Yearly Archives: 2011

Bike Shop Birthday Party

I celebrated my 30th birthday with a party on Saturday night at J.C. Lind Bike Co. We biked there, of course, and I borrowed a huge trike, the Triple Lindy, to haul all the beer, wine and whiskey from the store.

Trisha rode Coco!

Nashville ladies

Women-who-bike ladies

The shop

Steve Vance talks to Jon Lind

Remains of the 30 cupcakes

Melissa

My shoes came off by the end of the night

There’s no better way to celebrate than surrounded by friends and beautiful bicycles. Huge thanks to Jon, the shop owner, for letting me use his space! My condo would have been way too small. Gotta love the local friendly bike shop. :)

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Mary Poppins Effect in the Media

“The Mary Poppins Effect is a matter of humanizing the bicycle rider,” says Ms. Brackett, who co-authors the blog LetsGoRideaBike.com. “It helps drivers realize bicyclists are people too.”

Crains Chicago Business magazine has a little article about the Mary Poppins Effect by Claire Bushey. You can read the entire article here.

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Temporarily car-free in Nashville, Tennessee

So for the past month, after the car accident I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been car-free here in Nashville.

Living in a city that makes only the barest of nods to public transportation, I’d always assumed that being without a car would be a terrible hardship, even though I already rely on my bicycle for most neighborhood trips. Some of my fears turned out to be true and others, not as much. Here’s how a few of my preconceptions ended up playing out in reality.

I’d be limited on what I could do and where I could go.
True, but not to the extent that I had feared. I was able to bum a ride to events that were really important, or take a bus. I also tried out the bike/bus combo for the first time—overcoming my fear that my bike would fall off the rack at the front—and was amazed at how easy it was. That said, with an increased awareness of the energy and time expenditures to get somewhere, I found myself choosing to spend time (and money) in my own neighborhood more often.

My social life would suffer.
The past month has been quieter for me—but having to get most everywhere by bike has made me respect my human limitations and not push myself to do things when I feel sick or tired like I usually do. Surprisingly, being forced to slow down has been more relaxing than frustrating.

I’d be unable to see out-of-town family and friends.
Sadly, true—I missed out on seeing some good friends of mine a couple of weekends ago. (The Greyhound to my hometown takes about 7 hours, vs. 4 hours in the car, which means that taking it for a weekend is impractical. Rental cars are pretty pricey for a weekend.) This continues to be one of the biggest reasons for me to keep a car.

I won’t be able to do everyday things—shop for groceries, etc.
Again, sort of true. My local grocery is close but has crap (aka zero) bike parking, so it’s kind of a pain. I have tagged along with friends to the store a couple of times, which was nice when it came to buying milk, etc. I also found myself buying things at odd places that were for whatever reason more convenient (I’ve never bought milk at Walgreens before! Or butter from the Dollar General.). Random shopping trips just didn’t happen. I would say that was a good thing since I saved some money, but I’m pretty sure I made up for it by buying stuff online. There were some errands I put off while I didn’t have a car, like going to the bank, but then again I do that anyway.

More to come on the response from others, and my own feelings about the experience, but this post is getting pretty long. I know there are others in mid-sized cities, and others here in Nashville, who don’t drive. What has your experience been like? What were your fears about being without a car and how did you deal with them?

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More about skirts and helmets

The past two days, I have worn skirt and blouse outfits similar to what I wore in my last post, with a helmet, and drivers were pretty nice, but not as totally nice as before. Again, maybe it’s in my head, but it’s interesting to ponder.

For anyone who is “meh” about the Mary Poppins Effect talk because they don’t experience it – Mr. Dottie is right there with you and he’s perfectly content to ride a faster bike in construction-site work clothes, thankyouverymuch.

In an unrelated observation, the skirt below came down to my mid-calf, but was nowhere near my back wheel when I sat on the saddle. There are very few skirts that require a skirt guard, so I encourage those apprehensive about biking in mid-length skirts to give it a try. Just make sure your skirt is not touching your back wheel before setting off.

