Low Car Life
Low Car Life

A few comments from concerned citizens

A few comments from concerned citizens

Chad Cannfield, Columbia, MO - We are traffic. As a driver and daily bicycle commuter I understand the issues. Their is no excuse for a motorist to willfully endanger another person with their vehicle. Do that at home on ...<< MORE >>

Gina and Max's letters to the driver


My name is Max Overshiner. You stopped in front of my mom and me, while we were going down Broadway. I ride my bike to school every day and ride it almost everywhere, and people are usually more kind. Even if they aren’t ...<< MORE >>

Cyclists harassed by motorist

02/19/09//3:45 MO 486 NNP– Thursday afternoon, my ten-year-old son, Max, and I were riding home from school. We turned left on to Broadway from the Office Depot parking lot and headed west up the hill toward Garth. Since we were moving slowly, we were traveling in the right most lane. Per state law, we were taking the lane, which is not only the legal bike position, but the safest place for us to ride given the situation. While working our way up the hill, a car came up behind us and chirped its horn. Instead of passing, which the driver could easily have done since the left lane was lightly trafficked, the driver stayed directly behind us and chirped his horn twice more as we entered the school zone and approached the Garth intersection.

The light was green and the car followed us through the intersection. As soon as we cleared the intersection, the driver pulled out to pass. The left lane was completely clear, but the driver passed approximately 8 inches from my bike, so close that he almost caused me to lose control. After passing us, he pulled immediately back into the lane in front of Max and put on his brakes suddenly, forcing Max and I to quickly apply our brakes so we didn’t run into his car. At this point, I was terrified and scared for my son’s safety and my own. I yelled, "We have a right to the road. A------." He then proceeded to drive so slowly in front of us for a block and a half, that Max and I had to keep our brakes on to avoid hitting his car. He pulled into the normal flow of traffic near McBaine and was gone.

When I arrived home, I called the police to report the incident. I spoke with PO Turner, #1985, at 4:11PM. PO Turner took my statement and informed me that he would see what he could do. At 4:34PM, PO Turner called me back to say that he had run the plates and found that the car was registered in St. Louis, with no local address. He further stated that the police would be on the lookout for the driver, if they saw him they would pull him over and talk with him. Despite the fact that he broke traffic laws and used his car in a threatening manner, nothing else could be done. So unless he hurts someone and gets caught, there will be no repercussions for his hostile and threatening behavior towards my son and me.



The following laws were broken by this driver’s aggressive behavior.

Overtake Bicycles at a Safe Distance – RSMO 300.411 & 304.678 – The operator of a motor vehicle overtaking a bicycle proceeding in the same direction on the roadway, as defined in RSMO 300.010, shall leave a safe distance, when passing the bicycle, and shall maintain clearance until safely past the overtaken bicycle. (2) Any person who violates the provisions of this section is guilty of an infraction unless an accident is involved in which case it shall be a class C misdemeanor.

Riding to Right, Required for Bicycles and Motorized Bicycles – RSMO 307.190 – Every person operating a bicycle or motorized bicycle at less than the posted speed or slower than the flow of traffic upon a street or highway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as safe, exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction, except when making a left turn, when avoiding hazardous conditions, when the lane is too narrow to share with another vehicle or when on a one-way street. Bicyclists may ride abreast when not impeding other vehicles.

The following is from the Missouri Driver’s Guide:

When you are passing, give motorcycles a full lane width. If possible, give a full lane to bicycles and mopeds, too. Do not squeeze past these road users. The bicycle is generally a slower moving vehicle and this may require you to slow down. Wait for a clear stretch of road before passing a cyclist in a lane too narrow to share.

Note: Safe passing distance is generally defined as 3’-5’ between the vehicle and the cyclist being passed. Safe distance between the cyclist and the curb, is generally considered as 1.5’-3’ depending on the road conditions. The traffic lanes on Broadway where the incident occurred are 9’6" wide…too narrow to share with a car. Thus, my son and I were taking the lane as is advised by MO State law. The left westbound lane was lightly trafficked during the whole incident and completely empty when the driver passed us, leaving more than ample room for him to give us safe clearance while passing.

Assault in the Third Degree – RSMO 565.070

565.070. 1. A person commits the crime of assault in the third degree if:

(1) The person attempts to cause or recklessly causes physical injury to another person; or

(2) With criminal negligence the person causes physical injury to another person by means of a deadly weapon; or

(3) The person purposely places another person in apprehension of immediate physical injury; or

(4) The person recklessly engages in conduct which creates a grave risk of death or serious physical injury to another person; or

(5) The person knowingly causes physical contact with another person knowing the other person will regard the contact as offensive or provocative; or

(6) The person knowingly causes physical contact with an incapacitated person, as defined in section 475.010, RSMo, which a reasonable person, who is not incapacitated, would consider offensive or provocative.

3. A person who violates the provisions of subdivision (3) or (5) of subsection 1 of this section is guilty of a class C misdemeanor. -

Making the Shift: A Guide to Commuting by Bicycle

Making the Shift: A Guide to Commuting by Bicycle

Little epiphanies: Sharing some little moments that made a big difference in how I get around my life.

Food is fuel. When I was twelve, I was riding my bike to friend’s house when it dawned on me, "Milk Duds and vanilla Coke make good fuel for this vehicle." I’ve been hooked on bikes (and chocolate and caffeine) ever since.

