bike-room-3

Sorting Out Our New Bike Lives

It’s shocking yet luxurious – not a single bike in our new apartment! Not even the folding bikes! You wouldn’t know, unless you looked closely and spotted my bike helmet in a cubby (or saw all the bike parts in The Mechanic’s work space), that here lives people who bike for transportation and for fun. I feel a bit guilty about not having my beloved Fauntleroy here in the cozy apartment where I can watch over him…. but I confess that most of my free time is spent watching over Gaston the Lionhead instead. Oops. Sorry, Fauntleroy. gastonOur new building has a large and secure bike room, accessible by fob, with required registration for each bike therein. A windowless room with motion-sensor lights, it boasts two long, double-stacked bike racks. It’s well-used, too; several bikes clearly get used frequently. Some, not surprisingly, look like they’ve been abandoned, with flat tires and cobwebs. Poor bikes. There is enough open space that we can store all of our bikes in the bike room, with plenty of open racks still available. Yay! It’s nice to live in a new building that was built to accommodate bikes.

The bike room reminds me of a vault

The bike room reminds me of a vault

However….

It’s not 100% rainbows and unicorns, and highlights some ways in which bicycles are still seen, even in bike-friendly Arlington, VA, as recreation and/or toys, and not understood, let alone taken seriously. And although we have some previously only dreamed about amenities, we have still had to opt for a different set up to accommodate our daily bike life.

The vent over these upper racks makes them fairly unusable for any bike but folders!

The vent over these upper racks makes them fairly unusable for any bike but folders!

The challenges are:

  • The lovely bike room is in the basement parking garage.
  • The only way to get a bicycle in and out of the basement parking garage is the elevator.
  • The only way to get to the elevator is through the building. It’s not far from the main entrance and lobby. Which means walking the bike through the lobby, or, the preferred route, the side door.
  • The side door conveniently has an ADA-accessible door switch, so the door will swing open to more easily allow us to roll our bikes in.
  • The next door does not.
  • Then there is a door from the elevator into the actual garage.
  • Then there is the door to the bike room (trust me, I’m good with this one!), once you wheel your bike past a row of cars to get to the bike room.
  • Once you are in the room, the racks themselves are challenging – too close together to fit handlebars easily; hard to “feed” bikes into the wheel channels; and if The Mechanic and I have a hard time getting our bikes on the top rack, what about your average family that wants to bike for fun? Nope, not gonna happen.

It’s not impossible, clearly, just many barriers and steps. It’s obvious that designers and architects are not people who bike often, and (or) have clearly not thought through the steps it would take to get a bike to and from the bike room. It would be so much more convenient if:

  1. The bike room was accessible directly from the outside of the building. No hallways, no passing the concierge, no squeezing in the elevator with strollers…
  2. If the bike room had been built next to the elevator bank, so at least we didn’t have to walk through cars. You know drivers aren’t looking while they are hunting for their parking spot.
  3. The racks were designed to be more user-friendly to more than just the super-fit elite roadies. Yes, there are children’s bikes and trail-a-bike racks in the bike room. Help out those parents!

Because of these challenges, The Mechanic and I have started leaving our bikes outside. I know, I know – what?!?!? Yes, dear Readers, it’s true. They have become (predominately) outside bikes. So this has meant an upgrade in bike locks for me. I broke down and bought the Abus Bordo folding lock. I’m pretty impressed with it so far. It’s super heavy, and I appreciate that. I like that it fits in its case on my down tube, rather than the top tube, and looks more discrete than my U-lock.

Lock in action! See the case?

Lock in action! See the case?

 

It fits snugly in the case, so snugly that I have to work at it to get it out. But that’s preferable to it being too loose!

And this has nothing to do with adapting to our new bike lives, but I had to share anyway – I finally replaced my reflective Lululemon gloves with this swanky glove/mitten set from illumi-nite. They are lightweight, so not deep winter gloves, but something to wear when the mornings are in the 30s or 40s, and afternoons are in the 50s. And they have conductive tips, so I can once again start my Endomondo without having to take off a glove.

illumi-NITE three-in-One Mitten with Glove Liner

illumi-NITE three-in-One Mitten with Glove Liner

Microdots reflecting!

Microdots reflecting!

So in many ways, it feels like a new bike life – even new gloves! I feel like I’m ready for the new year, and we still have December to go!

Hooray for balcony lights!!!