Hey, today’s Friday – happy Friday! I’m excited for the weekend because Trisha, Melissa and Erin, another friend from Nashville, will be in Chicago. I don’t know if Erin will be up for riding in the city, but I know Trisha and Melissa will be. This is when having multiple bikes comes in handy. I’ll be a mini bike share system. :)

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The Mary Poppins Effect and Happy Helmets

I left work yesterday evening, unlocked my bike and prepared to set off when I realized that I forgot my helmet in my office. It was one of those days when the idea of locking my bike again, removing my bag, going upstairs and unlocking my office was unbearable, so I decided to continue on helmetless. If I had a busy route, I would have retrieved my helmet, but my route is a series of calm side-streets.

Me and Betty on yesterday’s evening commute

This was one of my first times riding Betty Foy without a helmet. I have done it more often riding Oma, but Betty is faster and has more aggressive positioning.

My ride home was perfectly fine and I felt comfortable on the road. In fact, drivers were extremely nice to me. No one passed too closely or cut me off, and many drivers gave me an extra wide berth or slowed behind me until they could pass safely. I wonder if this behavior had something to do with the Mary Poppins Effect, as several people commented previously that when they don’t wear helmets, drivers are kinder. But my usual Nutcase helmet is so sweet and happy, I don’t see why wearing it would make drivers treat me any differently. I think a helmet covered with pink and red hearts would contribute to the Mary Poppins Effect.

Maybe the kindness was caused by the perfect fall weather, which put everyone in a really good mood. Or maybe it was partly in my head, since I was already wondering if drivers would treat me differently. Regardless, I’m more worried about drivers who never see me at all, so I will continue to wear my helmet most of the time. Maybe when Chicago gets those 100 miles of protected bike lanes, I’ll feel more comfortable going without. :)

{This post is not meant to be all “yay helmets” or “boo helmets” – simply a bit about my day.}

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Mid-life Cri-cycle

Last month, reader Bethany made a delightful comment on my Velorbis Dannebrog review, sharing the tale of her new Velorbis, which she labeled her “mid-life cri-cycle.”  I responded that if she wanted to send a photo, I would love to share it with everyone here.  Today I checked my email and there it was, “Bethany’s Velorbis,” totally brightening up my morning.

Bethany and Her Velorbis Dannebrog

Bethany’s original comment:

Mine just came in and I love it! My 50th birthday present, I call it my mid-life cri-cycle. I chose the Velorbis over a heavier Dutch bike since we have plenty of hills in Kansas City. The flat lands everyone thinks of don’t start for another 200 miles or so. And who wouldn’t fall for the color. I just had to have it!

This bike is the most comfortable bike I ever ridden. It leaves simply no excuse in my mind for not riding a bike, as long as you have two legs that move. I look forward to the day when bike stores everywhere have these bikes. Until then, I give high marks to My Dutch Bike in San Francisco, where I bought my Velorbis.

I ride 4 miles each way to work and park it in the administrative area of my office. I found a lovely back street route. I’m proactive with the bell–people backing out don’t always see me–and take my lane. So far so good.

Thanks, Dottie, for introducing me to Dutch bikes, and transportation biking. I started following your blog after I read about you in Yes! Magazine.

Yay! Love it. Thanks for sharing, Bethany.

Does anyone else have a “mid-life cri-cycle?” What kind of bike would you choose?

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Critical Mass in the News

Does Critical Mass help or hurt the cause of bicyclists?  This question is as rife with tension as the big helmet question.  Neither is a debate I’m interested in dredging up here.  Personally, I think Critical Mass in Chicago is great, but I can understand and respect arguments to the contrary, subject to the same caveat I have for any argument: that it be thoughtful and intelligent.

This week, some guy who wants to sell his book on “urban cycling” wrote a highly inflammatory post against Critical Mass, using the horrifying photo of a car driver crashing into (and killing members of) a group of cyclists in Mexico with the caption, “When is something like this going to happen in Chicago thanks to Critical Mass?”  The text of his post is as bad, with gems like this: “Critical Massholes are to fundamentalist terrorists what Islam is to cycling.”  That does not even make sense, but you get the idea.  His book cover is equally awful, a yellow and black graphic of a bicyclist plunging over a car.

