Monthly Archives: January 2015

Bike paths are controversial — even for cyclists

bikeferry
Photo by Erik Purins.

 

I have read lots about backlash against the miles of new bike paths in New York City and Chicago, even though all the research shows that separate spaces for bikes make everyone safer and can even ease traffic congestion. But what I didn’t expect when I heard that my town, Alameda, was getting a new cycle track along our most popular stretch of coastline: A backlash not just from drivers but from bicyclists as well.

Then again, when was a new city project ever met with universal praise, anywhere?

My story in this month’s Alameda Magazine, The Ruckus Over Alameda’s Shore Line Cycle Track, quotes not only a driver who’s worried about even slower traffic (our speed limit tops out at 30 on the island), but also a cyclist who feels the money would have been better spent elsewhere. Continue reading

Going nowhere and loving it.

beach

At the beginning of this weekend, I dropped some friends off at the airport, and in return they lent me their lovely new minivan for the week. Since we usually have to pay for a car rental for weekend adventures, when we get a free car, we normally plan a fun outing.

But that was not to be this weekend. First of all, even though many people have Martin Luther King Day off work, my husband’s office has never taken that holiday, so I wasn’t planning for a three-day-weekend. When a friend asked if they could come over Monday with their kid, who like mine had the day off school, I said sure. Same thing when one of my kid’s friends invited her over for a playdate on Monday. After all, it was just a day when I’d be home with my three kids, nothing special. Continue reading

Is car culture robbing kids of independence?

 kidswalk

This article about a Maryland family who is being harrassed by Child Protective Services because their children walked somewhere alone upset me for many reasons. You have to read the whole article because it gets more and more bizarre as the story progresses.

The children, ages 10 and 6, were brought home by police even though they told the officers they were not lost and had their parents’ permission. That’s dumb, but could be chalked up to poor judgment on the part of a couple of officers.

But then! The family had Child Protective Services follow-up, and not just to check in and find out that the kids were not being neglected. CPS forced the family to sign a document saying they wouldn’t leave their kids unsupervised, with the threat of removing the kids on the spot if the parents refused to sign. Then CPS interviewed the kids at their school without the parents’ consent. CPS’ involvement with the family is ongoing.

Another thing that blew my mind about this article is that the parents had gone through the trouble to make a laminated card for their kids to carry, reading, “I am not lost. I am a free-range kid.” If you are an adult now, think back to when you were 10 years old. Was walking in your neighborhood alone or with your younger sibling so unheard of that you needed to carry a laminated explaination with you?

So what has changed in the world that an activity that was quite normal just a generation ago could now be considered child neglect? I don’t know. But I know it’s not, as some people claim, that the world is more dangerous now than it was when I was a kid. America is safer now by so many measures.

I have to wonder if driving everywhere is what has changed our culture so drastically. Continue reading

Why I Still Love the Girl Scouts

girlscoutscropped

Lately I’ve heard a lot of parents bagging on the Girl Scouts, an organization that I have found to be really empowering and fun for my daughters and their friends. So today I wrote this post for the New York Times’ Motherlode blog about why Girl Scouts rock.

There are even more reasons that I love Girl Scouts than the ones in the article:

  • Girl Scouts allow adults to model service. Isn’t it funny how high schoolers are supposed to put in all this service time these days, but adults are increasingly too busy with work to do volunteer work? Girl Scouts has a desperate leader shortage, leading to lots of girls who want to participate sitting on a waiting list. Even though you’re busy, consider becoming a leader.
  • Girl Scouts nurture female friendships. Research has shown that female frienships strengthen women in times of stress. In school, your daughter may have different classmates every year, but her troop stays together year after year, giving girls the opportunity to form a lasting bond that they can fall back on when middle school and high school get rough.
  • Leading Girl Scouts has broadened my horizons. I became a leader for my daughters, but in the course of doing so, I’ve learned how a nationwide distribution network works (cookie sales), how to keep an audience engaged (leading meetings), and I’ve had the opportunity to network with all kinds of women who I would not have met on my own.

Landscaping … By Bike

Some projects are harder to do without a vehicle than others. Of course, if we really wanted to get all our landscaping done quickly, we could rent a pick-up truck. But we just have a couple small areas on the sides of our porch that we wanted mulch for, so we stopped into the Ploughshares Nursery after hitting our favorite kid-friendly winery last weekend, and picked up a bucketful of free mulch along with a few plants the kids picked out.

mulch

That amount of mulch turned out to cover only half of one of the little spaces, so we figured we’d pick up another bucket next time we were at the other end of Alameda, about 5 miles away.

But last night, I found out from a local Facebook group that a neighbor just a few blocks away had chipped up a big pine tree and left a huge pile of free mulch on the street. I stopped by on the way home from my Girl Scout leader meeting, and boom, now we have enough mulch to cover the flower bed.

How do we do it? Sometimes, the answer is, “Slowly.”