Sewing Room Shapes Up

The Mechanic and I have been madly organizing and unpacking the new apartment – I think Sunday evening we unpacked the last box. We gave the first Craigslister 40 of our boxes this afternoon in what felt like a symbolic victory. The furniture is in place, now we are just fine tuning. We spent most of Saturday in the car, first to IKEA in Woodbridge, VA, then the nearby Home Depot, which didn’t have what we wanted so we drove to the Seven Corners Home Depot and hit Target on the way home. The day was exhausting, expensive, and proved that the more suburban  you are, the worse you drive. So many aggressive, reckless, clueless drivers on the road in Woodbridge! Gah.

We stopped briefly in Occoquan on our way to Woodbridge, so The Mechanic could see the completed River Mill Park, which used to be a water treatment plant. Lovely spot!

We stopped briefly in Occoquan, VA on our way to Woodbridge, so The Mechanic could see the completed River Mill Park, which used to be a water treatment plant. Lovely spot!

On to happier topics – my sewing room is shaping up! Okay, not my sewing “room,” my half of the office which is my sewing space.

My half of the office

My half of the office, in an earlier stage of disarray. Now it’s in a different stage of disarray.

I moved all my sewing and design relater books to this space, and put all my photo albums, which previous had been under the sewing table, in the dining room bookcases. I need to organize the thises and thats still, and we need to replace the table legs, but I could probably crank out some sewing over Thanksgiving weekend. I probably won’t though, because I have cases of old old old papers that need to get sorted and shredded. If I don’t do it now, I’ll be sorry when we move again someday. Trying to be mature and grown up here…

Yay design books!

Yay design books!

There is enough space that I *might* be able to fit in a dressmaker’s dummy. That would be sooooo exciting! But I’m not buying anything like that until the new year. I don’t want to clutter up this nice big new apartment.

Can't you see a dressmaker's dummy here? Oh yeah

Can’t you see a dressmaker’s dummy here? Oh yeah, well, once I move the extra bike helmets and panniers….

The really cool part, well, one of the really cool parts, is that I’ll be able to sit and sewing and look out the window at the same time! And since we just put up balcony lights, well, it makes it more cheerful and magical in this cold, dark weather which is about to get colder and darker. I’ve *always* wanted to live someplace where I could put lights up on a balcony, and now I am. I am SO happy about this.

Room with a view

Room with a view

The Mechanic and I bought tickets to see “The Nutcracker” on Christmas Eve, so now I’m hoping to get at least one sewing project done by then, so I can wear it to the performance. I really want to get the Pegasus blouse done, so that will be my goal. I’ve got about a month – easy, right? What could get in my way during the holidays? Hahahaha…..

Hooray for balcony lights!!!

Hooray for balcony lights!!!

 

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bikes-by-the-door

New Apartment! More Space! Balcony! Bike Storage!

We moved!

A whole half mile from our previous place.

And yet somehow, it seemed to be a longer, more painful move. We did several loads ourselves before and after the moving company moved our furniture, and it took Friday, Saturday AND Sunday. Whew. (We purposefully planned to go back and clean the old place on Election Night. Not enough of a distraction…)

The new place is a fancy new building, opened in 2012, with much more square footage. It’s a two-bedroom, two-bath, with a walk-in closet and a *balcony* plus its shockingly quiet.

Moving Night Dinner

Moving Night Dinner – pizza and champagne!

The office is still a chaotic mess (weep, no sewing for weeks still!!!), but the rest of the place is fairly well set.

Yep, office chaos....

Yep, office chaos….

Check out the walk-in closet!

I can see all my things at once, for the first time ever!

I can see all my things at once, for the first time ever!

How cool is this? All my reflective things reflecting in the walk-in closet. <3 <3 <3

How cool is this? All my reflective things reflecting in the walk-in closet.

Gaston's Tavern, set up in the middle of the living room, with a view of the balcony

Gaston’s Tavern, set up in the middle of the living room, with a view of the balcony

Gaston has a view of the kitchen and dining room - hope he doesn't think he can critique our cooking!

Gaston has a view of the kitchen and dining room – hope he doesn’t think he can critique our cooking!

The view from our new balcony. Not many windows but this makes up for it!

The view from our new balcony. Not many windows but this makes up for it!

Enjoying the balcony from our very low camp chairs. Fun lights and taller chairs are on the list

Enjoying the balcony from our very low camp chairs. Fun lights and taller chairs are on the list…

The apartment building has a bike storage room and lots of staples around the building. The bike storage room will of course be the topic of a blog post soon, I’m sure – once I’ve had some time to properly utilize it. bikes

bike-storage-roomI did order a giant Abus Bordo lock, for the times I want to leave the bike outside. I confess that I’m a bit sad about leaving the bike outside, and won’t do it often, but getting in and out of the bike storage room in the basement of the building isn’t that ideal.