I am very tuned in to Chicago’s bicycling scene, but I had never heard of this guy or his blog until today.  I’m not buying what he’s selling and I won’t link to his site from here, but apparently his distasteful publicity stunt is working, because he also got the attention of the press.

Earlier today, Chicago Tonight, a local PBS/WTTW news show that I watch nightly, had a discussion about Critical Mass, featuring this guy, along with Gin Kilgore, a Mass participant and creator of Bike Winter and all-around awesome woman, and Ethan Spotts of Active Trans.  Host Phil Ponce did a great job moderating.  Overall, I thought the segment was a positive piece for Critical Mass.  You can check it out for yourself below.  After the intro, jump ahead to 3:25 for the discussion.

I am not interested in starting a Critical Mass debate, but I do want to share this video and point out that there are ways to argue against the Mass with dignity and respect. It’s a shame for both sides when those who fail to do so get the attention.

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Protected Bike Lane Love!

I recently biked along the city’s first protected bike lane. It happened to be the most direct route to get from work to the bar where I was meeting Ash for drinks. And it was amazing – all I hoped for and more.


These pictures really don’t do the lane justice. Most of the lane is next to the curb and separated from moving car traffic by flexible bollards and parked cars. It is wide and comfortable and felt totally safe. Not having to worry about how close drivers were passing on my left or watch out for opening car doors on my right was… I’m at a loss for words, I don’t know, it was pretty much the best thing ever. I biked this street a couple of times before the lane and the experience was extremely stressful and unpleasant. The difference the protected lane made is like night and day.

Here are two ladies who want more protected bike lanes:

Ash and Me

This particular stretch is only .5 miles, but the city plans to install 25 miles of protected bike lanes by May 2012 and 100 miles by the end of the mayor’s first term.  Cheers to Chicago’s new and growing bike infrastructure!

I plan to record a video next time I ride the lane, if I can tape my little digicam to my basket. You all gotta see this awesomeness in action.

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Dressing for the Weather

The delightful, crisp fall weather has turned into lots of rain and somber grey skies. The past five days have been pretty crappy, weather-wise. I took the L because of the rain on Monday and that experience reminded me that riding a bike is always more enjoyable, even if in the rain.

An upside of fall, regardless of the exact weather conditions, continues to be seasonal clothing. I’ve been enjoying all my tweed and wool and – yes – velvet. Very librarian chic. LC of Naturally Cycling: Manchester recently talked about how she likes to dress to match the season. I find that I do the same, preferring pinks and yellows for spring, browns and oranges for fall.

When bike sites talk about dressing for the weather, they usually focus on technical aspects, such as specialty raincoats and balaclavas. (We have our fair share, of course.)  I prefer to think of dressing for the weather in this more fun way. The common sense stuff comes naturally – for example, I’m about to throw a rain trench over my burnt orange sweater and tweed skirt for my wet ride this morning.  That will do just fine.  :)

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The Loop’s First Bike Lane

The Loop is the very center of downtown Chicago, filled with courthouses, office buildings, theaters and shopping. Unfortunately, biking in the Loop anytime between 7:30 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. is very stressful. Bicyclists have to take the lane and haul ass. The wide, one-way streets are a free-for-all of buses, speeding cabs, personal vehicles of those with enough money to pay for parking, police SUVs, and pedestrians. I dislike biking in the Loop so much, When I have to go to court, I park my bike at my office and then walk the last mile into the Loop.

The complete lack of safe infrastructure is the reason biking in the Loop is so awful. No bike lanes at all, let alone protected bike lanes.

That is, until this month, when the city finally installed the first bike lane in the Loop on Madison.