Make driving your bike as easy as driving your car. Heading out the door one morning, car keys in hand, I stopped and wondered, "Why do I take the car, instead of my bike?" This started me thinking. The car was really easy and it was always in good repair. All I had to do when I wanted to go somewhere in the car was get the keys and go. When I wanted to take the bike, I had to drag it out of the basement, air up the tires, and find my helmet. That day, I got my bike out of the basement, aired up the tires, and parked it next to the front door with the helmet hanging from the handlebars. Making my bike just as convenient to drive as my car was a huge step in changing my transportation habits.

Start with a small radius and work your way out. While training for an adventure race, I decided that I would use my bike for all trips within a five-mile radius of my house when I was traveling alone. I decided that I would only go in a car if someone else was driving and they were already going that way anyway – no special trips to drive me somewhere. This really opened my eyes to how much is within five miles, or one mile or two miles, of anywhere. I found myself riding to classes at the University, the library, the movies, downtown, friends’ houses, the video store, the post office, and on and on. By adding a rack, panniers, and a messenger bag, I was even able to do a lot of our grocery shopping. I was amazed by how easy it was once I got started.

My way is not the highway. While living in St. Louis, I realized that for every major road/highway that I traveled on, there are lots of roads that parallel the major roads. These parallel roads have surprisingly low traffic density, because most of them have low speed limits. I also noticed that traffic is surprisingly light during most of the day, especially between 10AM and 3PM and after 6PM. This opened up a new and wonderful world of cycle commuting in St. Louis, of all places. I rode all over town with my two small children in a bike cart. We enjoyed gorgeous architecture, found lovely little pocket parks, discovered unusual shops and restaurants, and developed a keen understanding of the city and its layout that I never would have gained driving my mini-van down Hwy 40.

When you can’t change your situation, change your attitude. As with life, some days on the bike are better than others. Riding with my kids has taught me that your attitude can take you a hell of a long way. One day, Max, Annarose and I got caught by surprise in a cold rain with no rain gear or jackets. As we rode home, Annarose told me "Mom, I’m changing my motto to ‘It could always be worse.’" I told her that was a good way of looking at things. She continued "You know what I like about riding in the rain?" I admitted that I didn’t. She told me "I don’t need to tuck in my pant’s leg, because the rain makes my pants stick to my legs." I chuckled in agreement. She continued jovially "No one could tell if I peed in my pants, and it would make me warm if I did!" All I could do was laugh. It was cold and wet and could have been really miserable, but with the right attitude most anything can be a fun adventure. It’s all in how you look at it.

Bike Maintenance: Make your bike as easy to use as your car. If the brakes went out on your car, or you got a flat, or your transmission went out, would you just leave it in the garage or would you make it a priority to have it repaired? It should be the same with your bike. If something goes wrong, fix it right away.

-Good condition Keep your bike in good operating condition. If you haven’t ridden it in a long time, have it tuned up. A good tune up will cost you around $45, about as much as a tank of gas for a sub-compact car.

-Accessible and ready Keep you bike easily accessible and ready to go with your helmet, lock, and other necessary gear close at hand. This will make it just as easy to hop on your bike and go, as getting in the car.

-ABC Quick Check A quick pre-ride check will help ensure a properly operating bike and a smooth ride.

Air – Check tires for proper inflation. This is best done with a tire gauge. If no gauge is available, squeeze the tire, it should be hard and unyielding. Look the tires over quickly for signs of wear and/or foreign objects caught in the treads.

Brakes – Grip both brake levers tightly, push the bike forward, the brakes should hold the bike. Try each brake individually, each brake should hold the bike. With the brake levers pulled in, there should be a thumb’s width between the lever and the handlebar. Look at the brake pads. They should be in good condition with no cracking or glazing. There should be plenty of rubber above the wear lines. The tire rims should be clean to ensure proper braking.

Chain, Cassette, Chain rings, Cranks These elements make up your bike’s drive train. They should be clean and in good condition. The chain should fit snuggly with no excess slack. It should shift smoothly. To protect your drive train and get the most out of your bike, the chain should be kept clean and properly lubricated. Wipe the chain clean, apply one drop of lubricant to each bushing, rotate the chain by back pedaling, and wipe off excess oil. An overly lubricated chain will attract and hold dirt, which will shorten the life of the chain.

Quick Check all quick releases to make sure they are tightly fastened and pointed back so as not to catch on anything.

Check Take a short ride to ensure all components are working properly together.

Further Education Flats are the most common type of bike problem. Learn to change your tires and always carry a spare tube, a flat kit, and an inflator (mini-pump or CO2 inflator). Bicycle maintenance is pretty simple, intuitive, and fun. Take a bike maintenance class, check out a book on the topic from the library, or check out the internet and/or youtube for loads of helpful information about how to work on your bike.

Bike Safety: Knowing how to control your bike in all conditions is your best and most basic safety tool.

Properly Maintained Bicycle A properly operating and tuned up bicycle is key to safety.

Properly Fitted Bicycle A bicycle that fits properly is easier, safer, and more comfortable to operate. Proper bike fit helps you get the most efficiency from your efforts and helps you avoid sport-related injuries.

Properly Fitted Helmet, Properly Worn 85% of cycling related deaths and disabling injuries are the result of head injuries that could be avoided by wearing a properly fitted helmet. A helmet that does not fit properly will not protect you in an accident.

