10.27.2010

no bikes for the boys today...

no bikes today for the boys

today it is raining...
but that is not why the boys are not riding their bikes

the real reason is that my wife Lisa is
handling pick up
I can not get out of work in time to
ride to the boys' school and then ride home with them
actually... I am not working today... I was called in and then they canceled...
instead I am going to a funeral service for an old co-worker
which has me going into work to catch a ride to the service
unlike the others in the vans... I am not getting paid for my boond0ggle

this is fine...
not the unexpected death of an old friend from my old "work family"
it is fine that the boys are not riding their bikes because six year old Grant has been asking for a break
as far as the death of the old friend-co-worker... it is sad
dead at 48

this drop off with the bikes then ride home formula has been a great opportunity to spend more time with my kids
while getting the kids on the bike which has a long list of benefits
there are lots of benefits but there are also a great number of unnecessary
dangers

DANDER WILL ROBINSON DANGER

the roads are dangerous
the way that cars drive puts anyone at risk who is not surrounded by crumple resistant side panels and multiple air bags
the failure for car drivers to be respectful of others trumps their ignoring the law
car drivers no only ignore the law... they ignore common sense and common courtesy
in fact... laws are created because people have proven that they can not and will not behave unless instructed to do so
instructed to do so with the threat of punishment

in one day I can
have enough close calls with the kids on the bike to send me to the ER with a heart attack
okay... we have never really had any close calls
but the WORST CASE SCENARIO is always right around the corner

the four block bike ride from the car to school in the mornings can be anxious

we across town to school then park a few blocks away
I walk with my coffee as my boys ride ahead
riding on the sidewalk they have to cross numerous driveways, one alley, and several streets
each day I coach the
m to BE SMART AND BE SAFE
the boys are told to make complete stops at the corner and make sure that the car drivers see them
but really that is asking a lot of a six and nine year old

how do I ask the car drivers to look out for them
one would think that a car driver heading to drop their kids off at school would be al
ert and considerate of other children trying to get to school

well... maybe not

anxiously I look ahead at my boys as they race down the sidewalk to school
shouting EXCUSE ME as they approach others on the sidewalk

the inability of cars to make a complete stop at THE STOP LINE AT THE STOP SIGN is as dangerous as the left turning car driver who are only thinking of oncoming traffic an
d not taking into consideration pedestrian traffic in the crosswalk

although we have not had any true close calls... I fear the dangers
the dangers are out there
dangers that could so easily be avoided

on the way to go pick up my kids from school yesterday I rolled down Park Road right by my house and moved forward toward the Green Light that would take me down Adams Mill that becomes Porter Street towards Cleveland Park
I rolled in the right hand turn lane and traffic flowed straight along side of me
behind me I felt the fast approach of a taxi cab
the driver ignored the RED RIGHT TURN ARROW and proceeded forward
it was a near miss
I just escape
d his grill
he did not slow or stop for the RED TURN ARROW
he did not slow or stop for me... the cyclist traveling in front of him

I gave him a happy hearty F_CK YOU!
and well... he gave it right back
for a second I hated him and the country he came from
although I have no
idea what country he is from... I hated it just the same

not only did he nearly run me down
he made a
fast turn through the red light that feeds down my street
the street where my kids cross to get in the car or to hike in the woods

the cab driver's unprofessional driving style irked me to no end but... I let it go...
until this moment it had been forgotten
it is unhealthy to carry this stuff with you
I am trying not to carry this stuff with me

the rest of the ride was short and trouble free
primarily because I took a short cut through the closed off Klingle Valley
once back on the road shared with cars my anxiety returned


out of the park and onto the street I passed the driveway where people were leaving from picking up their kids from Washington International School
every day when I pass this driveway I am met with the same behavior
the exiting drivers refuse to stop when they exit the driveway and merge onto the street
then those who pass me... rush pass me to stop at the stop sign at the top of the hill'
often pinching over and blocking my space on the right

so mad... they make me so mad
and it is the same people every day

a few more blocks of the same and I am at my kid's school
although we have had people working hard to try a
nd create a fast, fluid, and safe PICK UP AND DROP OFF system at our kid's school it still involves elements of madness
on some days there are a number of buses idling...
buses and the single family vehicles
all those fumes