I biked the lane on my way to an evening meeting and it’s a big improvement, in my opinion. Although cars passed closely, they did not drive in the bike lane, unless crossing over into the right turn lane, and they seemed more aware of the possible presence of bikes. The bike lane is to the left of the turning lane, which I liked, because the turning lane is usually jammed with waiting cabs and buses – I would not want to ride to the right of that mess.

Another improvement is that this lane extends into the intersection with dotted lines, which was never done in the past. Since the beginning of the summer, I have noticed several more areas where existing bike lanes have been extended into intersections like this whenever a street is repaved.

Overall, I am happy about this lane as a very small but hopeful start. But this really could have been a fully protected bike lane, if installed on the other side of the street. I want the city to install some of those protected lanes on at least four Loop streets: north, south, east, and west. I hope that this is part of their long-term plan.

Check out The Grid Chicago for a detailed analysis of the lane and a great conversation in the comments section.

Do any Chicago readers out there bike in the Loop? What do you think about this lane and what do you want to see next?

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Lazy Weekend

This is all that’s going on chez Dottie the last couple of weekends.


Plus books and old TV shows on Netflix.  At least I biked a little bit – to get the cupcakes.

And yes, I am a cat person, why do you ask?

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September’s women-who-bike brunch

Those of us who were not out of town for the Labor Day weekend met up for our monthly brunch on September 4. We enjoyed the back patio at bike-friendly Handlebar Bar & Grill, a group favorite. The weather was perfect and we savored what may have been our last outdoor brunch for 7 or 8 months.

Megan and her Bianci

Cute shoes and Road ID

Sara and her Jamis

Cute bike flower

Stefanie and her vintage roadbike

Jennifer and her vintage Raleigh

Me and Oma

I love hanging out with this cool group of women! We meet for brunch the first Sunday of the month and for happy hour whenever. If you’d like to join us, email me at LGRAB@letsgorideabike.com.

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The Start of Fall Bicycling!

Today is the first day of fall – my favorite season for bicycling.

Fall cycling is lovely and requires little-to-no preparation. Jumping on your bike in slacks or tights and a sweater will work most days. Nevertheless, I notice a steep decline in bicyclists once the dreadfully hot days of summer are over, so obviously some people need convincing to continue riding their bikes. In light of this, we put together a How To Dress for Fall Cycling guide a couple of years ago and a quick Refresher Course last year.

Incidentally, last night I attended the Bike Winter kick-off meeting. I really don’t want to start thinking about winter yet, but I enjoyed hearing tips and questions from the large group of attendees, both seasoned winter bicyclists and people who plan to try it for the first time. If you’re already thinking this far ahead, check out Bike Winter for lots of great info, as well as the LGRAB Guide to Winter Bicycling and my video on how I dress for winter biking.

Whether you plan to stick it out for the long haul or simply make the best of fall weather before storing your bike for the winter (both reasonable options), I wish you a happy and healthy fall bicycling season.

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Large Scale Bike-Sharing System Announced for Chicago!

Imagine my surprise when I visited the main page of the Chicago Tribune this evening and saw the big lead story: City to rent thousands of bicycles.  Apparently, city officials just announced plans for a large scale bike-sharing system.  Oh yes yes yes!!

Mr. Dottie uses Paris's Velib bike-sharing system

The system is still in the planning stages and a company has not yet been picked to implement it, but it’s expected to start in the summer of 2012, with 3,000 bikes at 300 stations around the city, most 1/4 of a mile apart in the most dense areas. By 2014, the city hopes to add 2,000 more bikes and 200 more stations.  The system will pay for itself with membership fees (only $75/year with the first 30 minutes free) and sponsorships, along with federal congestion-relief funding.

I love the messaging going out to explain the system.  The article starts thusly:

Transferring from a train to a bus stuck in traffic is often the most frustrating and slowest way to finish a commute, prompting Chicago officials on Wednesday to start the wheels rolling on a new “transit option.”

Discussing how the bike share system will be aimed at all citizens, even those who do not currently ride a bike, the new transportation director, Gabe Klien, says “We view it as a basic form of transportation, but also a fun way to get around.” The article also compares it to the beloved i-Go car-sharing system, which will help regular people understand how a bike-share could be useful to them.