Properly Illuminated Bike According to state law, and common sense, your bike must be equipped with a white, front bike headlight and rear red-reflector or light. You should never ride in low-light conditions – night, dusk, dawn, fog, overcast, rain – without proper bicycle lights.

Bike Safety Skills

  1. Always maintain control of your bike. 50% of all bike crashes are the result of falls, which result when a cyclist looses control of the bike.
  2. Practice stopping and starting your bike with control.
  3. Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles. Cyclists have the same rights to the roads as drivers of automobiles, this means we also have the same responsibilities. Obey all traffic laws…stop and wait your turn at intersections, signal your intent, ride in the same direction as traffic, ride as far to the right as is safe and practical.
  4. Learn emergency avoidance techniques to help avoid crashes should you find yourself in a dangerous situation.

A last word on safety The number one killer of Americans between the ages of 3 and 33 is car crashes. Over 43,000 Americans die in car crashes every year. The number one killer in this county is heart disease, which is associated with sedentary lifestyle. Many other deadly and debilitating diseases are associated with sedentary lifestyle, as well. These include diabetes, obesity, many cancers, and depression, among others. Commuting by bicycle works exercise into your life everyday, everywhere you go. When thinking about safety and risks, make sure you are looking at whole picture.

Route Selection: Think outside the car. For every heavily trafficked primary road, there are many parallel roads going the same direction. Learn your town, you will be amazed by how many beautiful ways there are to get around.

In short, with a little imagination and adventure, you can get just about anywhere easily and comfortably by bike.

Weather Issues:
When you can’t change your situation, change your attitude.

Many folks are put off by cycling in less than perfect weather. When talking to people about bike commuting, I invariably come up against lots of "Yeah, buts" about weather. "Yeah, but what if it rains?" "Yeah, but I’ll get sweaty." "Yeah, but it’s too cold." "Yeah, but it’s too hot." "Yeah, but. Yeah, but. Yeah, but."

It’s true: sometimes it rains, sometimes it’s hot, sometimes it’s cold, sometimes it snows or sleets. A big part of dealing with it is dealing with it. As my daughter, Annarose told me one day as we were riding home in a soaking driving rain "Mom, I’ve decided my new slogan is ‘It could always be worse.’" A huge part of all weather riding is your attitude. That said, start in your comfort zone and slowly expand it.

Thankfully, there is lots of gear out there to help you with a wide range of weather conditions, which brings us to…


Clothing and Equipment: Think ahead, be prepared.

Outfitting your bike for commuting

-Lights – You must have properly working lights on your bike to be legal and safe. White headlight on the front, red reflector/light on back.

-Fenders – Fenders help keep you dry and comfortable in less than ideal weather conditions. Fenders keep you from getting a road grime stripe up your back and they keep your feet and lower legs dry. Fenders also protect your drive train, brakes, and frame from road grime.

-Bell – A bell is a pleasant, friendly way to warn people of your presence.

-Coffee Cup Holder – A most civilized way to enjoy your morning coffee on the way to work, especially nice on cold mornings.

-Cycle Computer – A fun way to keep track of your speed and all those miles you are riding, saving the earth and natural resources.

-Lock – Locks are a must for bike security. There are many types available. I prefer combination cable locks, because I don’t have to carry a key and I can lock up to most anything.

-Racks – As a commuter, you will invariably need to carry stuff; racks allow you to carry stuff on your bike. Rear racks are the most common, front racks are available if you really want to carry lots of stuff.

-Panniers – Panniers are like saddle bags that mount easily on your racks. There are many, many types of panniers available in a huge range of prices and sizes. You should think about what you will want to carry, and choose panniers accordingly.

-Trunks – Trunks are usually smaller than panniers and sit on top of your rack. They are generally for holding small loads of stuff that you want to have with you most of the time.

-Milk Crate – Milk crates are cheap, spacious, weather resistant and easily attached with zip ties.

-Bike Carts – Bike carts allow you to carry/pull child passengers or haul large loads of stuff. They come in many sizes and shapes.

-Tag-a-longs – Tag-a-longs are designed to carry slightly older children who are big enough to hold on to a bike and pedal a little bit. They help kids learn to ride while staying close to mom or dad.

Outfitting yourself for bicycle commuting

Safety: Helmet, Gloves, Glasses, Bright Visible Clothing.

-Helmet – Always wear your helmet.

-Gloves – Can help protect your hands from abrasions in case of a crash or fall, pad your hands for comfort, and keep them warm in cold weather.

-Glasses – Help protect your eyes from bugs and flying debris, as well as rain, snow, and sun.

-Bright visible clothing – Bright colors help drivers see you, which keeps you safe. A safety vest is a good idea and can be worn over any type of clothing.

Comfort and convenience:

-Rain gear - There are many types of rain gear available for wet weather riding. My personal favorite is a combination of fenders, which keeps water and dirt from getting thrown up on you, and a rain cape. Rain capes are big in Europe, not so much here. A rain cape is a specially designed poncho to keep you and your bike dry in rainy weather. It allows for air circulation so you don’t get all sweaty like in a rain suit.