I've wanted one of these for a while, so this was a good excuse to fork out a ton of money for it.

I’ve wanted one of these for a while, so this was a good excuse to fork out a ton of money for it.

We are very happy with our new apartment and can’t wait to get the office set up so we can get back to our hobbies. I have so much sewing to do, and every weekend we are dealing with the apartment is a garment that doesn’t get made. Very sad. But the new place is soooo worth it! bikes-by-the-door

Standing it the smart toy is a smart idea, right?

Tales from Gaston’s Tavern: Smart Bunny!

We have now had Gaston for two months, and already it seems like we have had him forever, and it’s changed our lives so much! I guess every new parent says that, but it’s true! I am so less productive now because I want to hang out with him, and my computer is in a different room. <sad face> But that will change soon. Gaston needs to be the heart of the home!

And in fact, Gaston's pen is pretty much the heart of the living room, it takes up so much space!

And in fact, Gaston’s pen is pretty much the heart of the living room, it takes up so much space!

We continue to adjust to one another – he’s definitely warming up to us, and we keep trying to find new things to keep him occupied. He had a nice fuzzy tube (really for cats) that I thought he’d like to snuggle in, but then he destroyed the bottom, so I replaced it with another cardboard house like he has upstairs. He loves that.

Fuzzy fabrics and crinkly metallic fabrics are probably not the best bunny toys...

Fuzzy fabrics and crinkly metallic fabrics are probably not the best bunny toys…

We got him a few bunny smart toys, toys that make him problem solve to get a treat. The first one we had to coach him on a bit – it has doors on either end that he has to open to get the treats. He figured out the first door pretty quickly but the logistics of the second door took him longer. Gaston got so excited for it! We had the best time watching him with that.

Figuring out the doors on his first smart toy...

Figuring out the doors on his first smart toy…

But then we decided to get him another one. This seemed harder – several lids he had to remove to get to the treats (or food pellets, which apparently are just as exciting as treats). But he figured it out without any coaching from us! Smart bunny!

Standing it the smart toy is a smart idea, right?

Standing it the smart toy is a smart idea, right?

It’s hysterical to watch him yank the lids off, even though there is no resistance. Sometimes he inadvertently pushes the lids back in place or on another spot, which then makes him think there are still *more* treats. I love watching him twitch with excitement when we put this down, but I think we’ll soon need to move onto something even more challenging. This Train Cube toy seems like a good option.

When he’s not playing, he can become as flat and relaxed as a bunny can be. It’s pretty funny to see him stretched out and dozing. gaston-3Lately we’ve been sitting in the “front yard” of his pen to get him used to being around us. He will definitely come down and sit in the cardboard house out there, but then sometimes he’ll come relax super close to us. Really, this is a big deal – if he’s comfortable enough around us to sit within inches, it’s only a matter of time before he’ll want to snuggle. Or at least come up to us when he has even more space to play.

Lounging (albeit somewhat cautiously) near my knee!

Lounging (albeit somewhat cautiously) near my knee!

It’s so much fun watching him explore and observe and play (and snooze), and we couldn’t be happier to have this little fuzzball in our lives. I have so many videos of him but I’m too lazy (well, busy) to upload them to YouTube, but maybe later.

#gastonthelionhead #bunnylove

#gastonthelionhead #bunnylove

fields

October Travel Recap: Biking in Shenandoah

My second “catch up” blog post from the traveling I’ve done this month! Soon I should be back on track – at least a bit…

I’ve wanted to go to the Shenandoah Fall Foliage Bike Festival for a few years now – biking through the Shenadoah Valley in October = fall colors, farms, exploring new places, stretching the bike legs. Also, it’s proximity to the Frontier Culture Museum was a huge lure; that’s a museum I’ve wanted to go to for a while. This year, The Mechanic and I blocked the weekend and made sure to go. staunton-welcomes-cyclists-sign

Admittedly, blocking the weekend did not equal being prepared. We registered late, which made it more expensive, and were madly throwing anything and everything together the day we left. We planned to camp, since the Festival offers cheap camping on the soccer field at the middle school headquarters. Yep, not really prepared to camp. But that’s okay, because we had a great time!

