Tillie & Coco

two ladies, two bicycles, two hemispheres

Category: Cycling on the pavement

Let’s go for a ride baby!

by Alacoque

Dear Tillie and friends,

as you saw yesterday we had Wilhelmina’s bike seat fitted on the weekend and we couldn’t wait to try it out. We took her for a little cruise around the local foreshore, sticking to shared paths to allow us to both get comfortable with her on the bike before tackling traffic. We had to stop once or twice to fiddle with her helmet (see if you can spot the shot where she’d pushed it down over her eyes) and by the time we got to the park we had things all worked out. In fact on the ride home she was so comfortable she conked out (so cute)!

Thank you to my darling husband for being so snap-happy and capturing the moment. Tillie I hope you noticed the Sydney icons in the background- just for you!

Love Coco xx


A Midsummer Cycle

by Tillie

Dear Coco,

It’s been a while since we posted about a cycling journey. I had a number of errands to do today (not very important ones) which were best done by bike, so thought I’d do you a bit of a photo essay. It is a billion degrees today, so definitely not helmet weather, but I have no qualms about cycling on the pavement considering there are so few pedestrians to contend with, and the roads are so pot-holed they aren’t always the better option anyway! As you see, I’ve finally discovered Instagram. I am totally “gramming” as the cool kids say.

First, I went to the post office, and enjoyed using the drive-thru postboxes. This is the main post office, which is the best one to use because they clear the postboxes at 5.30pm. To catch the postman at the other boxes around town you have to be organised enough to post everything by 9.30, which never happens unless I have the extra incentive of posting a Netflix envelope. I’m pretty sure I am singlehandedly propping up the United States Postal Service.

From the Post Office, I headed back towards the centre of town. I meant to take a photo of this magnolia tree for you back when it was flowering. It was really pretty, but didn’t last long because there was a surprise snowfall that ruined everything, like a cold white unseasonal scrooge. Anyhoo, here it is for you in its leafy summer cloak instead. Soz.

You can see why the pavement is far more appealing than the road! I’m a bit confused by the apparent cycle route on this sign, though. Just around the corner from here is a really nice, wide pavement out the front of the Corning Museum of Glass, which leads straight to the pedestrian bridge and then Market Street. I tell myself that the pavement is deliberately wide to accommodate cyclists, even though it’s possibly illegal (maybe I should find out).

My next errand was to Market Street Coffee & Tea to get some coffee ground. We bought a packet of coffee beans from Four Barrels Coffee in San Francisco thinking that we’d buy a grinder, which of course we didn’t. The good folks at the coffee shop amazingly offer a grinding service for free, but I bought a bag anyway because once I needed to get about 20 quarters in change (Ithaca parking metres) and they were kind enough to do that for me without asking me to buy anything, so I had some karma debt to repay.

As usual I had to improvise a bicycle park, but this bench proved a lot easier than my slightly awkward bin technique.

My next stop was Walgreen’s, to see if they had anything in Sali Hughes’ recent Hero Products under £10 column (one thing). It’s always fun to gawp at all the STUFF in there.

Interesting Factoid: the pointy roof (er, architectural term?) was a sort of compromise to make the building fit in with the surroundings more easily – it takes cues from a nearby church and possibly the Rockwell Museum as well. The obligatory car park is set off slightly by some garden (not pictured), but it’s still ugly. And a heat trap on a day like this.

They do have a bicycle park though, so points for that!

I have omitted a rather painful few minutes in glaring sunlight waiting to cross Denison Parkway on the way to my next errand (groceries). Just imagine a hot concrete desert and lots of cars roaring past. When I finally got back to the quieter part of town I cycled down Market Street (on the shadeless side of the road, aargh!) and snapped (I mean “grammed”) this summery pot of petunias on the way:

Planning Moan: I don’t get this sign. I assume it’s there to warn drivers that pedestrians can cross here, but it’s very confusing. Cars may or may not stop for you (mostly not). Why not just have a real pedestrian crossing? Duh. I don’t understand why you need a PhD to know how to cross the road.

Next stop: Wegmans. Another heat trap car park! I do like cycling through it though. It’s so much easier than the bother of parking a car, and it’s much easier to see where the pedestrians are from a bike. One of my greatest driving fears is backing into someone (or running into a deer, not that I’m likely to do that at Wegmans).

Check it out. “Cilantro”. Haha. (Other words I’ve learned since moving here: garbazno beans (chickpeas), arugula (rocket), pignolia nuts (pine nuts). I still don’t know how much a pound is. America, please get the metric system!)

I get an eye twitch every time I pass this sign. I assume the point is that the pavement is very narrow and runs past a Seniors Centre, but it seems a bit harsh. You’d have to be cycling very fast for it to be remotely hazardous. Maybe it’s there because someone had an accident at some point. That’s the only excuse I’ll accept.