-Cold Weather Gear- Your body generates a good deal of heat as you are cycling. I recommend dressing in layers, so you can adjust your clothing as your body heats up. The real challenge lies in keeping hands/fingers, feet/toes, and ears warm. The best gloves I have found for commuting are insulated hunting gloves that came from a large discount retailer. They kept my fingers warm through the most extreme cold, way better than the expensive cycling specific gloves that I wasted money on. Keep your toes warm with thick warm socks and wind resistant shoes/boots. Always cover your ears with a stocking cap or head band under your helmet.

-Messenger bags – If you don’t want to fit your bike with racks and panniers, you can carry stuff on your body with a back pack or messenger bag. My favorite is a Chrome bag. I have experimented for years with messenger bags and Chrome is the best one I have found, hands down.





Yeah, but...it's just so dangerous. Isn't it?

I started riding bikes with my kids when they were very young. I took Max for his first ride in the Burley cart when he was six months old. I strapped his car seat in the cart and off we went. When Annarose was born two years later, Max moved up to a co-pilot seat mounted on my bike, and Annarose rode in the Burley. She rode her first Critical Mass in the Burley cart at the tender age of 2 months while Max rode ‘up front’ with me. For over two hours we wended our way through the streets of St. Louis with over 50 reveling cyclists. Ironically, she didn’t cry once during the entire ride, but when I would try to put her in the mini-van, even on short trips, she would scream and howl. The child-bike configuration evolved over time as we moved through developmental milestones. Now Max and Annarose are 9 and 7, respectively, we live in a different city, they are on their own bikes, and we still bicycle most everywhere most everyday.

We lived in south St. Louis City when I started hauling my kids around by bike. We’d go to playdates, friends’ houses, the zoo, the Science Center, the farmer’s market, just about anywhere within a 5 mile radius of the house, by bike. St. Louis is not known as a bike friendly town, though it has improved a lot in past years, thanks in large part to the work of the St. Louis Regional Bicycle Federation. When the kids and I arrived by bike, I would occasionally be met with concern and disbelief. "I can’t believe you rode that far." "Isn’t that hard with the kids?" "Isn’t it dangerous hauling your kids around town by bike?"

While I understood and appreciated their concern for our safety, it was a bit galling that they thought I was putting my children in danger. I would patiently explain that bikes are not inherently dangerous, and that if you know how to ride properly, cycling is very safe. I would point out that to get to the zoo, for example, they had driven on Highway 40 or I-44 where cars were driving approximately 70 mph and they had probably been on the road with hundreds of speeding cars and semi-trucks. While I rode on residential streets where the speed limits never exceeded 30 mph and were rarely over 20 mph. I would rarely see more than ten cars on any of my trips from home.

Living in an auto-centric world, it is easy to forget that the main thoroughfares are not the only ways to get about in life. In a car, people usually take the busiest, fastest, most heavily trafficked streets. That’s what cars are about, getting you there as quickly as possible with the fewest stops along the way. What we forget in our auto-centricity is that multiple quieter, less heavily trafficked, and usually prettier, streets parallel every major thoroughfare. So when I head out on my bike with my kids, we are not heading to the biggest busiest streets that are primarily used by car drivers, we head to the quiet little streets that parallel the big thoroughfares through local neighborhoods. Places where most drivers don’t want to go, because they have slow speed limits and lots of stop signs.

A few facts to keep in mind when making the choice between your car and your bike for your next trip.

Over 43,000 Americans are killed in car accidents every year. That’s like the entire population of Columbia (my hometown) being killed every two years in car accidents. Car crashes are the number one cause of death in individuals between the ages of 3 and 33. Do you know anyone who has been killed or hurt in a car crash? I have several friends and relatives who have been. (These statistics are from the NHTSA – National Highway Transportation Safety Administration).

The number one killer of Americans is heart disease, which is very closely tied to a sedentary lifestyle. In study after study, regular exercise has been shown to help decrease the incidence of heart disease, diabetes, several types of cancers, depression, obesity and many other diseases. More and more children in our society are becoming overweight and susceptible these types of diseases, because they don’t have enough activity built into their lives. Bicycling, instead of driving, makes your transportation your exercise, enriching and extending your life while greatly reducing your risk for many types of diseases.

So the next time you tell yourself or someone else, "biking is just so dangerous", make sure you are looking at the real risks.

Why do I do these things to myself?

03/20/07 - Why do I do these things to myself?

"The bicycle is the most civilized conveyance known to man. Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish. Only the bicycle remains pure in heart." ~Iris Murdoch, The Red and the Green

It was 4:30am on ...

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The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions.

The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions

"’Let me save you from drowning’ said the monkey to the fish as he pulled him from the water." ~zen koan

On the way to school Tuesday morning, the kids and I had a little incident that really got me thinking. It was a case of a driver trying to be helpful, while actually putting us, themselves, and others in danger.

What happened?

We were southbound on West Blvd approaching Maupin where would make a left turn. Cars were approaching from the south, so we scanned behind to make sure it was safe to move, signaled our intent, and moved to the left side of the lane. This allowed us to keep traveling toward our destination, while letting the southbound cars pass us on the right, as we prepared for the left turn.

When we were about 100 feet from our turn, an SUV stopped on West Blvd at Maupin. The driver was waiting for us to make the turn, even though we were about 20 seconds from approaching the turn. There were four cars behind this driver; all of these cars had to stop behind the SUV to wait for us.

If the SUV had just kept going without stopping or slowing to try to accommodate us, all five of those cars would have been well past the turn by the time we got there. Allowing us to make the turn safely without impeding the flow of traffic.