what are the top five forms of suicide?
I bet inhaling car exhaust is in the top five

it amazes me that a parent would be more concerned with having their engine running so that their car climate control can keep their temperature at the perfect level for napping is more important than the
kids at the school getting fresh oxygen to their developing brains

then on top of the idling vehicles there are countless cars that have taken the habit of illegal parking at pick up some of the non spaces act to make traversing the area more dangerous
we all contribute to the chaos
we all add to the madness
maybe we should all lessen our contribution
as we would all enjoy less chaos

the boys exit the school with their classes and the kid chaos ensues
there are some post school routines
I enjoy that my boys are excited to see me
my under-employment has allowed me to experience a part of parenting that had not previously been part of my world
I try to appreciate it... I hope that they will one day appreciate my efforts

after and exchange of hugs I offer the boys each a snack
nothing grand
each day I throw something in my pack for pick up
water... capri sun... juice box... bananas are usually an option... sometime breakfast bars or crackers something to fuel them

Dean usually hangs around me while Grant usually runs wild... often riding wild... riding his bike th
rough the cluster of people
it is chaos... somehow he does not crash or collide into the people
yes... he is contributing to the chaos... but... I can not contain him this little boy who says he does not like riding his bike can not get enough of his bike

in the morning he begs or should I say he demands not to ride his bike as I load the car
then after school he is on his bike and riding with immediacy

smiles all the way home

after snacks we finish our hellos with goodbyes and point for home
Grant has his route... I have mine
Dean is flexible to whatever we choose
I try to mix it up but it can be tough guiding my stubborn six year old son
we took the short way the day prior... so on this day we take the long route
approximately 3 miles... roughly a 20 minute urban ride

it has gotten to the point where we intersect with many of the same people each day we head down the road from our school...
it is not uncommon for parents to run the Stop Sign right by our school with their kids in the car... they bolt for nowhere fast


RIGHT IN THE SHADOW OF THEIR OWN SCHOOL
NEARLY HITTING STUDENTS FROM THEIR OWN CHILDREN'S CLASSES

a parent who is a police officer sometimes volunteers and forces the stop
when he is not there... the principal often takes that roll
on this day there is no principal or off duty police officer
there is also no car running the stop sign putting our lives at risk... because there is no car

no risk there... seconds later as the three of us ride down the middle of the One Way street downhill a parked car pulls out in front of us causing us all to swerve and break hard
she never looked back... she never saw us
at the base of the hill we pass this parent of a child at our children's school
her car window is open
I bark something to her about being more alert

as we all turn onto the sidewalk on the sidewalk headed down the hill towards Connecticut Avenue I shout instructions to the boys
more than likely the wind in their ears are muffling my words chances are they do not hear me
chances are they are not listening


STOP AT THE CORNER

we stop at the corner...
there is a car coming up the hill
it is our turn... the car coming up hill from WIST (Washington International School) makes the predictable rolling stop not making a complete stop not allowing us our turn or our right of way

had we gone we would have been flattened
the car passes through what would have been our point of intersection
it is clear and safe... then we cross

the same adult latino man on a department store bicycle comes up our way
then the same silver haired woman clutching her big black bag walking on the sidewalk
it is Groundhog Day all over again
at the four way stop I roll ahead and block
it is clear so I tell the boys to roll through and stop at the next corner
we all stop
it is still clear just as we are about to go a woman driving a silver SUV approaches the four way stop
again... SLOW AND GO
I shout... STOP AT THE STOP SIGN
she yells back... I DID STOP
she did not make a complete stop... she paused
she paused but did not factor in the variables
it was our turn to go she should have made a complete stop and allowed us to cross
but... the loose driving styles which I view as unacceptable are the norm