I was so impressed about the way the host town of Staunton, VA welcomed the festival and how organized everything was. There were signs everywhere welcoming cyclists, and stores in the historic downtown area all had signs welcoming cyclists; some offered discounts. The hostess at one restaurant told us that the Saturday night of the Festival is their busiest night *of the year*. Still don’t believe in the economic power of people on bikes? staunton-welcomes-cyclists

I was highly impressed by the festival booklet that everyone received. The booklet contained cue sheets for every single ride of the two days, in tear-out pages. Each page included the map, cues, the “need help” phone number, and a QR code if you wanted to download it. The booklet also contained the full Festival schedule, Friday, October 14- Sunday, October 16th, a map of this historic downtown, information on local shops and Festival sponsors, driving directions to the remote start locations, and a recap of how the Festival put our registration dollars to work, donating to local charities and initiatives. I guess after 26 years of organizing this event, they know what they are doing, but I am still impressed by all this. cue-sheet-booklet

Part of our non-preparation (I kept thinking of Rootchopper’s No Wrong Plan Trip) meant that we arrived at registration Friday night after dark. That meant setting up the tent in the dark. After we went to find dinner. Sorry, other bike campers! We took our commuter bikes, since we sold our road bikes, which meant a more comfortable weekend. I never even wore my padded bike shorts, which I took. In fact, we pretty much stood out as the only cyclists *not* wearing cycling kit. If we’d done longer rides, of course it would have been a different story. But I enjoyed our leisurely approach to the Festival.

Another part of our non-preparation meant that instead of doing the 34-mile loop that we’d planned to do, we did the short 13-mile “family ride.” We were too exhausted from the week to get up early, and wanted to get in some area sightseeing as well. No big deal – the 13 mile loop, which started from Natural Chimneys park, which had once been renown for jousting, was lovely and we were quite happy with our laziness. Sunday we were more on the ball and got a reasonable start to the 20-mile farm loop, which included stops at three farms. Well, one was a bushel of apples set out for cyclists at an orchard, one was a pickling farm stop, and the last, official stop was Polyface Farms, famous for “radical” farming ideas that include healing the earth and being sustainable. We had hoped for an educational component to that stop, to learn more about their mission and values and techniques, but had to settle for hot dogs and “switchel” offered by polite middle school students. (I was happy to see friendly bunnies, even though I know they are being raised for their meat…) farm-ridefields

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We ate well in several downtown Staunton restaurants and cafes (more vegetarian options in this tiny 10-block town than in all of the DC area!), enjoyed the Frontier Culture Museum, and had absolutely perfect weather!

We are definitely adding this bike weekend to our schedule for next year. There is still more in the area that we haven’t explored, and with so many route options, we know we will see new things. And maybe be a bit better prepared for the camping….

Fields of Gold in Shenadoah

Fields of Gold in Shenadoah

 

fabric-haul

Oct Travel Recap: New York City

Oh my – between travel and everything else crazy that has gone on this month, I haven’t had time to blog! But there is so much to share, so here’s the first of two recaps of October travel.

I went to New York City for four days earlier in October to fabric shop and visit friends. It was a really good trip, successful in fabric shopping, friends, art, culture and some thought-provoking museum exhibits.

Fabric shopping was on the top of my list, so after arriving on the Vamoose Bus and dropping my luggage at Schwartz Luggage Storage, I ran to the Garment District. Some friends had posted articles about the Garment District fabric stores closing, and although the large ones like Mood and my favorite B&J Fabrics don’t seem to be effected, the small, family-run stores are in danger. I found one store that advertised it was it’s last day, and everything was on clearance. Although I don’t have an immediate need for two-colored sequin fabric or brocades, well, I couldn’t beat the prices, so I purchased 2 yards of each. And a pretty knit for the McCalls 6844 sweater I’ve wanted to make for a while now.

Last day here - the owner (manager?) was very friendly and upbeat, flirted a bit, so I didn't ask about what he does next. I didn't want to remind him...

Last day here – the owner (manager?) was very friendly and upbeat, flirted a bit, so I didn’t ask about what he does next. I didn’t want to remind him…

I did buy some luxury fabrics at B&J Fabrics, to make some nice basics – a blue tencel twill for another Dressy Talk basic blouse, and a stretch gray for a Sew Over It Ultimate Pencil Skirt. Those two pieces will be nice work basics, nothing flashy, but good “uniform” pieces.

The blue is darker than I was looking for but I love the fabric. It's hard to get the color right in these photos!