After the mean no cycling signs, there’s a rather nice stretch of path through a shady park. I happened upon two workmen doing something to the road, and one of them said to me “nice day for a cycle!” A tad too nice, perhaps, but not complaining.

(PS. I changed our theme… hope OK! Feel free to change it back if you prefer.)

Idiots with elbows

by Alacoque

Dear Tillie,

as I’m due to give birth tomorrow I haven’t been on my bike recently but I have had my spies keeping an eye out for interesting bike news. This little gem was sent to me by my sister who noticed the following sign posted on every telegraph pole down Victoria Road in Balmain/Rozelle.


As you can see in the images this is a shared path that even goes so far as to have a painted divider down the middle of the path to encourage people to keep to the left. Apparently despite these extreme efforts some pedestrians don’t like to share and one cyclist is fighting back!

If anyone knows the full story please tell us in the comments!

Love Coco xx

Riga Bicycle Tours

by tillieandcoco

Hi Coco,

I have just come back from a week in my home city-in-law, Riga, which is currently showing all signs of high summer: three shades of lilac, high grass and mosquitoes-of-death. To my surprise, since my last visit Riga has become a burgeoning city of cyclists. Sweeping bicycle lanes have been built, and there is even a Baltic Bike share scheme (though it doesn’t appear to be very popular). On a self-devised tour of the Art Nouveau district, I came across this rather nice flyer for Riga Bicycle Tours, which promises “the most honest impression, not just the city the guidebook shows. The good the bad and the ugly!” Awesome. I was already missing cycling, especially seeing everyone sailing about on their two wheels, and I also wanted to learn more about Riga.

I caught a very pristine new tram into the old town in time for the 3pm tour on Saturday. The flyer says to join the tour from the Town Hall Square, and to look for the sign. I couldn’t find an office anywhere, so waited by the Tourist Office, who reassured me that I was in the right place. Shortly after 3pm a guide and a bike showed up, and waited next to the statue of Roland (“That’s the guy holding the sword!”, confirms the website) with the promised sign. The tour guide, hilariously, was an Australian called Marcus – originally from Geelong – who has been in Riga for four years. The tour consisted of myself, Marcus, and a gentleman from San Francisco. The tours are divided between Marcus and a local colleague, and each costs 10 LVL (about £13) for two hours. It is a very clever little operation run under an umbrella company called EAT Riga, which offers all sorts of interesting tours including “Retro Riga” and “Beer and Balsam”. The bikes are kept in a cafe a short walk away from the square; and whilst they’re not the cherry red cruisers shown in the website image, they’re sturdy Dutch-style bikes and easy to adjust.

Marcus took us out of the cobbled old town into the Moscow District, via the markets constructed in Art Deco style with the recycled roofs of zeppelin hangars. The Moscow District was constructed along the Moscow Road, and was the first suburb of Riga outside the Old Town, which was reserved for the elite German merchants. It’s still one of the poorer areas of the city, with a particularly tragic history in the form of the Jewish Ghetto. Today, this area is quiet and ramshackle, belying its violent past, and the cemetery has been converted to a shady green park.

From there, I’m not actually sure where we went, but we somehow circled back into the city proper, towards the Art Nouveau district. Even though I’d already been a few days previously, this time I learned that there are more Eisenstein buildings than I first thought (Sergei’s dad was an architect!); and that if the gates are open, these buildings are in fact publicly accessible – even though there’s not a great deal to see, I found this new fact quite charming. I also learned that if you take the time to press your forehead to the glass and look inside the foyers, you will be delighted to see the original Art Nouveau tiling adorning the stairwells.

In Riga, you are allowed to cycle on the pavement as long as you don’t disturb any pedestrians. Unlike in London this isn’t a problem because the pavements are so capacious. In the old town cycling is difficult due to cobbles, but you’re better off walking those streets anyway, just to take it all in. I really love this slight sense of lawlessness, mainly because it absolutely works, and to me pedestrians and cyclists are more alike than cyclists and cars. (I still find it absurd that cyclists are not supposed to use the pavement over Chelsea Bridge, because it’s perfectly wide enough, and the road has no proper shoulder anyway.) Moreover, no one bothers with helmets. I was amazed by how accommodating pedestrians were of cyclists sharing their space in Riga. As we were cycling across an intersection, our SF friend lost his bag, and a kindly man chased after him to return it. The only confrontation I observed in a whole week was a car beeping at a cyclist as she was (legally) crossing the road – on a pedestrian crossing at that! It seems that the attitude of drivers still needs some work.

The cycle tour was easily the highlight of my trip. It was such a pleasure to be introduced to a side of Riga I didn’t know about, and of course to see it by bicycle! Cycling on wide-enough pavements was a particular treat.

Love Tillie