongue.  But I sometimes have to stop and giggle that I get to spend my days talking to people about bikes all day!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Big Day!


So I'm live-blogging from the opening of Bicycle Belle!  There was a fair bit of scurrying around this morning- getting cash for the cash register, last minute supplies and such.
The Scientist helped hang a "Now Open" banner
Banner Hanging
And I did a few last minute test rides to check bike assemblies that I had done on rainy days and not ridden yet.
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It's a soft opening- very soft, so far- as I've made only one sale, to M-  who needed a coffee cup holder for Pauline, his Gazelle, and tried out one of the Cleverhoods
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Emily fromHub Bikes, our "sister store" to whom we refer repairs, came by,  Mike Flannigan from ANT came by and checked out the Kinn,  and a lot of people just walking by  stuck their heads in.
We'll still be getting bikes in over the summer as the Paper Bicycles arrive in July and the Workcycles Bakfietsen, FR8's and GR8's arrive in August (we hope).
But we have lots of Yakkay and Bern helmets in stock:
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Super stylish Vespertine reflective vests-These are on the back wall, and car headlights shining through the front door light them up in the evening.
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 This is what they look like
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And Vespertine reflective pins:
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Stealth tweed scarf looks grey in normal light, but headlights (or flash) light it up
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Yepp kids' seat-s both the front mounted mini, and the rear mounted maxi, and accessories to mount them on any bike
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And of course, leaning towers of baskets:
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We'll be open 10-6:00 most days,  12-5 Sunday, and closed on Monday- drop by at 368 Beacon and check us out!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Step Sideways for Mass DOT

I went to a somewhat disconcerting public meeting this evening.  The project was the reconstruction of the Cambridge St (Allston) overpass over the Mass Pike between Lincoln St and Harvard Ave.  I'd link to the drawings online, but the project team didn't seems to realize that people want to see drawings online, and hadn't made any plans to put them up.

 This is a scary place to bike or walk because in the 1950's, a dense, walkable urban neighborhood was torn in half by a freeway.  Then the planners who designed the freeway "reconnected" the two halves of the neighborhood with an overbuilt 6 lane highway and a scarily isolated, dangerously steep, chainlink enclosed pedestrian bridge.  The sidewalks are crumbling and bordered with chainlink fence and highway style crash barriers.  Because there are too many, too wide lanes, drivers go way too fast, and with crosswalks spaced half a mile apart, pedestrians end up playing chicken to try to get to the bus stop.

The first shocking thing about this meeting is that while it was the first public meeting any of the advocates knew about, the proposed design was purportedly at 100%.  I guess it's a sign of how much Mass DOT has changed, that public process has gone from a vestigial "this is what we're going to do, like it or lump it" single meeting to an actual process where advocates expect meetings at 25%, and 75% and sometimes even pre-design meetings.  This is important because it becomes harder (more expensive) to make big design changes the further a project goes along, so a bike-ped unfriendly project can be rammed through because it's "too late" to make any changes to a bad initial design.  There was a watershed moment in local advocacy in 2008, when the "Old"  Mass DOT tried to ram a pedestrian and bike- unfriendly plan for the rebuilding of the Cragie Dam/ Museum of Science bridge through by presenting it as "complete"  and the public outcry made them reconsider and made the project better.  The old Mass DOT didn't understand or design for people, they just designed for cars. The new Mass DOT may still be mostly in a car minded design mindset, but they've learned that they need to listen to the people who bike and walk, and make some concessions to allow them to do so safely.

Anyway, the crew responsible for this meeting were clearly from the old school, and as was explained later in the meeting, this project was designed and contracted for by the old Mass Turnpike Authority, before it was rolled into Mass DOT.  So these engineers wouldn't know a livable street if it bit them, they were all about Level of Service and throughput and crash barrier standards.  They had grudgingly put in bike lanes and put the road on a lane diet to slightly compensate for the fact that the street was 150% overbuilt.  But they obviously hadn't given any real thought to pedestrian and bicycle motions at intersections or midblock.  They'd even made the pedestrian environment less friendly by putting a giant concrete median and chainlink fence down the middle to prevent people from crossing where the side streets connect to this big road.  There have been some tragic pedestrian deaths in this area, but putting a giant fence in the middle of the road is like forcing women to wear the hijab to prevent rape. God forbid we should require the cars to go a reasonable speed and provide safe and frequent pedestrian crossings.

The good news is that they are putting the road on a lane diet.  At only 27,000 cars per day, 6 lanes was way WAY too big (for a local point of reference, Mass Ave which is 4, and sometimes only 3 lanes carries more than 30,000 cars a day).  The lanes are being "tightened"  to a generous 11'6" and the extra space is going into wider (10') sidewalks and buffered bike lanes.  However the buffer is only a painted stripe zone, basically a glorified shoulder.

Given the speeds of the cars here (hopefully reduced by the lane diet)  it's not comfortable for bikes to ride right next to 50 mph traffic with only a few painted stripes between them.  Unlike many of the roadways around here, there's actually plenty of width to build cycletracks, and it would be a shame not to provide more protection- either flex posts or a curb to create a safer solution.

Basically it all comes down to the great saying "If you build for traffic and cars, you get traffic and cars.  If you build for people and places, you get people and places."  Right now Mass DOT is proposing to re-build a half mile long highway through a city neighborhood,  but what the neighborhood needs is a city street that's comfortable for the people who live there.

The one member of the panel who was from the "new MassDOT" seemed a bit embarrassed by this whole dinosaur of a project, although not embarrassed enough to commit to changes or more public process.  I think that the advocacy groups will attempt to have a meeting with the city of Boston, and Mass DOT  (BTD wasn't really represented, so Mass DOT kept blaming some of the worst features of the design on BTD).  I'm hopeful that some coordination and a bit of thought will mean it's not too late to make this a better project.