The blue is darker than I was looking for but I love the fabric. It’s hard to get the color right in these photos!

Meeting up with a friend in Hoboken resulted in a stash of vintage sewing patterns. She has been cleaning out her mother’s and grandmother’s sewing stashes, and has offered me whatever I want. I made two blouses out of Liberty of London fabric she gave me a while ago. The vintage patterns were fun, especially after having attended the National Arts Club FashionSpeak Fridays talk about the collaboration between Jackie Kennedy and designer Oleg Cassini. I’m not a 1960s styles fan but seeing all the photos of Jackie’s outfits was wonderful. So I ended up with a few patterns that I might end up making.

I also went to two Broadway shows, “School of Rock” and “Something Rotten,” and loved both of them. I have friends working on both shows (wardrobe friends, so backstage, not on stage), so it was fun to see what they are up do. school-of-rock something-rottenMy visit to the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum was one of the best things I did all weekend (and I did alot of great things). I went for the Scraps: Fashion, Textiles and Creative Reuse exhibit, but found so much more. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a museum that so thoroughly engaged my intellect as well as my creativity. cooper-hewitt_scrapsThe exhibits focused on the design element in the world around us, such as the history of design of the American police system, but also how design can improve the future, how it tackles social injustice, the affordable housing crisis, and even allowed the public to design solutions for modern social problems.

I found these statistics to be depressing as well as educational and inspiring.

I found these statistics to be depressing as well as educational and inspiring.

But the Cooper Hewitt had a really cool feature that I wish all museums would do – a digital “pen” that allowed each individual guest to “collect” the display items that they like. You match the + on the end of the pen with the + on each item display, and it downloads or links or something. With each payment you are given a unique code, and then you can log onto their website and see the things you liked. So cool! Also, then I didn’t have to take photos of everything and fill up my already overtaxed iPhone storage…

I am always pleased to have such a stimulating trip, full of ideas and concepts and thoughts as well as just simple visuals of where I have been. Between the city itself, Central Park, the new Oculus at Ground Zero, and a stroll down Fifth Avenue, I feel inspired and yearning to create and design. Now, if only I had the time! After returning from this long weekend, The Mechanic and I went away for a bike weekend in the country. Still no time to create! But that was also a lovely weekend – stay tuned for that recap coming up soon.

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Gaston's Tavern

Tales from Gaston’s Tavern: Birthday Bunny

According to the animal shelter, October 2, 2016, was Gaston’s 3rd birthday. I don’t know how they knew but that’s fine with us. Our birthdays are also on the second day of our birthday months, so it fit in nicely. And it was a fun excuse to buy him a new toy and give him a raspberry. But only one – he’s too small to get more fresh fruit than that!

Birthday Treat!

Birthday Treat!

Exploring his new birthday cozy hideout, in his front yard

Exploring his new birthday cozy hideout, in his front yard

It’s also been just over 6 weeks since we adopted Gaston – and a somewhat traumatic 6 weeks it’s been! Oral antibiotics and eye cream for an eye infection stressed all of us out, and I’m still worried because his eyes are still a bit watery, which mats the fur around his eyes. Between trying to wipe his eyes and eye drops, we still aren’t bonding as well as I’d like. Unless I have a snack. The health trauma was intensified when we took him back to the vet, who trimmed the fur around his eyes and trimmed his nails. Gaston didn’t speak to us for days.

Gaston at the vet

Gaston at the vet

But the lucky bunny got a fancy new tavern earlier this month! The Mechanic turned carpenter and built a wonderful, two-story pen on wheels, with vinyl floors and a carpet-covered ramp.

My contribution - covering the floor with vinyl

My contribution – covering the floor with vinyl

Gaston's Tavern

Gaston’s Tavern

Because we used exercise pen wire panels, The Mechanic was able to create four sets of doors – two on top and two on bottom. This makes it easier to get into to clean and play with Gaston. We are both hugely pleased with how it turned out! Gaston loves running up and down the ramp.

The top level is not this clean any more, after he destroyed the paper bag full of hay and scattered it everywhere!

The top level is not this clean any more, after he destroyed the paper bag full of hay and scattered it everywhere!

We added a “front yard” so Gaston can start to come and go as he (mostly) pleases. However, it took him about two week before he finally ventured out in it. He hasn’t taken to hanging out in it yet, but I guess he’s slow to warm up to things, so eventually we’ll see him there. The front yard is the next step to someday letting him run around the living room, but at the rate he’s going, that could be a while. That’s okay, baby steps are fine.