SLOW AND GO
that is not a full stop
and beyond that
it is not enough to take in the variables
and to grant others their right of way and right to safety

the sloppy driving styles of our modern times is ugly
it is shocking that there are not more accidents each day

police officers drive with the same expanded parameters of the rules
excessive speed and incomplete stops

the boys roll down the sidewalk I roll down the street
in an effort to keep momentum I accelerate ahead and call out to the kids if it is clear or if they have to stop
the boys give polite EXCUSE ME exclamations as they move quickly down the sidewalk

the words are excuse me
but really
it means LOOK OUT
and CLEAR THE WAY

we cross Connecticut` Ave and then head South on the Sidewalk
there is always a good deal of foot traffic on these sidewalks the kids weave through the people the pedestrians seldom anticipate anything more than the incoming text or the next song on their iPod

we weave through making our way for home
around the corner we point towards the Calvert Street Bridge
the kids always have to make a complete stop at this corner the left turning traffic is always aggressive
the boys wait for my cue and we cross together
on the wide sidewalk the boys race ahead
there is lots of racing to see who leads

Grant often wins the 5 yard sprint with his lighter bike and his intensity
Dean with his significantly heavier bike and different approach to riding fights to make the pass while I always yell from behind NO CRASHING

we cut through a park trying to stay as car free as possible

when possible I will take the kids on quiet city streets over busy sidewalks

we stop at the corner before crossing in the crosswalk by Walter Pearce Park
a woman in a silver Honda rolls through the stop sign at speed
never glancing to see the family on bikes
never slowing for the speed bump or stop sign

my heart stops
that big WHAT IF
that big WORST SASE SCENARIO

we cross... on the other side I instruct the boys to stay on the sidewalk
a car coming our way would have made things awkward for the boys entering the street
at the alley the boys re-enter the street
I have the boys line up behind me
we all try to get some speed
I roll ahead to make sure it is safe for them to roll through this stop sign

the boys would not make it up this short hill without some momentum
it is clear... I wave them on
the boys hammer up this short hill... each following the same routine of moving onto the sidewalk halfway up the hill at the next intersection
then breaking-braking at the top to gather their breath

then we get back on this Adams Morgan Side Street I instruct the boys to stay behind me
to be alert of on coming traffic
to ride to the right but not in the door zone
oncoming traffic irks me... the drivers could drive more to the right
the head on collision potential raises my heart rate

I hear Grant behind me... CAR
the boys are instructed to hold their ground
with Speed Bumps and a speed limit of 25 MPH we need to hold our ground
the car follows closely behind... not tailgating or honking
yes... cars tailgate and honk at the 6 and 9 year old cyclists...

often we are followed too closely by these cars sometimes they try to squeeze through and make an unnecessary pass
although I can not read this driver's mind... they seem fine with us being here
they follow the same path as us and are slowed for two city blocks

off the One Way Street and onto the sidewalk
Adams Morgan blends into Mount Pleasant
the red brick sidewalks of Mount Pleasant Street give Grant the feeling that we are close to home
I know this because he has told me

although I prefer to take the sidewalk on 16th Street Grant is adamant about going down the sidewalk on Mount Peasant's main street

we might as well be in Lima Peru the sidewalks are cluttered with a Latino Third World Vibe!

again the boys weave through the cluster of people only this time I lead and we move at a slower pace
there is less use of the audible warning as I do not want to spook people and have them move
it is easier to thank them after I make the pass

it is the same thing every day
the same set of students gathered blocking the sidewalk
the same sidewalk Pupusaria cart
the same stumbling drunk in front of the coffee shop
block to block
at the 7-11 it is a cluster of migrant workers
at the best way it is people loading groceries into gypsy cabs

we weave through
the minorities are not the minorities here
my two blonde haired boys are the minority
this is a very multi-cultural area
immigrants from all over central America migrate here

off the main street and onto the alleyways again... more instructions
LOOK AND LISTEN!
watch out for cars backing up
it is an anxious experience trying to guide the kids through the chaos of the city
trying to have them expect the unexpected
although there may not be a car coming around this blind corner... there could be... and well... the cyclist needs to be ready
riding a bike is about focus

finally... we are home
down the alley behind our house the kids drop their bikes and their helmets and rush inside
I put the bikes away
inside Dean starts his homework while Grant plays some Wii
I make the boys a snack before I coach them in an informal afternoon soccer practice at Carter Baron just another day.

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