Tillie & Coco

two ladies, two bicycles, two hemispheres

Category: America

Boris Biking

by Tillie

Dear Coco,

I am writing to you from my new home, Corning NY, where I am resident in a local hotel for another week. It is cold, but not so cold that the recent rain has turned to ice, and it hasn’t snowed for over a week. I’m sure this is a temporary respite, as winter has only just started according to the recent solstice. Corning is a small city on the Chemung River in upstate New York, and with the calm traffic and wide roads, it will be an excellent place to cycle I’m sure – the only thing it appears to be lacking so far is proper bicycle parking. There are no proper cycle lanes on roads, but at least there’s space.

However, that is a blog post I am yet to write, as Blackie is currently on route to America on a ship. Here she is being packed by the world’s most efficient relocation packers (I only arrived in time to see her being sealed up!) The packing man took off one of the pedals and broke a spanner in the process, so I have some bicycle surgery to attend to when she arrives.

On our last day in London, we rented some Boris Bikes and cycled through Hyde Park ostensibly to see the Christmas markets, but mainly to fill in time. It was Boxing Day, and we were living in a hotel in Bayswater. The tube drivers were mostly on strike. We didn’t want to go far, especially with the sales on, so Boris Biking was the perfect last day activity.

The system isn’t as user-friendly as I expected as it takes a few different stages for a first-time user to actually release a bike. The docks have buttons numbered 1, 2, 3, and the idea is to pay the 24-hour rental fee (a very reasonable £2 for two bikes) and then get a four-digit code to release the bikes (for example, “1223”) which is good for 10 minutes before you have to get a new code. This is a nice idea, except that the buttons have been so badly vandalised on each and every dock that you have to use a coin to press the digits in (of course, if you have paid the annual subscription fee and got yourself a release key, you don’t have this problem).

There were many people cycling around the park on Boris Bikes on this particular day, so obviously many people found releasing the bikes less difficult than I did. The bikes are quite large and even as an average sized person I wasn’t completely comfortable, but perhaps I’m just used to the Pashley posture. The bikes are still very sturdy and surprisingly light to ride despite their weight. It was an excellent way to spend our last day in London.

I can’t tell you how much I am looking forward to cycling again with all this driving I am forced to do. America’s love affair with the car is very much alive and well!

Love Tillie

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Congressional bike caucus membership pin

by Tillie

Hi Coco,

I really really want a congressional bike caucus membership pin! Let’s both move to Washington and join Congress (somehow)!

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/jul/26/green-lapel-badge-bike-partisan

America

by tillieandcoco

Hi Coco! Thanks for holding the blog fort in my absence. As you know I have been having a whale of a time in California, which was 1 billion times even more awesome than I’d expected. Of course I had a keen eye on the cycling scene on the West Coast (despite getting around in a very uncool hire car, tsk), and you will be pleased to hear that even in a country built for the automobile, cyclists are a fixture on the roads, and a stylish one at that!

This should have been a photo of a cool guy with an Electra. Instead it’s a sign about Boats. But it is in LA OK?

In Los Angeles cyclists don’t have a great deal of designated space, but they do have cycle-friendly flat roads and ELECTRAS! After three years living in socially reserved London I was really taken aback by how genuinely friendly people were. It was a whole new world of street etiquette. I was walking from Abbot Kinney Boulevard (cool street names much?) back to Marissa’s house, and a very cool guy walking a blue Electra on the pavement smiled at me and said hello! I took a hit from the shyness stick at that point, unfortunately. I wish I’d asked him for a photo! The Sartorialist makes it look so easy.

Lombard Street, San Francisco. The “crookedest” (and best!) street in the world (allegedly)

We drove from LA to San Francisco on Highway One, stopping in four different cities on the way. Santa Barbara warrants particular mention as an urban nerd’s paradise! Its main street has beautiful wide footpaths, comfortable street furniture (with pot plants) and of course plenty of two-wheeled Americana. It was so nice to visit places where cycling is just a normal way to get around.

Comfortable street furniture with pot plants, Santa Barbara

You would expect a city famous for its hills to have no cyclists at all, but actually there were many people cycling in San Francisco. Of course the areas like Russian Hill where you have to park at 90º (and it still feels like the car will roll down the hill) are unsurprisingly cycle-free, in the flatter areas of town it’s a viable option. I saw this lovely bike parked outside the Museum of Modern Art. Love the knitted pole.

Fab orange bicycle, San Francisco