He finally came out, just this past weekend!

He finally came out, just this past weekend!

Gaston is quite comfortable in his tavern, however, which makes me happy.

I also created a Go Bag for him – September is National Preparedness Month, and how could I not have a box of his things, ready to go in an emergency? I need to add some more things but it has the basics, including a towel, food pellets and some hay. gastons-go-boxI’ve been much less productive since we got Gaston – all I want to do is sit and watch him, or talk to him, pet him, and try to get him to play with his toys. petting-gastonIt’s fun to watch his personality emerge, and I’m excited to see what adventures we’ll have as he begins to play with us more. Someday, I hope, he’ll be snuggling with us on the couch! #bunnylove

Wonderful new fabric, too!

Competing Hobbies, Different Tribes

One evening last week I braved our Metro system to go to an event at Stitch Sew Shop, a fairly new sewing store in Old Town Alexandria totally geared towards people who want make their own clothing. The event was an opportunity to meet Lisa Comfort, the sewing genius behind London company Sew Over It. Lisa’s goal with her shop is to teach as many people to sew as possible, and the store offers classes, patterns, online classes, and I believe has expanded to other cities. Her patterns have both a modern and a vintage feel. There were maybe a dozen other women who had traveled from all over the DC region (Tyson’s, Bethesda) to see Lisa and to talk sewing. Our conversation ranged from the fall of good fabric stores to why dressmaking seems more popular in the UK to how do we teach our husbands to be better photographers?! I bought some fabric and a pattern, and returned home feeling a bit euphoric.

Lisa Comfort and one of her patterns, in Stitch Sew Shop in Alexandria, VA

Lisa Comfort and one of her patterns, in Stitch Sew Shop in Alexandria, VA


Wonderful new fabric, too!

Wonderful new fabric, too!

The evening got me thinking about the different hobbies and interests I have, and the different tribes therein. There is the bicycling world, the sewing world, and now, the bunny world. I’ve been in the bike world for several years know, admittedly on the periphery, and my interactions with the sewing world has been primarily online. And I’ve just dipped a toe in the rabbit world since adopting Gaston a month ago. And I’ve discovered something interesting.

The sewing world seems to be the most supportive and accepting. I think this is because it is the only one of these hobbies where there truly is no wrong way to do things. That’s what makes it so great – everyone’s personality and creativity is celebrated by all of us. Through blogs, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, I have found a group of people who are creative, who constantly strive to try new things, and who cheer on each other, even if the project isn’t their style. No “you shouldn’t put *those* sleeves into *that* bodice,” or “That fabric isn’t suitable for that outfit.” Nope, we are all exploring with what we love, and everyone is okay with that.

Not everyone would make (or wear!) a skirt like this, but my sewing community on Instagram loved it!

Not everyone would make (or wear!) a skirt like this, but my sewing community on Instagram loved it!

In the bicycling world, I still observe a lot of “you are doing it wrong!” attitudes, many “You aren’t doing that *my* way, therefore it’s wrong,” articles and commentary. Okay, there are some things that you shouldn’t do, like biking the wrong way in a one-way bike lane. But I hear stories from new (or not so new) cyclists about how they were treated by others on bikes, and it makes me sad that we can’t support each other’s choices. Why have some of us in the bicycle community still not learned that biking slow/short distances/old bikes/upright bikes/in street clothing/cautiously/casually is still GOOD biking? Yelling at a new rider or buzzing too close to pass them is *not* how to encourage them to keep them biking. Daily I am grateful, though, for the conscientious, supportive bike people I know. Without them, I would have left long ago.

My bicycle is an extension of my style - it expresses who I am.

My bicycle is an extension of my style – it expresses who I am.

I’m learning that bunny ownership is probably similar to parenthood – lots of people think they know best and want to make sure you know their way is best. And there are legitimately some things that you can do incorrectly with a rabbit including feeding it the wrong things (not enough hay. never enough hay), bad cages, and so on. Luckily I not only have past experience, I have a trusted source. But I also know enough to keep this group at arm’s length. Too many negative experiences in the bike world to want to get too close to this group.

This is a very relaxed and happy rabbit - we must be doing something right!

This is a very relaxed and happy rabbit – we must be doing something right!

As we interact with others who have similar interests and hobbies, I hope we can all remember to take a breath and not jump down their throats for doing whatever it is in a different manner (assuming it’s safe and legal, etc.). Really, it’s okay to be different. It’s what makes us all interesting people.