The article’s description of the bikes made me chuckle, because it totally mirrors what’s so great about my Dutch bike.

‘The new bikes will have an upright seating position for riders, a step-through frame to make mounting and dismounting easy, wide tires and a built-in LED-lighting system,’ he said. Other features will include at least three gear speeds, cushioned seats, chain guards to keep lubricant off clothing and fenders above both wheels to prevent water on the pavement from splashing onto the riders.

I am so excited about this and what it means for the future of Chicago as a bike-friendly city. I used to be doubtful of the efficacy of bike-sharing systems, until I visited Paris last year. The Velib system is amazing and, of the huge number of bicyclists on the streets of Paris, at least half of them were riding Velib bicycles. I got the sense that the city was pushed to become more bike-friendly and install new infrastructure as a response to the huge amount of bicyclists resulting from Velib. Could that happen in Chicago? I’m going to say – YES!

Read Trisha’s account of our Velib adventures HERE.  Read the whole article at the Chicago Tribune HERE.  Highly recommended reading. A+ to the Chicago Tribune: the article relays the facts and avoids manufacturing any awful debates.

Do you think a bike-sharing system can change a city?  Would you like to see one where you live?

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A Little Courtesy and Sunshine

Picking up on Trisha’s post yesterday about craziness and courtesy on the road, I have a little courtesy to share from this evening’s commute.

On my way home, an SUV driver stopped for three older gentlemen at a crosswalk.  This is so rare in Chicago, that could be the whole story, but there’s more.  I was biking from the other direction and also stopped. Two of the gentlemen shuffled by and the third saw me waiting and gave a polite bow while motioning for me to go ahead of him. I thanked him with a smile and set off, as another in the group called out, “Hey, want to take me with you?” Ha, cute! (Note to men: do not attempt unless you are in a group of adorable elderly men, otherwise you’ll just be a creepy.)

A few miles later, I heard a little girl say to her mom, “I like that bicycle!” as I passed. Aw, double cute!  Ladies of all ages appreciate the Betty Foy.

Another plus from the day – the weather was glorious. I enjoyed basking in the morning sun as it rose over Lake Michigan.

The sweet little interactions and the beautiful weather made up for the traffic craziness of the day, like the four drivers who opened car doors in my path. Good thing I was not riding a little closer to the parked cars, sheesh.

Anyway, a little courtesy and sunshine go a long way to brighten my day.  :)

 

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Today in Traffic News

I see things on the road that strain my credulity pretty regularly, but today’s traffic rudeness took the cake.

There I was: riding Kermit Allegra at a moderate pace in the bike lane in front of Belmont University, just around 5:30 in a misty drizzle that has a Pacific Northwest feel. As I approach the corner by the Circle K, I notice a car stopping for a ped a few car lengths up. I slow, even though the ped has plenty of time to cross the bike lane before I reach him, and as I do I see the car that had passed me a few moments before veer to the right, into the bike lane ahead of me, to go around the car that is stopped for the pedestrian.

This particular crosswalk was marked with signs like the one pictured at right a couple of months ago. Belmont is one lane in both directions, no passing permitted.

Traffic being what it was, the eager beaver driver was held up about a block later. I passed her in the bike lane. She was talking on the phone.

I am far from a perfect driver, cyclist or pedestrian, but incidents like this infuriate me. They are the exception. But this month I have had a car accident and a close(r than I’d like) call while riding my bike, so the possible negative consequences of moving around in the world are on my mind. My commitment to minimizing the risks I take while doing so has been reinforced, but I’m also more conscious than ever that there’s not much that can be done about the other people on the road. So there’s a combination of hypervigilance and “que sera” fatalism going on here, at least for the time being.

What’s the craziest—or most courteous—thing you’ve ever seen someone do on the road?

Cool Weather, Weekend Plans, New Bike

Fall is here and she’s not playing around. Yesterday I wore a wool sweater, wool skirt, tights, gloves and earmuffs and never got overheated. The past couple of days have been chilly, with morning temps in the high-40’s, low 50’s. Seems a little early in the season for this kind of weather, but I’m enjoying the crisp air.