The stopped SUV really confused my kids and really frustrated me. They both hesitated asking why the SUV was doing that. I told them to just make the turn quickly. We turned on Maupin and went on our way.

Why is it dangerous?

After turning on to Maupin, I explained to Max and Annarose that the driver was trying to be nice by letting us turn in front of them. Then I explained why it is so dangerous to the driver and to us as cyclists.

It is dangerous for a driver to stop in a road where there is no stop sign or signal, because the driver could get rear-ended.

It is dangerous for cyclists, because the drivers of the cars behind may decide to pass suddenly, not understanding the reason for the stop, and hit us. The driver of the SUV may decide they are tired of waiting, start driving again, and hit us. It is also dangerous, because it sends an untrue message that cyclists impede the flow of traffic and need to be accommodated by drivers. This type of perception increases animosity of drivers toward cyclists, which is dangerous for everyone on the road.

What should drivers do?

Traffic laws and facilities are designed to ensure vehicles move smoothly, so people can get where they want to go safely and quickly. According to the law in all 50 states, bicycles are vehicles (see MOBIKEFED.ORG/STATUTES.HTML for complete laws regarding cycling in Missouri). Bicycles are small, human-powered, slower moving vehicles and should be treated as such.

When you see a cyclist, treat them the way you would a small slow car. Give them a little space when you are passing (3-4 feet per the law), yield to them as you would a car, but don’t make special exceptions to try to "be nice". If it is your turn to go at a stop sign, go. If it is your turn to make a turn or keep going straight, do it. Don’t stop and impede the flow of traffic in the interest of being nice to the cyclist.

We want our rights to the road, and we recognize our responsibilities to follow the laws of the road.


Yeah but, cyclists are so unpredictable.

Very good point. Unfortunately, many cyclists don’t know what the hell they are doing. They ride the sidewalk, blast through stop signs, ride the wrong way, cut out into the street unexpectedly.

True. What to do about them? Well, I can’t educate everyone, but I am trying. I work part time teaching cycling classes to children and adults. I talk to anyone who will listen about cycling safety and how to be a safe cyclist. I really try to encourage people to ride safely, visibly, predictably, and assertively. I am doing what I can to make Columbia a better place for cyclists and drivers. There are several of us who are teaching classes and encouraging people to ride more safely. Hopefully, things are getting better.

Many cyclists are unpredictable, which is dangerous. When you are approaching a cyclist, you may want to slow a bit and observe them for a few seconds. Watch them. Are they riding in a straight line? Are they wearing a helmet? Are they looking around watching traffic conditions? Do they signal their moves? Are they riding in the right third of the travel lane? If the answers to these questions are "yes", you are probably dealing with a safe cyclist and can pass them safely without incident. If they are riding unpredictably, pass with caution as you would a car operating in an unpredictable fashion.


...And miles to go before I sleep.

"…And miles to go before I sleep." ~Robert Frost


When I woke up at 6am that morning, the temperature was in the 50s. Max, Annarose and I rode to school in t-shirts and jeans. By 3pm, it was extremely cold and miserable. I considered taking the car to pick up the kids, but why? It was 13 degrees, the wind-chill was –3 with what the weatherfolk like to call a ‘wintry mix’, and northwesterly winds gusting up to 50 mph. Who wouldn’t want to ride bikes in this?

I arrived at school with the requisite winter riding gear: coats, snow-pants, balaclavas, gloves, mittens, goggles, and blaze orange hunting vests. The kids bundled up as I gave them the winter cycling safety lecture.

"The roads are slick. Ride slowly. You will take longer to stop. Be aware of cars, they take longer to stop too. The wind is very gusty and can make your bike hard to control. Keep your bike under control at all times." I lectured.

"Yeah, yeah Mom, we know" was their bored reply.

We headed to the Getabout Offices to pick up some paperwork. It was a short, but eventful journey. The kids were surprised by how disorienting the blowing snow was - think the Millennium Falcon hyper-space scene from Star Wars with snow flakes and ice pellets in place of stars.

When we arrived, Robert ran out with his camera. "Don’t take off your stuff yet! I want to get a picture. You guys are awesome." He told us. We posed for a few pictures, then headed inside, we were met with applause and cheers from Trevor.

We picked up the paperwork, rearranged our clothes, and headed back out into the cold, wind, and snow. As we rode south on Seventh Street, we passed the Candy Factory. I asked the kids if they wanted to stop and get some chocolate for the ride home…dumb question. Of course, we stopped. It was a warm welcome yummy smelling break from the cold and wind. We made our purchases and sat inside eating them, dripping on the floor and enjoying our treats while temporarily delaying the inevitable.

Sweet teeth sated, we headed back out into the brutal. We rode east down the hill on Cherry Street to Flat Branch Park. The force of the westerly wind was amazing. We rode slowly down Cherry Street hill without brakes. The wind was so strong it slowed we had to pedal downhill. I had never experienced anything like it.

As we rode through Flat Branch Park, my phone started ringing…ugh. We stopped in the tunnel under Locust, where we were sheltered from the wind and I returned the call.

It was Tim. "Where are you guys? Are you all right? Do you want me to come get you?"

"We are in the tunnel under Elm St. We are cold, but fine. We will be home soon. If we need help, I will call." I assured my worried husband.

