I don’t want to have to be brave to get on my bike to run errands. But I do. And it’s not as if I haven’t biked before. When we lived in Minneapolis, I’d bike to parks or to the Farmer’s Market, trailer in tow. And when I lived in Madison (Wisconsin), I owned a bike a used it from time to time.
Here, now, where I lived, it’s not just that there are a few hills here and there. In fact, I bought myself a decent bike precisely because I knew I’d have more hills to contend with than in the flat, flat Midwest where I was used to biking and where I could get away with a heavy hand me down.
It’s the car traffic. That’s it. That’s what I fear.
But the county is attempting this “shared streets” program lately and so I set my sights on using those, where drivers are more likely to be on the look out for cyclists. Some of those shared streets are on a route between where I live in and the closest central business district.
Plus, a bakery opened up. How could I justify not biking for bakery errands. So I finally did it. My husband double checked a few things on my bike and I biked up to the nearby bakery. And it was lovely. The morning air was still crisp and light. And the croissants were flaky.
And so the following week, when I planned another bakery trip, I asked my 7yo daughter if she wanted to join me. She’s up for almost everything and is awake before most of us most mornings.
I went over a few things with her beforehand (I would lead, look out for parked cars and their doors, which might suddenly open, use signals and follow me). And it was a lovely trip too. She handled even the hills beautifully and the car traffic was light enough that it didn’t feel particularly dangerous even for a young biker.
(Full disclose: we do go on little bike rides as a family in the area. This was just the first times we were going into areas with more cars.)
She helped pick out the breakfast baked goods and we even managed to lock our two bikes up together so we could run into the store unburdened. It was warm, but not hot. And we arrived home ready to enjoy and share our loot.
It was warm enough that that evening , at dinner, we ate with the windows open and so siren after siren that wailed past our house was all the more obvious. There were more than “normal” so I checked on-line to see what sort of emergency was happening.
A driver had hit a pedestrian on a sidewalk. It happened a few blocks from our house and a block from where we’d been biking earlier, near one of those shared streets. From my understanding, the pedestrian did not, fortunately, sustain any serious injuries.
Still, it gave me pause.
In fact, I hadn’t biked up there again in the last few weeks. Until today. (Although, I definitely didn’t invite any of my kids along. I wasn’t ready for that.) But I needed some items that I would be able to get at the nearby Asian grocery store. So I biked up again to run in there.
And it was lovely. Again. I am not sure whether I am ready to take my kids along with me, but it was freeing to be able to exercise and run an errand and support local businesses. I grabbed what I needed, which fit neatly into my new pannier/ bike bag from the Vietnamese-Chinese owned grocer where I overheard to proprietor speak Thai with another customer and English to me. Outside, as I unlocked my bike, a man asked me if I knew what kind of flowering trees were along the sidewalk in a Spanish-English hybrid.
“Excuse me,” he asked, “Cerezo?”
“Cerezo?” I asked him, bewildered.
“Yes, Cerezo. You know. In Washington, DC” and he pointed south of us.
“Oh! Cherry Blossom!” I laughed, pleased at the surprise at winning this little verbal charades game.
“Yes! Cherry Blossom,” he, also evidentially pleased.
We carried on like this, about the little trees and how beautiful they are and that I thought were perhaps a type of Magnolia based on the size and shine of their leaves. And we parted ways soon after.
And I biked home, grateful that the trip back, now laden with a few pounds of rice, was mostly a gentle downward slope.