Not everyone would wear this, either, but everyone loves it! (Can we talk about how adorable the star purse is?!?!)

Not everyone would wear this, either, but everyone loves it! (Can we talk about how adorable the star purse is?!?!)

I think this is where bikes go to die. None of them appear to be ridden recently and some are clearly missing parts. Perhaps if these owners had had proper storage, this would no longer be a pile of nearly useless bikes.

Need for Better Bike Storage in Apartments

Arlington County is doing a great job of encouraging more residents to bike more often. Between the ever-present roadies on expensive bikes wearing expensive kit and the low income people who have few better transportation options grows a population of people in between who are spending more and more time on their bikes.

But while this is great for those who live in dwellings with garages or other storage options, people in apartment buildings, especially in lower income apartment buildings, have considerably fewer options. New bike-friendly apartments are all the rage – if you can afford them. For the rest of us, we have to make do with the little we can scrounge.

A survey of a few blocks in Arlington show how badly needed proper bike storage is:

I think this is where bikes go to die. None of them appear to be ridden recently and some are clearly missing parts. Perhaps if these owners had had proper storage, this would no longer be a pile of nearly useless bikes.

I think this is where bikes go to die. None of them appear to be ridden recently and some are clearly missing parts. Perhaps if these owners had had proper storage, this would no longer be a pile of nearly useless bikes.

Some of these bikes might get more use, as well as the covered scooter. But I suspect that those kids' toys get used more.

Some of these bikes might get more use, as well as the covered scooter. But I suspect that those kids’ toys get used more.

These bikes look like they are in better shape. And the fact that one has a baby seat suggests that it's used more frequently.

These bikes look like they are in better shape. And the fact that one has a baby seat suggests that it’s used more frequently.

We watched this apartment complex get renovated and these new bike racks installed. I bet the residents were thrilled to have so much space for their bikes. Too bad covered bike storage wasn't installed instead.

We watched this older apartment complex get renovated and these new bike racks installed. I bet the residents were thrilled to have so much space for their bikes. Too bad covered bike racks weren’t installed instead.

Speaking of covered bike storage - they could build fancy fences and covers for the dumpsters but not for the bikes?!?

Speaking of covered bike racks – they could build fancy fences and covers for the dumpsters but not for the bikes?!?

Surrounding a nearby new and "nicer" apartment complex are bike racks labeled "temporary." But who can blame the residents from parking their bikes there?!

Surrounding a nearby new and “nicer” apartment complex are bike racks labeled “temporary.” But who can blame the residents from parking their bikes there?!

"Temp. bike parking - 4hrs max" - yeah right.

“Temp. bike parking – 4hrs max” – yeah right.

Rusty chain at a "temporary" bike rack suggests otherwise...

Rusty chain at a “temporary” bike rack suggests otherwise…

Well, where *do* you store your baby trailer when you aren't using it? For a small apartment, that's a big piece of equipment that can't easily get hauled up stairs. And once in an apartment - it's probably as big as a kitchen table.

Well, where *do* you store your baby trailer when you aren’t using it? For a small apartment, that’s a big piece of equipment that can’t easily get hauled up stairs. And once in an apartment – it’s probably as big as a kitchen table.

No doubt the bike racks next to this bus stop were intended for individuals to bike to the bus stop, to ease commute options. Now, however, it's yet another pile of dead bikes.

No doubt the bike racks next to this bus stop were intended for individuals to bike to the bus stop, a good “first mile/last mile” solution. Now, however, it’s yet another pile of dead bikes of nearby residents.

If the bike rack you are supposed to use is overly crowded, and you don't want to carry your bike upstairs, and don't have a place in your apartment, a sign pole works fine, right?

If the bike rack you are supposed to use is overly crowded, and you don’t want to carry your bike upstairs, and don’t have a place in your apartment, a sign pole is your best bet.

There's always the tree storage method.

There’s always the tree storage method.

Not everyone is as obsessed with dedicated to their bikes as The Mechanic and I, nor as willing to have bicycles as part of their interior design. But as this area becomes more bike-friendly, those who build and manage apartment buildings, especially affordable housing apartments, need to provide better bike storage. Why? I would summarize into two main points: maintenance and vandalism.