The tunnel was a welcome respite from the snow and wind. We double-checked our clothing. Made sure no skin was exposed to the elements and headed on. Two tunnels to go before we made it to Stewart. When we started on Stewart, there would be no more shelter until we arrived home…a daunting thought. We stopped briefly in each tunnel bracing ourselves.

After stopping in the tunnel under Stewart and Providence, we headed out on Stewart Road. It was hard pedaling and slow going riding directly into the gale force winds. The streets were slick. At West Parkway, Max lost control of his bike and slid into the curb, I slid into Max before I could stop. No one was hurt. We picked up our bikes and kept riding west.

The going was slow and uneventful until Stewart and Greenwood. That was when I noticed that Annarose was crying. Oh no.

"Posie? What’s wrong?" I asked.

"My toes are cold" she answered through her tears. In my rush to gather up their winter gear, I had forgotten their snow boots. Her little toes had to be freezing. What to do? I could call Tim and ask him to come get us. We were only half a mile from home, it would take him longer to come and get us than it would take us to get home if we just kept riding. Having him pick us up would mean waiting longer in the cold. We needed to keep going.

"Posie, we will be home in a few minutes if we keep going. Can you do that? I could call Daddy to come get us in the car, but that will take longer. Can you keep going?" I enquired.

A feeble and tearful "Yes" was her reply.

"I will call Daddy and tell him to make sure and have a big fire going for us when we get home. OK?" I tried to encourage her.

"OK…and cocoa?"

"Yes Sweetie and cocoa and warm cozy blankets. Does that sound good?" I replied.

"Yes Mommy" she sniffled.

By this time we were at West Blvd…almost home. I started singing silly songs to take her mind off the miserable cold, snow, and sleet.

"Oh! Mares eee doats and does eee doats and little lambs eee divy. A kid’ll eee divy too, wouldn’t you?" I sang at the top of my lungs. We made the intersection of West Blvd and West Broadway, less than a quarter mile left.

"Mommy, will you teach me that song when we get home?" Posie asked.

"Of course, and we’ll have hot cocoa and hugs and snuggles in front of the fire" I promised.

We made it home. Being a faster, stronger, more competent rider than Annarose, Max had beaten us home by a few minutes. Tim already had him snuggled up in dry clothes. A warm fire and big hugs from Daddy welcomed us. We took off Annarosie’s cold wet shoes and rubbed her little feet until they felt better. We spent the evening snuggled up by the fire playing board games and reminiscing about the cold miserable ride home in the blizzard. We were proud of ourselves for making it through and we were so very thankful for our warm snug house.

The next morning, I woke up and listened to the weather report…bitter cold. "OK kids, it’s 4 degrees outside this morning. Do you want to ride or drive?"

"Is it windy?" Max asked.

"Nope. No wind, no snow, no sleet, just extremely cold." I replied.

"We can do that. Let’s ride!" They whooped in unison.




It could always be worse.

03/13/08 – It could always be worse.

"Mom, I am changing my motto from ‘suck it up and deal’ to ‘It could always be worse!’" ~Annarose Overshiner, age 7

Last Thursday evening, the kids and I went to a GetAbout meet and greet at Reilly’s Grill One-5 downtown. The forecast for the evening called for rain. It had started to rain a bit, but it was not too bad when we arrived around 5:15. By 6:30, it was raining pretty hard. I didn’t want to ride in the dark in the rain with the kids, so we left for home.

The temperature was in the high 30s. We had winter coats, but no rain gear. It promised to be a cold wet ride home, at least it was still somewhat light. We braced ourselves and set out for home. We had a lot of fun riding through puddles and the water in the tunnels on our way to Stewart Road.

As we headed west on Stewart, Annarose was in rare form enjoying herself by making the best of a bad situation.

She called back to me, "Hey Mom!"

"Yes Posie, What’s up?" I asked.

"I decided I am changing my motto from ‘suck it up and deal’ to ‘it could always be worse!’" she called over her shoulder and started laughing.

I laughed along with her and replied "Wow! Posie that’s a great way to look at life when things aren’t going your way!"

"Do you know what I like about riding in the rain, Mom?" she asked.

"I can’t imagine, what?" I asked.

"When it’s raining, it doesn’t matter if I forget to put an ankle biter on, because my pants stick to my legs and don’t get caught in my chain!" she replied with a giggle.

I looked down and saw that her pants were plastered to her legs with rainwater. "Yep Posie, that’s a great observation!" I called with a smile.

"You know what else I like about riding in the rain, Mom?"

"I don't know, Posie.  What?" I asked bemused by this silly game that took my mind off of being cold and wet.

"If you pee in your pants no one can tell!" she replied.

"That’s true. You didn’t, did you?" I enquired with a chuckle.

"Of course not! But if I did, it would warm me up. That’d be a good thing too." She called with glee.

"That’s true, Posie. You sure are a smart kid!" I encouraged her.

That was the end of her philosophical musings, so we started singing silly songs and telling jokes the rest of the way home. All in all, it was a really good ride despite the approaching darkness, cold, and wet.  It just goes to show, it could always be worse, and with the right attitude ‘worse’ can be quite a lot of fun.

Baby, it's cold outside.

"Cycle tracks will abound in Utopia." ~H.G. Wells

"What's wrong Mom?  Don't you think I know how to suck it up and deal?" ~Max Overshiner, Age 9.