This weekend I plan to go on a long ride to the Chicago Botanic Gardens, so cooler weather is welcome, as long as it does not rain.

The long ride will give Mr. Dottie the opportunity to really try out his new bike. No one correctly guessed what kind of bike it is, although a couple got close. It’s a Civia Bryant with a belt drive.

Civia Bryant

He’s been obsessed with belt drive systems for a few months, as one would expect from an engineer, but currently there are not many options on the market for belt drive bikes. This week he found a greatly discounted and lightly used floor model Civia Bryant at a local shop and finally made his decision. He’ll be making some changes, including fenders, racks, mustache bars, Brooks saddle, and generator lights. I’m sure they’ll be very happy together and I look forward to seeing it all come together.

Happy weekend!

Sylvan Park strut

Last weekend’s Nashville bike brunch took us to Sylvan Park at the suggestion of Jessica and Sten. This was a new idea for me, but Google maps swore it was only about 4.5 miles from my house by bike. Once I learned that, it became an instance of, why haven’t I ridden there before?

We met at the corner of Belmont and Portland (otherwise known as where Belmont becomes Portland; Nashville streets are always changing names!) and consulted on a route. Sten had come up with one that was slightly longer but avoided one major intersection and another major hill.

photo (2)

Since I’m all about the easy way, I concurred.

And we rode.

bikegang

And we parked.

group

sten

whitneylauren

And we ate delicious bagels.

As we left the restaurant, someone noticed that Whitney’s tires looked low. Someone else noticed that there was a gas station with an air pump nearby. We looped around and took a break for bike maintenance.

photo

Le Peug got topped off too.

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If this all looks fun, laid-back and easy, it’s because it was. None of us are sports cyclists, just people who want to have a good time tooling around together by bike. And eating. OK, and maybe discussing our bikes. And books. And travel. And cats (although dog lovers are welcome!). If someone’s chain falls off, we’re happy to stop and fix it. If we see something interesting along the route, Le Peug (like all my bikes) stops for yard sales.

Our next meetup will be at next Thursday’s Live on the Green (I’m working bike valet for Walk/Bike Nashville). Our next brunch will be Sunday, October 2. We’re planning to take advantage of the fall weather and head over to East Nashville for brunch at Mad Donna’s and a short ride along the Shelby Bottoms Greenway.

If riding to East Nashville won’t work for you, take your bike on your car, or the bus! Multimodal transport is never a deal-breaker. Feel free to email me for route advice.

(Thanks to Sten and Kim for the photos used in this post!)

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Goodbye, Summer Crowds

Now that Labor Day is behind us, the crowds are starting to thin out on the Lakefront Trail. I’ve avoided the trail most of the summer because dodging hundreds (thousands?) of other trail users is not my idea of fun. I plan to take the trail much more often during the fall, when I can relax and enjoy the crowd-free and car-free goodness.

I have missed the beautiful view of Lake Michigan and the fresh air that comes off it. So far early fall has been perfect in Chicago – hopefully we’ll have at least two good months before winter begins.

In other news, a new bike joined my household today! The bike is Mr. Dottie’s, which is good because he loved to tease me about our 3-to-1 bike ownership ratio. I wonder if anyone can guess what kind of bike he bought. Hint: it’s not the same brand as any of mine.

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Cargo Bike Roll Call – Tonight

Tonight is the first Cargo Bike Roll Call in Chicago.

What is a cargo bike roll call? I like this description from Steve Vance: “Think of the Cargo Bike Roll Call as a lowrider or antique car show. Those with cargo bikes and cargo-carrying schemes will “pop the hood” and show it off. Everyone else can gawk and chat!”

All are welcome, with or without a cargo bike. Bring yourself, your bike, your friends and family, to West Town Bikes from 6-9 PM for cargo bike gawking, socializing, and drinks and snacks.

Read more about the event or cargo bikes in general here.

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