  • Maintenance. Unlike cars, which have their gears covered in sheets of metal, the functioning parts of bicycles are predominantly exposed to the elements. Fully enclosed chain cases are the exception here in the US, rather than the norm. Having seen the bike storage scenario in Copenhagen, I understand the popularity of chain cases so much better. But if your bike is left in the rain or snow for any length of time,  you are risking rusty parts, which will make it much less easier (and fun) to jump on your bike and go. If you aren’t a bicycle mechanic and can’t afford one, you are kinda screwed once your bike gets into bad shape. Replacing chains and other metal parts can set you back even at the best of times, and if you are already cash-strapped, well, good luck. You wouldn’t want to get into a car full of snow, would you? So why would you expect someone to get on a bike covered in snow?
  • Vandalism. In some ways, vandalism is worse than outright theft, which of course no one wants at all, and which is why properly locking your bike is important. But vandalism – missing rear wheel, seat stolen, pedals, even lights. Missing small pieces can add up to a very unrideable bike that either your insurance won’t cover or you don’t know how to replace or can’t afford to. Losing lights means possibly riding in the dark. Losing the seat makes for a very uncomfortable ride home or bus ride. Any sort of vandalism probably lead many people to abandoning their bike all together.

I don’t want to get into theft because there is a lot going on with locks and proper locking, but obviously any bike left outside unattended for a period of time is more vulnerable to theft than a car would be. It’s easier to steal a bike – no one notices, and they are easier to hide or throw in the back of a truck or whatever. Homeowner and renters insurance doesn’t cover a bike the way it covers a car, either.

Apartment developers and property managers should really consider installing bike lockers or at least provide covered bike parking, especially if they manage properties that have heavily used bike racks. High end buildings are beginning to offer free bike storage so there is no reason why the lower income apartments, including the historic garden style apartments, can’t provide bike lockers. At minimum, provide more racks – as shown in these photos, a few racks and a pair of staples here and there are not providing enough for the need. You can’t expect me to believe that rows of bike lockers are uglier than these piles of abandoned bikes. Charge a minimal fee, if you must – we pay an extra $10 a month to have a 4×4 storage cube. I bet apartments that can provide better bike parking solutions will have lines of happy prospective tenants.

This poor bike is a friend's - we had biked to dinner together in DC...

A common sight…

 

 

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New Reflective Fabric Sources

The hunt for decent reflective fabric is an ongoing obsession, and a sometimes frustrating one (it’s really hard to find!). But lately I have found two great resources that I want to share.

The first option isn’t really new. I have known about Seattle Fabrics, Inc., for a while, but I’ve never ordered from them. So I finally did and wish I hadn’t waited so long! It’s not the prettiest website but they have several reflective options. Alas,  you can’t really search for them on the website, but if you look under “New Arrivals,” and keep scrolling down, you will see “reflective piping tape” in several different colors. I’m pretty excited about these, since they look like they will be easier to sew into seams than piping or the heavy reflective fabric bias tape that I make. The reflective bits are only on one side, just keep in mind. I ordered navy, gray and black, and I wish I’d ordered more of the navy.

Reflective Piping Tape

Reflective Piping Tape

seattle-fabric-3I also ordered several yards of their reflective piping, because although working with piping is not my favorite thing, there is no denying the amazing reflective power of reflective piping. seattle-fabric-2

I mean, WOW

I mean, WOW

You can also order a sample pack of what they offer, and I swear I saw a listing for reflective material, but I can’t seem to find it now. Definitely check it out!

The other new source is none other than Mood Fabrics! Are we going to see reflective fashion on Project Runway soon?!? This is fabulous, because they are selling several different colors of reflective fabrics – but hurry! The blue and the red are almost sold out! I ordered two yards of the blue, a yard of the red and a yard of the brown-gold. I have no idea what I’ll do with them yet but I DON’T CARE. It’s sooo hard to find this, especially in colors, that even at this price (which was a bit eyewatering 0_o). But I also got a free Mood tote and a “Made with Mood” label, so that’s fun.

Pretty colors!

Pretty colors!

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It's even pretty reflecting. Somehow this makes me think of a Cinderella dress....

It’s even pretty reflecting. Somehow this makes me think of a Cinderella dress….

I don’t really know yet what I will do with any of these new acquisitions, but I’m happy to see my reflective stash grow. And the timing was right – I just used some black reflective tape (marketed for motorcycle safety) for the first time, in my new Zeus skirt. It looks pretty cool with the lightening-esque design of the fabric. (This skirt is a bit too narrow and short to be a good bike skirt, but will always be good walking around in the evening.)

So make haste to Mood Fabrics! Maybe the demand will convince them to restock. We need our reflective options!!!

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