It's December 16th, 2007.  We are well into another Missouri winter.  As temperatures have been dropping, we have added coats, gloves, hats, etc. to keep warm on our daily rides.  Recently, I picked the kids up from school and we headed off to piano lessons.  While we were riding, I noticed Max wasn't wearing his coat.  It was about 35 degrees.

"Max, aren't you freezing?"  I asked as we rode up the hill on Broadway.

Max looked over and replied "What's the matter Mom?  Don't you think I know how to suck it up and deal?" 

My jaw dropped and we both burst out laughing.  I was stunned by his response and all it implied.  As the mercury has dropped into the twenties and teens, this has become Max and Annarose's winter war cry. 

"Are you sure you're warm enough? Are your fingers warm?  Are you toes/cheeks/ears too cold?"  I ask.

"It's OK, Mom.  I'll just suck it up and deal."  or "Don't we look like we know how to suck it up and deal?" followed by joyous laughter.

"Who are these children?  Where did they come from?  What have I done to them?" I ask myself.

About ten days ago, we had our first snow of the season.  Two days later, we had an ice storm that closed schools on Monday and Tuesday, left thousands without power, and left over twenty dead.  Four days after that, we had more snow, about 6 inches this time. 

The logical question is "Are we still riding?"  The illogical answer is "You bet!"  

On Thursday, I was out on my bike running errands when it started snowing.  Then it started snowing harder. On the way downtown from Target, I stopped by the house to pick up some ski goggles, because the snow was pelting my eyes...painful.  Goggled, I headed out for the first snowy ride of the season with loaded Burley cart in tow...what fun!  At the corner of Clinkscales and Broadway, an elderly gentleman in an old pick up rolled down his window to tell me I was brave for riding in the snow.  I smiled from ear to ear and hollered "Thanks" as I made my left turn on to Broadway.

At 3:30 the snow was still coming down and the roads were getting really slick.  I almost wiped out as I made a left turn onto Locust on the way to pick up the kids at school.   I was worried about riding home with them.  We arrived at the bike rack along with Erika and Violet.  Erika and I discussed getting the kids home safely on the bikes in the snow.  We decided to take it slow and ride home together, safety in numbers.  I gave the kids a quick briefing on snowy road conditions and safe winter riding.  1) Watch for cars, they can't stop as quickly in the snow.  2) Start braking early, you can't stop as quickly either.  3) Keep your bike in low gear, this will help overcome rear wheel slippage and keep you in control of your bike.  4) Take it slow and easy.  We decided to walk our bikes through downtown.

As we started out, Max realized his rear tire was flat.  Argh!  Max rides a vintage Schwinn Hollywood cruiser from the early sixties.  Fenders, racks, single speed, coaster brakes, no quick releases, changing the rear wheel is a real pain.  It was snowing hard and getting dark quickly. We walked the bikes to Cyclextreme to have the tire changed.  Thanks Mike!  By 4:30, we were on our way.   Still snowing, getting darker.

We walked down to Flat Branch Park and headed home on the trail.  The ride wasn't that bad.   While pedaling through the snow was harder than usual, the snow afforded good traction so it was easy to maintain control of the bikes.  We didn't have any trouble with slipping until we were pretty far up Maupin.  With our fair share of sliding, a few injury-free falls, and lots of laughter we all made it home safely.   Erika and I discussed whether we would ride to school in the morning, we agreed to wait and see.

Friday morning, we were surprised and disappointed to learn that school had not been cancelled.  Being unsure of the road conditions, I offered the kids three options for getting to school.  One - Walk.  Two - Take the city bus.  Three - Try it on the bikes and see what happens.  Of course, we could have just driven, but what fun would that be?  Both kids immediately started jumping up and down yelling, "Walk! Walk! Walk! We can have a snowball fight! We can play in the snow on the way." They reasoned.  We put on our snow gear.  I put extra shoes and socks in a messenger bag.  I made hot chocolate for the kids to drink on the way. 

We set out at 8.  I told the kids that since we were walking, we would just take Broadway which would  be about a mile shorter than our regular bike route.  The kids wouldn't hear of it.   

"Broadway's boring and it smells like car exhaust."  Argued Annarose.

"There will be more snow to play in on our regular route." Chimed in Max.

They didn't care that it was further to walk, fine with me.  We tromped off through the snow on the way to school.  On Maupin near Greenwood, we ran into Erika and Violet who we usually ride with each morning.   We talked to them briefly, then they headed off on their bikes.  The kids ran along chasing and pelting each other with snow balls. We made a few stops for sips of hot chocolate and to strip off extra layers of clothes.  We made it to school about 5 minutes after the second bell.  We were a bit tardy, but we had a really fun walk.  Dr. Vandover, our principal, was very understanding, appreciating the importance of taking time to smell the roses, or eat the icicles, as the case may be.

So far, in all this snow and ice we have driven one day, it was the first day back to school after the big ice storm.  I was worried about road and sidewalk conditions.  I decided we would drive and scope out the roads for the next day.  As we pulled out of the driveway, both kids said they felt guilty leaving their bikes at home.  We talked briefly about going back to get the bikes.  Not knowing the road conditions, I decided to go ahead and drive.  The next day, we were back on the bikes.

Yes, we are still riding and have everyday, but one.  We have ridden in very cold conditions, rain, snow, sleet, and ice.  It really isn't that hard.  Anyone can do it.  It doesn't require any expensive equipment.  You just need a little common sense, healthy dose of adventure, and a bit of planning.  

Tips to help you ride all year through

1) It's all in how you look at it.  Don't think of it as too cold, snowy, wet, whatever.  I always think of it as an "arctic adventure", a chance to see what you can do, push your limits, see what your made of.  Sometimes the only thing you can change is your attitude, you'd be amazed by what changing your perspective can do.  

2) Dress for the for second mile.  As you bike/walk along, you will generate body heat.  If you are overdressed, you will be uncomfortably hot before you know it.  The first few minutes of your ride/walk, you should be little cool.  Don't worry, you will warm up soon enough. 

3)Layers, layers, layers.  You have probably heard this before.   But it's true and bears repeating.  Dress in layers, for maximum warmth and comfort.  Layers allow you to easily customize your clothing as your body heats up and cools down with exertion.  For cold weather riding, I usually wear long johns top and bottom; jeans and a shirt; a sweater, sweatshirt, or fleece; and a wind and water proof uninsulated shell/top-layer.  This mix gets me comfortably through all but the most extreme (low-teens and below) cold conditions.  I can unzip or take off outerlayers, if I get too hot or as weather conditions change through the day.  On extreme cold days, I will top off my layers with an insulated coat and insulated (Carhart) cover-alls.  I recently made the mistake of wearing my heavy coat and cover-alls one morning when it was 17 degrees, I was sweating before I was a mile from home.  I had stop to unzip my coat and the top of my coveralls to cool down.  I had shed the coat completely by the time I was downtown.  

In winter, it is really easy to overdress, because that initial shock when you step out the door seems soooo cold.  Resist the urge to overdress, and you will arrive at your destination at the end of your ride comfortable and happy.  Years ago, I read in Outside magazine that you should "Dress for the second mile" when participating in winter sports, keeping in mind how warm you will be in the second mile will help prevent overdressing.

4)Head, neck, hands, and feet.  Winter biking requires extra attention to your extreme extremities.  Your head, neck, hands, and feet will get cold. 

The best cold protection of your head is a balaclava.  A thin, usually black, "hat" that covers your head, face and neck.  This will keep your head, ears, face, and neck warm.  You can fold it up when you don't need face protection.   If the balaclava isn't for you, you need a warm hat that covers your ears and fits under your helmet and a neck gator or scarf. 

When it is really cold, snowing, sleeting, or raining, eye protection is very important.  I love ski goggles, they are fun to wear, don't fog up, and look totally goofy.

The biggest complaint we hear from bike brigade kids is cold fingers.  Good mittens or gloves are extremely important.   After years of winter riding and experimenting with many different types of gloves/mittens, my all time favorite is a pair of hunting mittens I absconded from Tim.  They are made of blaze orange fleece offering great visibility when signaling.  The insides have black glove liners.  The index fingers and thumbs fold back making it easy to buckle helmets, manouver zippers, and handle bike tools, all without having to remove the mittens. 

Make sure to keep your feet warm with warm shoes or boots and some extra socks. They make booties that go over your shoes, I have never used them so can't attest to their effectiveness.

5) A nice warm drink.  When the weather started getting really cold, I fitted the kids bikes with Bar-Hoppers (handle bar mounted cup holders, available at Klunk) and got each of them an insulated travel mug.  Each day before we leave, I fill their cups with hot cocoa for the ride to school.  On really cold days, there's nothing like some nice warm cocoa to keep you warm.
6) Handling your bike in snow and ice.  Riding, like driving, in ice and snow can be tricky and dangerous.  And, like driving, a little extra time, caution, and common sense can get you where you want to go.  
-Ride safely for the existing conditions. It takes everyone, including cars, longer to stop.  Ride more slowly than usual and start braking well in advance of stops.
-Wear bright colors and use your blinkies a lot., even during the day.  This is always a good idea when riding, but is especially important in winter when the days tend to be overcast and gray and it gets dark early.  I have started making everyone in our family wear hunting vests when they ride.  I am amazed at how much more visible it makes us.
-Your bike handles differently in ice and snow.  If it's possible, ride on areas of the road that are clear of ice and snow...duh.  Snow makes it harder to pedal, but can offer some extra traction if it isn't hard packed. 

-Your bike will likely fishtail in slushy snow, hard packed snow, and tire tracks.  Try to avoid these parts of the road.  Keep your bike geared low to increase your traction.  Hang on and keep pedaling.

-If the road looks wet, assume it's ice or black ice.  Pedal straight across and try to avoid making turns on ice if you can help it. 

-You will find most winter road hazards at intersections where gutters meet leaving more water/ice/slush/run-off for you to navigate.  Try to steer clear of these hazards and try to avoid turns in these areas, if possible.  If you must turn, make sure you steer wide enough to avoid the hazard.

-In snowy/icy conditions, you need to ensure your safety by making sure you are riding far enough out in the road to avoid snowy/slush/ice/trash that has been pushed to the sides of the roads by snow ploughs.  This may require riding further out in the lane than normal. 

- Be assertive and ride where your are safest and avoid winter road hazards.  It's your life and your safety don't be afraid to protect it; even if that means inconveniencing some cars and slowing traffic flow a bit from time to time. 

-Remember: if you put yourself in the danger zone by riding too far to the right or riding too fast for conditions and have an accident, you will really back up traffic, and worst of all you'll be hurt.